Gilbert Arenas, Twitter, Stereotypes, and Respecting Women

Editor’s note:  While this post contains no swearing, it does contain images of language that some may find offensive.  Reader discretion is advised.

Gilbert Arenas has become the breakout star of the lockout for his Twitter antics.  People love it when an athlete (or anyone famous) does goofy things and shares it with the rest of the world.  But then again, people loved Stephon Marbury until he started eating Vaseline and the line between “funny goofy” and “crazy goofy” was erased.  

So Gilbert continues to tweet, unencumbered by the rules that resulted in a fine after multiple jokes about women.  He immediately followed that by publicly trashing his blind date.  And now he’s done this.  

In a series of tweets, Gilbert announced that his new profile picture was a screen capture of how he organizes the women in his BlackBerry Messenger.  Here’s the screen capture:



Gilbert has publicly shared that he is classifying his women based various sexual categories, noting that he only respects one of the 107 girls listed in his BlackBerry messenger.

To Arenas, this is a joke.  Either the list is fake to lure people like me into writing about it, or the list is real and he thinks its funny.  Even if its the former, Arenas is treading into a realm where he is constantly trying to one-up himself.  He’s like an attention-starved child who realized that banging a wooden spoon on the table isn’t enough to get mommy and daddy’s attention anymore.  So he picked up a pot and started banging that.  And when that’s not enough, he goes bigger and louder, until we’re all forced to look and have some kind of reaction.  Any kind of reaction will do. 

Arenas is now running the risk of being labeled a misogynist, if he hasn’t already.  And it would be hard to argue.  We have here a pattern of “jokes” with a constant target: women.  And with that label comes another:  stereotypical athlete.  Gilbert is an insanely rich basketball player who now not only becomes the face of the “see what a pig pro athletes are” movement, he drags the rest of the players down with him.  They’re going to be forced to answer for him at various events.  They’re going to be forced to either side with him, and look bad, or side against him.  

To defend himself, Gilbert will use either the “its a joke” approach, or the “hey, I’m not lying” approach.  And if this is the truth, then we have another stereotype to deal with: The NBA groupie.  By publicizing this “list” of women, Arenas is pulling back the curtain, even if ever so slightly, on the world of pro athletes and the groupies that love them.  And while we’re all consenting adults here, is this the level of access we, or they, really want?  What’s the next step in Gilbert’s personal game of one-upsmanship?  Revealing a name?  A number?  

That photo puts us all in a no-win situation.  If you find it offensive, then you’re the uptight one who can’t take a joke.  If you don’t find it offensive, then you’re the stereotypical jock who doesn’t see an issue with objectifying women.  And if you blow it off, you’re only encouraging him to get bigger and bolder with his antics.  If he doesn’t get enough re-tweets, he’s going to have to find something else to get our attention.  We all lose.

And with the NBA stuck in this lockout, there’s no governing body to keep Arenas in check.  The sad fact about Gilbert is that he is overly sensitive.  He hears and reads everything in the media pertaining to him, and his reaction to negative press is act out.  He’s immature.  Yes, he’s playing a kid’s game and living a dream of a life with his millions of dollars and hoards of people who won’t dare tell him no.  But deep inside, there’s something missing.  It’s a void he fills with actions like this so he can keep our collective gaze on himself.  If he disrespects women along the way, then so be it.  Because in Gilbert’s mind, we should all be in on his joke.  We should all love him for the joke and we should all laugh heartily as he’s telling it.

We’re not, though.  Not all of us anyway.  Maybe the next thing Gilbert tweets will be funny, but it won’t change the type of person that he is.  And he’s done enough to show us his true colors.