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Nadra Kareem Nittle

The Tiger Woods Car Crash: Rife With Racial and Gender Double Standards?

By November 29, 2009

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The events that precipitated golfer Tiger Woods' car crash early Nov. 27 have not yet been made public, but reports are circulating that Woods drove his Cadillac Escalade into a tree and fire hydrant near his Florida home after a domestic dispute with his wife, Elin Nordegren, turned violent.

According to reports, the scratches that appeared on Woods' face and the blood that filled his mouth when he emerged from the vehicle didn't result from the crash but from his wife attacking him. Nordegren reportedly didn't bust the windows of Woods' SUV with a golf club to rescue him after the accident but because she was lashing out at him amid rumors that he'd taken a mistress.

In the aftermath of the accident involving the multiracial Woods and his Nordic bride, public discussion has turned to race and gender. The blogosphere is filled with commentary about how the brown-skinned Woods would have been excoriated if word spread that he had scratched up his blond wife for alleged infidelity and chased after her with a golf club when she tried to flee. Many commenters have drawn comparisons between Nordegren and Chris Brown to demonstrate how double standards apply to women and men in domestic violence incidents that are only exacerbated when race is involved.

Take TMZ.com commenters Andre and Jake. Andre remarked:

"Wow C. Brown goes crazy and beats Rihanna and everyone says he should be thrown under the jail but Elin beats Tiger and everyone says 'go Elin' funny how that works. It's wrong no matter if it's a man beating a woman or a woman beating a man..."

And Jake said:

"Put her in jail. This is such a disgusting double standard. If Tiger was the aggressor, he would already be in jail. Put her in jail. So what if he was/was not having an affair, she could have killed him."

Some bloggers, such as Danielle Belton of the Black Snob are also using this incident to break down stereotypes about women of color and white women. Belton writes:

"One of the most annoying myths that men (of all races) often make about women (of different races) is that somehow, all brown women--especially the black ones--are mean or crazy or might throw hot grits on you or scream 'GIT YO SH**' at the top of our lungs while we set all your belongings on fire in the driveway. That somehow white women (and often Asian women are lumped in here too) are just these nice, passive, docile creatures who would never, ever say a harsh word or curse you out or lift a finger in anger."

Hence, Woods' dispute with Nordegren indicates that all women, especially those who've been scorned, are capable of a wide range of behaviors, even violence. Moreover, it indicates that men of color can be victims and aggressors, alike. All too often, though, these realities are overlooked.

Because some members of society are labeled as innocent and docile and others as menacing brutes, the nation expresses shock when public figures of a certain type behave in ways that aren't so much unconventional but human nature. I in no way recommend violence as an answer to relationship problems. By allegedly reacting violently when faced with romantic betrayal, however, Elin Nordegren behaved the way that any number of women and men--black, white and in-between--would have in similar circumstances. That said, if it's true that she did physically lash out at Woods, Nordegren shouldn't be cheered for doing so, just as it would be wrong to cheer a man of color guilty of domestic violence. One of the major drawbacks of stereotyping men and women and people from different ethnic groups is that they often lead to gross double standards.

Update: Woods has released a statement on his Web site calling the rumors spreading about him and his wife malicious and false.


November 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm
(1) Lorrie says:

Hi Nadra. I usually enjoy your articles, but I think you are a little off base here. I really don’t see much about this story that has to do with race. Yes, there is a gender double standard when it comes to domestic violence, always has been. However, in this case all we have is speculation. No one in the public knows what happened between Tiger Woods and his wife.

Also, you seem to imply that the branding of white women as “nice, passive, docile creatures”, when comparing to women of color, is a good thing for white women. As a white woman, I have always interpreted that as a negative stereotype, as well as an incorrect one.

What people want to speculate about and obsess about race in the blogosphere is one thing, but I didn’t expect you to be making up controversy too. What happened or didn’t happen between Mr and Mrs Woods has nothing to do with race. Why do we have to go there then?

