Sheehan’s sexy Seabiscuit

8 Nov

When not firmly encased in binders, women are breaking through glass ceilings and demanding the right to be considered for their talents and strengths.

Francesca Cumani is one such woman. Smart, educated and experienced, she was part of Channel Seven’s Cup Week coverage. Though I prefer my sports to feature a complete lack of sport, when it comes to horse racing, Cumani has considerable knowledge and shares this expertise with a number of networks around the world.

Naturally, high performers are subject to praise but I’m not sure if it’s ever been as slathering as that provided by Paul Sheehan in today’s Sydney Morning Herald’s piece, Why Seven needs this beauty with the beasts.

In Sheehan’s adoration of Cumani’s performance, her panellists are described as “roughies” while the object (quite literally) of his affections is described as “elegant”, “beautiful”, “intelligent”, “lucid” and “courageous”. It is not surprising to learn Sheehan’s piece triggered gag reflexes far and wide across social media.

In what can only be deemed a creepy uncle panegeryic, Sheehan classifies Cumani as a “thoroughbred” in contrast to her “three roughies” panellists. The clumsy comparison reduces her and her colleagues to dumb animals, livestock for trade and breeding.

That there are sports reporters who are almost-obsessively detailed and prepared is nothing new. Bruce McAvaney was adored for his impeccable research. But he was never the subject of a fawning editorial that cast him as an elite athlete outpacing the shambolic, suburban shufflers masquerading as fellow panellists. No one ever published a 700+ word Penthouse letter that embarrassingly focused on Bruce’s beauty and ability to pronounced Sergey Bupka.

But the most telling aspect is in the opening lede where Sheehan opines that Cumani’s presence “reaffirmed my belief that women, at their best, are superior to men at their best”.

It seems relatively simple doesn’t it? He really just wants people to be their best. Oh wait, no. He thinks women are better than men – even if they are at their ‘best’. Who decides what’s best and why a woman’s best is higher than a man’s? Sheehan, obviously.

Lest we wander aimlessly, wondering by which measure women eclipse men, Sheehan elaborates on why “the apex of the pyramid of admirable qualities is occupied by women, not men”.

Because babies. Really. Apparently, vaginas enable me and my little pony-femmes to be better than half the world. Unless we’re infertile because then we’d be bad stock and unsuitable as thoroughbreds and maybe we’d just be “roughies”. And remember: no one has need of an old horse, so really, Sheehan’s equine metaphor really does work on so many levels for the modern woman hoping to share her talent with the world.

Sheehan says this is all part of nature’s scheme and continues to hammer away, with subsequent paragraphs dissolving into a Barbarella-esque dream sequence where he takes on the deranged theorising zeal of Duran Duran. “Women take greater risks for passion” and this means they “live in a more dangerous world than men.” It’s at this point Sheehan reminds us that men are strong and women aren’t so have to compensate with their minds, which we should remember are thoroughbred minds, most likely derived from Barbie’s Palomino, Dallas.

This is one of those juvenile attempts at romanticising the role of women, pretending to celebrate and elevate while quietly manacling them to expectations of docility and servitude. A Trojan Horse of praise, delivered with a fawning patter so toxic it requires a hazmat shower. To Sheehan, even Francesca Cumani’s meticulously-chronicled education, intelligence and apparently intoxicating beauty are still considered subordinate to her ability to give birth and raise children.

So the next time someone asks you how many Paul Sheehan op-eds you’ve read, remember to stomp your hooves on the ground. It shouldn’t take long.

One Response to “Sheehan’s sexy Seabiscuit”

  1. Helen Balcony (@CastIronBalcony) November 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Great post!

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