I have a question about sexism and male insensitivity, two of the great social issues of our time.
Perhaps those of the female persuasion can answer my question and help save me from embarrassing lapses into insensitivity.
Here is my question:
Let us say a female has a figure that, by conventional standards, is pleasing to the eye. Let us also say that she wears garments such as tight shorts that serve to call attention to her physical attributes.
Is it sexist for a a male person to silently admire those parts of the female person's body that the female person apparently chooses to put on public display?
I raise this question because I might have inadvertently written something that was insensitive, which I'm prone to inadvertently do whenever I inadvertently open my mouth.
Last week I wrote about women golfers and said that they have better manners, play faster, and are not nearly as obnoxious as male golfers.
This was after the sports section of my newspaper printed a foolish article advising women golfers not to have temper tantrums on the course, when everybody knows male golfers are much more inclined toward hysterics.
Without boasting, I thought the views I expressed in that column were sensitive and enlightened and could not offend anyone but loudmouthed male duffers.
But I have heard from several females who found something in that column offensive.
One of them, Michelle DeFalco of Burbank, Ill., summed up their complaints this way:
"In my opinion you severely damaged your credibility when you included two very degrading and sexist remarks.
"1. 'They believe that as lesser creatures they must stand aside.'
"2: 'Women can be more civilized golf companions, especially those who look good in tight shorts.'
"How can you explain this?"
Well, as to Point 1, I thought it was clear that I wasn't saying that females are lesser creatures. But in the context of that column, I meant that many insensitive and insecure male golfers try to make them feel like lesser creatures.
So I believe that Ms. DeFalco misunderstood my well-intentioned observation and I forgive her.
As to Point 2, I have to plead confusion.
I would be dishonest if I said that -- everything else being equal -- I did not enjoy the company of a woman who looked good in tight shorts a bit more than one whose girth might block out a setting sun.
It isn't that I would not enjoy the company of the latter. But, all else being equal, a perky or willowy figure would do more to enhance my enjoyment of the game.
I don't see why that should offend anyone. It has always been my impression that if a female person with a fine figure wore tight shorts in a public setting, it was because she took pride in how her bottom and her legs looked in tight shorts, and she did not object to restrained but admiring glances so long as they were not accompanied by leers, whistling, panting, slobbering sounds, pinching or other crude displays.
And if this female person did not appreciate restrained but admiring glances, she could pin a sign to the back of her tight shorts that said something like: "Stop Staring, Creep."
Or she could simply wear a more demure garment, such as a skirt or baggy slacks, which are always in fashion.
Let me put my reasoning another way:
For the sake of argument, we'll imagine that through some strange twist of evolution or culture, the most attractive physical attribute a male person could have was a naturally bald head.
We'll imagine that the sight of a naturally bald male head, gleaming in the sun, was sure to attract admiring glances from female persons. And even inspire yearning, longing, and thoughts that might be considered wicked.
What could a male person do if he knew that the sight of his bald head was having this erotic effect on red-blooded females?
If he welcomed such attention, he would proudly display his scalp -- maybe shave off any gray fuzz and smear on some goose grease to add luster.
But if he was a modest, proper sort, as many of us are, he'd wear a hat, a cap or a beanie.
And, under those circumstances, if a female columnist wrote that she enjoyed the company of bald golfers, I doubt that any males -- fully-thatched or scantily-haired -- would object.
Especially if she looked good in real tight shorts.
I guess I can't help myself.