Are you one or are you many?

Reading the sports news yesterday, I came across an article about a recent women’s softball game that featured the two best pitchers in the sport. I knew about Jennie Finch, but I hadn’t heard about Cat Osterman, so I googled her after reading the article to get her wikipedia entry. It came up first, but down the line of search results there was something I had never come across before: a page entitled, “Would you do…Cat Osterman?”

The meaning was obvious, of course. I decided to check out the site, and I found something that I’m really not sure I’m comfortable with. The Web site is a sports blog with a humourous tone, which is all well and good, and the writer has created a series of articles discussing whether or not he would have sex with various women who are well known in the sporting world, complete with reader opinions and polls. Truth is, the writer is decently skilled, if crude, and he clearly recognizes and acknowledges it. I can appreciate that sort of tongue-in-cheek humour. What I dislike is the complete lack of social responsibility. Actually, scratch that. What I dislike is that he’s purposefully ignoring social responsibility. He knows it’s there, and he’s completely disregarding it.

Let’s sidebar for a moment to talk about sex symbols. Quite simply, there are men and women who want to be viewed as sex objects, and there are those who don’t. You can often tell by the words out of their mouths, the clothing they wear (or don’t, as the case may be), and the choices they make. If they clearly want to be a sex symbol, talk all you want about whether you’d have sex with them.

But what about those who don’t ask for this sort of attention? More accurately, what about those who hate it? What about Allison Stokke?

Allison Stokke is a pole vaulter who just graduated high school. By all accounts, she’s an excellent pole vaulter and a wonderful athlete. But that’s not what makes her famous at the moment. Some time ago, a photo of her from a track meet appeared on the Internet, and things exploded from there. Now she has all sorts of unwanted attention, including numerous Web sites, e-mail messages, and phone calls, and it’s all from people and organizations that want to exploit her sexuality. She and her family and friends are doing their best to ignore it and protect her, but as we all know, it’s tough to control the Internet. She didn’t choose to be a sex symbol, unlike a lot of other girls her age. She just wants to be an academic athlete. And that’s upsetting, because there are a lot of people who aren’t listening.

This is the case with the Web site in question. Yes, there’s an article about Allison in which the writer doesn’t just discuss her as a sexual object…he actually points out that she doesn’t want the attention. And that’s just…frustrating. And wrong. And yes, it angers me. I just don’t get it.

It angers me more that the writer included the standard reader comments and poll. I didn’t read any of them; I suspect that some of the comments would be along the same lines as my thinking, and many would echo the writer’s attitude of disrespect toward Allison.

It upsets me that the writer had a choice, and made a very poor one. He clearly has the intelligence necessary to recognize the ramifications, and apparently felt that piling more attention onto Allison wouldn’t do any harm. After all, he’s just one person, right?

No, he’s not “just” one person. He’s one person, and by virtue of his Web site, he’s the leader of many. He’s saying that it’s okay to engage in this behaviour, when it is so clearly and simply not.

He could have just not written an article. Better yet, he could have written an article with the same title, point out that Allison doesn’t want his brand of attention, and end it there. That would have been socially responsible. That would make a statement to which his many readers might pay attention.

I’ve learned that many people in this world do not understand the simple concept of treating others as they would like to be treated. They say the words, but they don’t get it. They put themselves into the other people’s shoes, but they bring their own opinions along for the ride instead of actually absorbing the other people’s opinions. Perhaps the statement is incomplete. Perhaps it should be, “treat others’ thoughts and opinions with the same respect that you want them to afford to yours.” But that’s just not very catchy, is it?

I’m a little stuck as to how to finish off this scatterthought. I’m still frustrated, because I can’t reach the writer or his readers. After all, I have no credibility with them, and anything I say is likely to be ridiculed and ignored. I can only say what I’m feeling, and hope that you feel the same way.

And contrary to how this scatterthought comes across, I’m not down on the Internet. The Internet is a thing that can be used for good and evil. It’s a tool that will help our world grow and change.

I’m not down on this world or its people, either. I guess I’m just saying that for the world to come out the way I’d like to see it, we need to make better choices. That includes the writer, his readers, you, and me.

Better choices. Maybe that’s all there is to it.