Do I even need to give the context? I think not. The most recent incidents in the game of tennis (more specifically US Open) are enough to bring in the context. And let me tell you it was not the first time that a voice against sexism was raised in the game of tennis.
It’s a common knowledge that is it any game: Hockey, Cricket, Tennis –women teams, and players are always seen as inferior to men teams and players, and every game has its own historic battle to trace. Tennis, however, is the most recent and visible example before us after the conclusion of the interesting and equally controversial US Open 2018. And US Open 2018 was not the only time that women players were treated rather differently from men players.
Various critical readings of the way the game of Tennis reaches the audience is the first thing to note. It’s not me, but the experts that have realized a difference in the camera’s gaze while shooting a male player and a female player. According to these sports experts, the general “sexist” opinion is that women’s game is not high enough to attract an audience, and hence in a women’s tennis match, the focus of the camera oscillates between players’ bodies and the game, to get the audience engaged. Obviously, men’s game is entirely equipped and doesn’t demand such interference of the camera to attract or engage the audience. If you are a feminist, you must have been outraged by now.
So was Andy Murray when a reporter at a press conference made a casually sexist remark that Sam Querrey is the first US semifinalist at the Wimbledon since 2009, completely forgetting about Serena Williams. Forgetting women tennis players have a long tradition in the game of tennis, by the way. If you follow the sport you must be well aware of the Hopman Cup incident in which the tennis icon Roger Federer earned a lot of criticism. He and Jack Sock completely neglected their partners (and respective female opponents) Belinda Bencic and Coco Vandeweghe in the doubles at Hopman Cup. And these male tennis players are not the only ones who have taken the women tennis for granted.
The great tennis star Novak Djokovic once remarked that should be paid more than women, because men’s game is what actually attracts the audience, suggesting the women’s tennis to be not only inferior but also not worthy of attention. This takes us back to the general “sexist” opinion we started with, because of which the ‘business-minded” TV channels have to employ their cameras differently when it comes to women’s tennis.
When it comes to sexism in the game of tennis, it’s far beyond women not getting equal pay as men or they not getting to play all the five sets. Not when we have personalities like Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore remarked that the female tennis players are riding on the coattails of men. He suggested the women players be thankful to the players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that the sport has its name because of them.
Do we really need to explain to him what an icon Serena Williams is?
Many personalities take even Williams for granted and we all are familiarized with evidence. It’s not just the Umpire penalizing her for what he would have neglected a thousand times had it been any male player.
“I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty”, was what the retired US tennis player Anny Roddick tweeted after the incident.
“Would he (umpire) have done that with a man? History has said, no. He would not have done that with a man.” Says a CNN report.
The whole drama did not only tell Williams that despite her being as great an icon as any male tennis player, she won’t get the same treatment as them; it also spoilt the taste of victory for the new Grand Slam Champ Naomi Osaka. Both ways, it’s a woman who suffers.
Serena Williams has been a victim of the sexist mentality of authorities associated with the game of tennis before as well. We still haven’t forgotten the controversy her rather a comfortable catsuit at the French Open created. Her first game after becoming a mother got the attention for all the negative things. After the incident, a dress code introduced for players in the French Opens.
One more so-called “code violation” saw the sexist nature of the game of tennis and its authorities when Alize Cornet was penalized for fixing her top on the court. While various male players have taken their t-shirt off on the court without any regard of the rules and codes, an unsaid rule was apparently violated by Cornet, which was enough to get her penalized. Not only this, she was accused of “unsportsmanlike behavior”.
What would you Call the Behavior of Roger
Federer then, who has the habit of taking off his tee just whenever he wants on the court? Here too our opinion is that the audience watching the sport is the only male. So a shirtless male is not a problem while a woman suiting herself would just not suit the dominant part of the audience.
Examples are actually too many to be counted just like that. I know it was unfair that so much drama was created around Williams while it was Osaka who deserved all our attention. But I’d still support Serena for speaking up and letting her voice be heard. If not herself, then for someone else in the future.
Rightly did she say:
“I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that want to express themselves, and want to be a strong woman.
“They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.” (Source: Channel NewsAsia)