Former NBA star and current analyst Charles Barkley is no stranger to making controversial—some might dare say “dumb”—statements. And perhaps his most controversial (or dumbest) in some time was the statement he made about San Antonio recently, when he declared that “There’s some big ol’ women down there” and “that’s a gold mine for Weight Watchers.”
That statement is a couple of weeks old now, but the story has lingered for a few reasons: The continued dominance of the Spurs in the playoffs, the fact that Barkley, who—ahem—seems to enjoy being the center of attention, has refused to apologize, and also the fact that women in San Antonio have gathered to protest his remarks.
That’s an understandable impulse, and the campaign—which gained new life this week when Vanessa Macias, girlfriend of Spurs star Tim Duncan, led a group of women to Game One of the team’s series against the Oklahoma City Thunder wearing curve-hugging t-shirts that read “Barkley Don’t Know.”
Macias is certainly a fit, attractive young woman, as were the others who donned the t-shirts and appeared on television. And we can’t exactly fault them for wanting to prove the guy wrong. But, as satisfying as it must be for them to demonstrate against an asshole like Barkley, their protest also kind of misses the point about why what Barkley said was offensive.
Barkley’s dismissive comments about San Antonio women weren’t really offensive because it meant that he was ignoring the young, fit women in their 20’s who live in the city. Of course there are conventionally attractive women in San Antonio, just like there are conventionally attractive women everywhere else. We needn’t spend too much time shedding tears for the young hotties of San Antonio because they were briefly ignored by Charles Barkley. On balance, they probably receive enough attention, and will still live healthy, happy, and productive lives even if they briefly escaped Barkley’s notice.
What’s more troubling about Barkley’s statement is that it treats San Antonio as a less desirable place because there are bigger women there, too—and the framework that the presence of those women brings down the value of San Antonio is reinforced when the campaign against him centers around proving that there are slim women who look like models who call San Antonio home. That’s true, but you’re still telling women who don’t look like that that they’re part of the problem.
Obviously there are slim women and full-figured women in San Antonio, just like there are women with a variety of body types in every other place in the world. But the idea that it’s only the existence of the former that validates San Antonio sends a message to everyone else that’s similar to the one that Barkley sent. It furthers the idea that women with fuller figures are a problem that needs to be hidden.
It’s certainly understandable why someone like Macias would want to stand up for her home by making the obvious refutation of Barkley’s statements—but San Antonio’s worth, and the worth of the women who live there, doesn’t go up or down just because Tim Duncan’s girlfriend looks like she belongs on TV.
(AP Photo H. Rumph Jr)