November 30, 2009 at 5:57 pm
(2) Nadra says:

Lorrie, thanks for taking the time to comment. I understand your concerns but was trying to report on public reaction to the speculation. Obviously, we don’t know what happened with Woods and his wife, which I try to make clear by using words such as “allegedly,” “reportedly” and “according to.” I also pointed out that the details of the alleged dispute between the two have not been made public and included a link to Woods taking issue with the controversy. The reason I devoted a post to his accident was because I encountered several comments saying that if Woods had allegedly attacked his wife, he would have been portrayed as a monster, not just because he is a man but because he is a (multiracial) black man married to a blond, white woman. Other commenters pointed out that the alleged dispute between the two proves that white women can “go nuts” just like women of color are portrayed to. Hope that explains my decision process better.

November 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm
(3) Derek says:

I don’t think it’s a negative stereotype Lorrie. There is a bit of truth in it. On Black Friday, a friend of mine, a white female, left an item in the store that she had verification of purchasing on her receipt. Yesterday, Sunday morning she went to the store and told them that she didn’t get the item. The store manager went to get the item and just handed it to her without any questions. The transaction took about 3 minutes.

It’s difficult for me to imagine me or my African-American sister being given the benefit of the doubt in such a situation. Afterwards she and I got into into a very insightful discussion about it. It never occurred to her that I would be seen as less trustful due to my skin color.

Not that there is proven controversy regarding the Tiger Woods situation, but it doesn’t mean that this type of favoritism and double standard does not exist.

November 30, 2009 at 5:45 pm
(4) Lorrie says:

You and I are talking about 2 different things, Derek. Nadra brought up the stereotype of white women being weak and docile, which I feel is a negative stereotype. You are talking about white privilege. Not the same thing. White privilege definitely exists. I am married to a black man and i see it at work frequently. But again, that has nothing to do with the “white woman” stereotype I was discussing. It also doesn’t have anything to do with the situation re: Tiger Woods, in my opinion….at least not now.

December 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm
(5) paviangolfista says:

1. Leave the Wood’s alone.
2. Nobody is perfect and there is no perfect couple either.
3. He is 50% black and 50% thai. She is 100% white. Obama is 50% black and 50 % white. and I am 100% latino, so what. Our race is human, we all have the same organs and color of blood.
4. He is a golf player that is helping a lot of people, what else you want from the guy. Have you help anyone lately ??
5. You and I have enough problems. I will focus on fix mine’s and you to fix your’s. That will make us feel better for sure.
6. Good bye and feliz navidad.

December 1, 2009 at 2:55 pm
(6) Didier Pelay says:

paviangolfista has a sixth sense when contributing six cents

December 1, 2009 at 5:40 pm
(7) Creole Lady says:

There is definitely a double standard here!!! If it would’ve been Elin behind the wheel, this would have been a totally different situation. I believe Elin should be charged, because if the roles were reversed Tiger would be behind bars rigth now for assault and battery. I know Tiger Woods is trying to maintain his squeaky clean image, but he needs to be honest not only to the public but to himself. Whether he was cheating or not, no one deserves to get beat up.

Its like when a man hits a woman, everyone jumps to her defense and they’ll have a movie made about her on lifetime, but when a woman hits a man people just overlook it, or find ways to make it seem rite. Domestic violence is never okay!

December 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm
(8) H.L.C. says:

There is no question in my mind that if Elin were a black woman, the media would not focus as much on the his affair. Instead they would portray the black women as a crazy beast, with golf club in hand, who cannot control her temper.

December 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm
(9) Jeremy says:

True story black guy cheating on his wife this is such old news it shouldn’t even be covered. Stop cheating on your spouses!

December 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm
(10) Maria says:

Let’s call a spade a spade. If this had been a black woman (of course with Tiger Woods it would never be) the media would be all over it, saying how crazy she acted. But because the wife is white, it is simply accepted as OK.

