On Dec. 28 New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma tweeted that men should not have "female tendencies." He denied being homophobic and sexist, but in doing so he proved he simply has "asshole tendencies."
His grown-up tweet read (and please excuse his spelling error):
Period. With "NOT" in all-caps. Seems pretty all-encompassing, right? He didn't have to put "not" in all-caps. He didn't have to say "period" at the end of the statement. He made a sweeping claim and hit it home twice. Seems his position is pretty clear-cut.
(She then implored him to "consider how a gay man might feel. Consider how women might feel.")
The Saints weren't much help in finding answers. When I emailed Saints spokesman Greg Bensel, he replied, "I spoke to him, he tweeted it had nothing to do with anything homophobic...so not sure what else he can do." Vilma's "no-homo" tweet that Bensel had seen was this missive referring to gay people as "homosexual" and saying they're too sensitive:
I told Bensel that if it wasn't a reflection of deep-seated homophobia, I wanted to know what Vilma meant by saying, "Grown men should NOT hav [sic] female tendencies." Bensel, predictably, never replied. I guess Bensel thought I was just being a "hypersensitive idiot," too.
Because Vilma won't explain what he meant by his tweet, and because the Saints won't help answer the question, I'll fill in the blanks for him.
Vilma meant that the only real men are those who fit into his small-world view of masculinity. He put a clear distinction between "grown men" and anything remotely resembling femininity. He meant that men who listen to anything but "masculine" music or sip anything but "masculine" drinks aren't legitimately grown men. He meant that grown men shouldn't hug or cry.
And let's face it: he meant that grown men should never have sex with other men. In the uber-macho, king-shit world of the pro athlete, that is the most "feminine tendency" you could possibly have. The deepest, truest definition of "masculine" in that macho world is nothing more than "has sex with women." If you have sex with women, you're masculine; just listen to the conquests that single and married pro athletes brag about. If you don't have sex with women, you're not masculine. Period. Maybe, in a pinch, a "grown man" could be the "top" with another man. But a man who would allow himself to be penetrated by another man? Might as well be a woman.
I doubt Vilma, even with his robust University of Miami education, gave that much thought to his tweet. People rarely think too deeply before tweeting anything. But ultimately, that's what Vilma meant.
Statements like "grown men should NOT hav [sic] female tendencies" don't show up on my Twitter feed. Why? Because I don't think that. Vilma clearly does, so that's what he said.
The problem with 29-year-old superstar athletes like Vilma is that they think they have all the answers. Part of me can't blame him. Not yet 30, he has more money than he could ever need. He has achieved superstardom in the eyes of the public, with a Super Bowl championship and three Pro Bowls. On Twitter 50,000 people read what he says. Wherever he goes, strangers stare at him and treat him like a god. I wouldn't be surprised if he had an ego the size of the state of Louisiana.
All of that has come through in the days after his initial tweet, telling anyone who disagreed with him to "shut up" and "get over it," or calling them "hypersensitive."
How would a true grown man have responded to the criticism and questions post-tweet?
"Hey, you all got me wrong. Much love to my gay and female fans. I ain't mad atcha."
Quick, easy, positive, helps build bridges... and still with 58 characters left unused!
Instead, Vilma sent out venom and hate (tweeting "smh" ["shaking my head"] about once a day, hate seems to be on his mind a lot). His ignorant tweet and flippant responses are all incredibly sad. His unwillingness to listen to others or explain himself speaks to the "fuck-you" mentality that so many young athletes aspire to.
But the saddest piece of it is what his mentality does to the young men who don't fit into Vilma's shallow definition of what a grown man should be. Robert, a New Orleans Saints fan, summed it up beautifully on Outsports:
As a guy who is less than the model of machismo that even guys at this site would like to see in gay men, I was saddened by this comment. It reminded me once again that a guy like me is not really wanted in the sports world -- not even as a sports fan. In fact, Mr Vilma would probably be mad that a guy like me roots ferociously for his team.
Kids kill themselves because of the sentiment that Vilma tweeted. They struggle to fit into society's definition of a man.
I guess they should just "shut up" and "get over it"; they're all just being "hypersensitive," too.
While his tweet certainly sent a homophobic message, I can't define Vilma as "homophobic." He was incredibly disrespectful to a couple female fans on Twitter, but I can't define him as "sexist." But there's one thing his tweets demonstrated with the precision of Joe Montana in the West Coast offense: asshole tendencies.