One of the most-loathed figures in sports history, former figure skater Tanya Harding, is trying to glide back into the limelight and the public's good graces with a new memoir, The Tanya Tapes. According to Newsweek, Harding claims that her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, the man who orchestrated the kneecap busting attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, raped her in order to keep her silent about his crime. "They said, if I didn't cooperate and say exactly what he [Jeff] told me to say, they were going to take me out. I had a gun at the back of my head and [was raped] on the back of a truck … and they told me this is what you are going to say. This is what you are going to do, and if you don't, you're not going to be here anymore," Harding tells Newsweek. Harding has insisted that she knew nothing of Jeff's involvement with the attack until after it was perpetrated. "[She] struggled the most with this conflicting set of circumstances: if she knew nothing about the assault on Kerrigan until after it happened, why was her ex-husband so desperate to keep her quiet that he'd rape and threaten to kill her?" writer Winston Ross ponders.
This whole thing is…problematic. On the one hand, whenever a woman says she was raped, I want to believe her wholeheartedly and support her. But Tanya Harding's claims are certainly coming at an odd time. She's currently featured as a commentator on TruTv's The Smoking Gun Presents (tagline: Real Video. Real Stupid. Real Awesome.) alongside other bright lights of recent history like Amy Fisher, Danny Bonaduce, and Leif Garrett. "If people are going to read [Tanya's book], they have to read it for the entertainment value, and not go by every word as the gospel truth. She struggles with being taken seriously," says gold medalist Brian Boitano.
Whether or not she's telling the truth might be culturally irrelevant. The mere fact that she's using the trope of female victimhood to her own financial ends is troubling. Of course, if you are raped it's your business to disseminate that information in any way you see fit, but Harding's claims that "she's more concerned with having an impact on other victims of abuse," as opposed to making money, seem to be a total farce. I mean, the woman was boxing fellow 90s scandal mainstay Paula Jones for fun and profit a few years ago. Her credibility is dubious at best.
Tonya Harding: The Victim? [Newsweek]