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Whores, Groupies, and Golddiggers: Defending The Basketball Wives

Posted by JD on Sunday, May 9, 2010 , under | comments (12)

I’ve been sucked into one of VH1s latest reality shows, Basketball Wives. It airs on Sunday nights sandwiched between oddly and unexpectedly entertaining “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business” and “What Chili Wants,” a show that chronicles the TLC group member as she pretends to search for a quality man.  All in all Sunday nights on VH1 provide me with 85% of the foolishness my little country heart has ever desired. I must say I am enjoying all three shows minus Tionna’s (Chili’s matchmaker) accent and penchant for bad wigs.

General commentary on these types of shows aside, I have been struck by one running theme from many people who watch Basketball Wives—and that is the decision by many to refer to the Basketball Wives as tramps, whores, and golddiggers. It bothers me and I’m happy to tell you why.

For those who haven’t watched, Basketball Wives is brought to us by Shaquille O’Neal’s soon-to-be-ex wife Shaunie.

In keeping with the theme of having very few if any housewives on shows about housewives (see: ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” and Bravo’s“Real Housewives”) only one of the other “Wives” –Jennifer Williams—is actually married. Jennifer, wife of professional basketball player and gremlin Eric Williams, is clearly unhappy in her marriage. Eric, whose is in a fight-to-the-finish battle with Sam Cassell and Tyrone Hill for most unattractive basketball player living or dead, is a chronic cheater and anywhere within a 5 mile radius of him is a clear “Personality-Free Zone.” Poor Jennifer.

Why her lawwwwd 

The other ladies are: Evelyn, the beautiful but tough-looking ex-10-year fiancée of Antoine Walker who is now both retired and broke; Royce, a girlish-looking dancer who shares a child with Dwight Howard (he sued her to ensure he and the baby weren’t mentioned on the show); Gloria, the pretty and naïve girlfriend of Matt Barnes with whom she shares two children; and, Suzie, the white, well-coiffed real estate agent and former girlfriend of NBA and general life disappointment Michael Olowokandi.

From the beginning, even before the show aired, people (both male and female) began to refer to the Basketball Wives as whores and groupies, among other derogatory names.  However, four episodes in, I don't see it. None of the women have given me the impression that they are groupies, whores, or golddiggers.

The show does not indicate that any of the women have dated more than one athlete, nor are there any accusations that the women were sleeping around while dating their respective athletes. And, what’s more, we haven’t seen any of them do anything remotely whorish-- unless you count Royce’s two booty poppin’ performances (one at a TO/Ludacris party and the other at Evelyn’s birthday party). But really, Royce didn’t do much more than any other woman who purchased a copy of Darren’s Dance Grooves and decided to try her new moves in the streets. I’m not sure what part of her dance people were offended by…the fact that she has a child by an athlete or the fact that she didn’t pop that thang while holding a microphone (see: Beyonce).

On the show, the girls aren't even shown partying at any raunchy clubs and as yet have not been spotted chatting up any other ballers.

Gloria Govan is the sister of Laura Govan. Laura is
rumored to have cheated on gun-toting Washington Wizard
Gilbert Arenas with the town ogre, Shaquille O'Neal.
I’m very disturbed by the rush to call women whores based on the perception of a group to which they belong or because you simply don't like their behavior.  Thus far, the women seem pretty  normal and kind of boring. Though the show chronicles their judgments, delusions, gossip, side-eyes, and arguments, much of the drama feels forced given that most of them seem to have been affected by the same personality deficiency and inflated ego as Jennifer's husband. Overall, though flawed, the women do not seem conniving or malicious.

[Bonus footage from the show that I grabbed from Jocks and Stiletto Jill!  ]

The underlying problem is the silly assumption that women who date or have dated athletes are groupies or golddiggers because, you know, how else could a woman come to meet and date an athlete, is ridiculous. It's almost as if people think these women HAVE TO be up to no good because…well…because…well…just look at them! And they have the nerve to be on TV! And they were shopping! And being saddity about it! The nerve! And they're not even cute! *sucks teeth and rolls eyes*

If these girls are groupies and whores, where are the scenes like this?

This type of thinking is what allows someone like Ben Roethlisberger to corner a woman in a bathroom after walking around a club with his penis outside of his pants. This as off-duty police officers act as both his security and wingmen. It shows what a warped view people have of male-female relationships especially when the man is wealthy. All of a sudden, when a powerful man is involved, there is an inclination to think of every nearby woman as a predator.

Some of us need to check ourselves.

In general, I am saddened when women are given labels solely based on their perceived relationship with a man or men (whore, slut tramp et al). How retro! We can debate as much as you’d like about the behavior of the ladies on Basketball Wives. Maybe you think they lack class and taste, maybe you find them to be phony or trite, maybe you don’t think they deserve to be on television at all. That's fine. But when you make derogatory comments that simply don't fit the individuals you’re talking about, it strikes me as biased and a call to think about the basis of your opinion.

At some point we ladies have to take it into our OWN hands to cut our fellow sisters a little bit of slack.  I’d like first dibs at this opportunity. It's a shame that you have to remind grown people that not liking someone doesn't make them a whore. I learned that in high school.