This story is old as the hills. Black man with racial complex marries white woman. Has affairs with other white women. Gets taken to the cleaners by white wife who popped out a couple kids for ‘insurance’. I rest my case.

December 3, 2009 at 2:50 am
(11) greeneyes62 says:

I don’t think your skin color has anything to do with temper. My mother and father are both red headed fair skinned Irish. We meaning my family have terrible tempers. My husband and I had a few words at a close friends Christmas party years ago, the next day one of my close friends said to me I think you are really a black woman in there. I had no clue what she meant by this. My girfriend is black. I asked her after the holidays were over what does that mean. She told me she thought white women were quiet and meek when it came to taking crap from men. Well, Needless to say we both had a huge laugh over this. Me because I had never heard this sterotype ever and I say what I think and feel and it never occured to me that some thought this. I am married to a white man, but two of my best friends are married to men of color and their husbands probably wish that myth were true of white women. As a white woman I can say I would be clubbing my husband with anything I could get my hands on if I found out he was cheating. Especially while I was pregnant. Skin color has nothing to do with temper. I personally feel the reaction of all of us (women)
to a cheating spouse would be cause for a fight, perhaps not striking one another but I would have to buzz a heavy ashtray or vase past that head onetime! I might glue his cheating part to his leg also.

December 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm
(12) Kill Bill, Charles or Samuel says:

While there is no denying the gender stereotypes are relevant, I must disagree Lorrie. As with all stereotypes this one has its advantages and disadvantages as per the situation and the people involved. For example, perhaps there are some white women who may feel it is a good thing to be stereotyped as being docile because some men may find it a favorable quality in a wife. Perhaps some do not, it is all relative. I also disagree that race is not an underlying issue here. I believe it is, certainly. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where most people still base their opinions and assessments on skin color. Therefore, we cannot pretend it is a nonexistent issue. The fact that Tiger is a man of color and his wife is not, certainly raises a flag when we hear of his wife’s alleged abuse towards him and see there has been little backlash against her. This issue is relevant regarding Tiger Woods because, as we all know, discriminatory profiling (whether race, gender, or both) occurs frequently in our society. Therefore, when there are so many questions regarding whether or not Elin, a white woman, actually inflicted those wounds on Tiger, a man of color, it is understandable that racially-grounded stereotypes will be discussed. The fact remains that it is a possibility that Tiger Woods’ wife may have acted violently towards him, and we do not see much investigation going on into the matter, therefore, some believe this is rooted in the stereotype that White women are docile, submissive, or weak. It also has roots in the surprise and praise that many exhibit when they hear of Elin’s attack because she is a white women who acted outside of the behavior many associate with that stereotype. Personally, I think the affair(s) is a private issue but that does not mean we are not human and without opinions. If Tiger cheated on his wife, it is a shame that extends beyond racial boundaries or issues and while her suspected actions of violence are deplorable, I cannot say I wouldn’t of acted simarly. Perhaps, before he made that phone call, Tiger should of put those golf clubs in a safer place :)

December 4, 2009 at 8:20 pm
(13) E Callow says:

CLASS is the missing link in the article and comments. Chris Brown did NOT go to jail for beating his partner; Elin Woods with NOT go to jail for beating her partner; O.J. Simpson did NOT go to jail for beating his partner (in years prior to her death, to mention another famous black/white DV couple from recent history). THE RICH DONT GO TO JAIL.

December 8, 2009 at 10:28 am
(14) xpcd says:

Where are all of the women who routinely speak out on domestic violence? Why are they silent? Elin is a violent and abusive spouse, who should be prosecuted and villified. Good thing she is white. I hope Tiger gets to make the talk show rounds to explain how he lives in fear of the monster in his house. Tiger Woods is the poster boy for male domestic violence victims.

December 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm
(15) AphroditeBull says:

Tiger Woods is bi-racial. He does not identify with being African-American. If he is an adulterer, who cares! I could not fathom any woman who would want to sleep with a man who had ZERO SEX APPEAL!

December 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm
(16) Ida B. Wells says:

Movies not only present history, but also interpret and revise history and direct our perceptions of ourselves. In the annals of American cartoons there has never been a princess with a prince who is not of her own race. Even Jasmine, the Arab princess had an Arab counterpart. Never in the annals of American cartoons has the PRINCESS BEEN TURNED INTO A FROG! She is suppose to have the power to kiss a frog and break the spel and turn him back into a handsome “prince”.

For those of you who are not aware, it has been a tradition in Hollywood to refuse to show genteel adoration, passionate romance, effusive love and fatihful marriage between an attractive black couple. I have a 1955 cover of TAN, a black magazine, with Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge from the movie Carmen Jones in an embrace with the caption “Will Hollywood Let Negroes Make Love?”

When Henry Louis Gates did a special on black people in Hollywood that aired on PBS, he interviewed a movie director regarding the images of African Americans on screen. I seem to be the only person to be completely outraged when this arrogant jerk said to Gates, “Noone is interested in seeing a black man and a black woman making love on screen(paraphrased).” Gates, who is married to a white woman, did not object nor even respond to this obscene insult to all black people. Nor did I see or hear of any objections from any black voices immediately after the program aired. The most acceptable images of romance between black couples are generally created by black moviemakers. The best depictions I have ever seen was the romance between the young couple in Denzel Washington directed movie The Great Debaters.

The absence of a black prince and the turning of the black princess into a frog are not coinsidences nor gaffes.
They were meticulously planned. They are designed to exclude romance between a black man and a black woman from the conscious images imbibed by both black and white people. There is also something else that I have consistently noticed about the Hollywood presentation of black girls/women to the world. They more than often will put the black girl in the color green(brown and green are the colors of the trees that make up the background. Pink and pastels are the colors of the flowers that stand out front). They refuse to allow the black female youth image to be associated with the color pink – that color is reserved for white girls. Black people, do not take these issues lightly. Demand equal image treatment for black characters created by Disney. Do not wait for black show business people to defend African American culture. They will do anything to get a dollar and their faces in front of a camera! This image manipulation translates to real life. Look at black sports figures and many black men in show business prolific marriages to white women. Look at the figures for marriage among black men and black women, which is plummeting below 43% at this moment, while 67% of black children are being born out of wedlock. If a black princess can’t have a black prince in a cartoon, she certainly can’t expect to have her own black prince in real life.

December 14, 2009 at 11:14 pm
(17) Adam says:

I don’t think some people get it. It doesn’t matter that Woods does not identify as African Amerifcan because the white media don’t care. Woods is being stereotyped as a black male sexual predator that has an insatiable desire for white women. The author of this piece is making a connection between racist stereotypes and the media. For people to suggest race has nothing to do with the Tiger Woods sex scandal do NOT live in the real world. Woods is being bashed by the white press because here is a man of colour that dominated a white sport golf he married a blonde European woman, had mixed race children with her. Now Woods cheated on his white wife with OTHER white women which include porn stars and prostitutes. Woods is being viewed as a sexual beast and all of white societies anxieites about interracial sex and marriage are polluting the internet and media.

December 17, 2009 at 2:16 am
(18) june says:

any woman is capable of being violent. A gentleman will never become violent towards a woman, as men are stronger than women and can do damage many time that of what the average woman is capable of. Genetic fact is men are stronger than women.
However, to imply that white women are supposed to be nicer than black women….well….THAT is an example of an incorrect stereotype.

Trust me when I say, I am quite the crazy white *itch when I have found out my man is *ucking around!

April 1, 2013 at 1:42 am
(19) GS test demo says:

The Tiger Woods Car Crash: Rife With Racial and Gender Double Standards?

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