You did an outstanding job with the 40 LOVE campaign. I'm sure I speak for most fans when I say how great it was to see so much attention paid to the Original 9, and to have the WTA's impressive history talked about so much by the sports media. Well done.
However, an excellent marketing campaign about the spirit and intention of the Original 9 isn't the same as really honoring the spirit and intention of the Original 9, which was to grant women what was rightfully theirs--to compete on an equal level with men.
The prize money issue is a big one, and great strides have been made in that area. But sexism is still sexism and there's a lot more to the concept of equality than just prize money. I'd like to see the WTA take an authentic position on behalf of women that would benefit the players, all sportswomen, and women and girls everywhere. As WTA player Sania Mirza (and what a wonderful spokeswoman she is) said recently: "When a woman wants to do something on her own way, she is criticised, dubbed as a rebel." She's right, and when a man wants to do something his own way, he's called "an individual" and "a maverick."
As Mirza points out, sportswomen (and all professional women, I'll add) are asked about what they wear, about when they're going to have babies, etc., while the media concentrates on men's athletic endeavors. The sports media calls male athletes "warriors" while it creates gossip about female athletes' private lives and encourages the "cat fight" mentality among fans.
I was around when the WTA was formed, and believe me--we haven't really come that far, baby, in sports or in any other area of society. In fact, we've gone backwards. In the U.S., bigoted attitudes toward women and girls that were at least held up for inspection in the 70s are now condoned and even encouraged. Sexism and misogyny are such a part of the fabric of world culture, girls grow up not even realizing that they are being treated as people who are "less than" men.
In no particular order, these are things I'd like to see from the WTA:
1. Get rid of on-court coaching.
I don't want anyone, male or female, to receive on-court coaching because on-court coaching goes against the spirit of the game of tennis, which is a sport that's as much mental as it is physical. The tennis player stands alone (unless it's a doubles match), and has to figure things out for herself. In the case of the WTA, on-court coaching--and this is especially true since there is no ATP on-court coaching--makes the women look as though they can't figure it out for themselves. To make matters worse, almost all of the coaches are men, so there they are--young women being directed by older men on how to play an opponent. It reeks of paternalism.
2. Create a program to encourage the development of female coaches.
We have so few of them in professional tennis. (And by the way, ATP--you need to do the same thing; where are the female coaches?) You can encourage girls all you want to be anything they can be, but until they see women coaching players, the message won't be transmitted.
3. Do not ever threaten to create a device that intrudes on a woman's body. Ever.
The concept of using a grunt-o-meter is not only ridiculous, it's offensive. I've never known what all the "grunting" (most of it isn't) fuss was about. No one complains about grunting on the ATP. As far as I can tell, the sports media created the "controversy" and people hopped onto the bandwagon.
But even if there are legitimate reasons (I don't think there are, but for the sake of argument....) to stop players from making noise, the idea of using a measuring device is really no different in spirit than previous concepts like putting female flight attendants on weight scales, requiring women in certain professions (or relationships) to get plastic surgery, and conducting "virginity tests" on adolescent girls. Women and girls have had our bodies measured and encroached upon enough.
4. Stop calling the head of the WTA a man.
An organization that claims to promote the well-being and advancement of women and girls really needs to stop saying "chairman" when it refers to the current head of the organization. What decade are we in, anyway?
5. Find some female masters of ceremony.
Tournament after tournament, including those that are women-only, the person doing the on-court interviews, making the announcements, and conducting the activities is a man. Often, it's a man who is sexist and/or paternalistic. (I heard a master of ceremonies tell a little girl who had won a competition that she couldn't make a celebratory run around the court because "girls don't do that." Another, ubiqitous, master of ceremonies calls grown women "young ladies" every time he interviews them or talks about them.) At the very least, get men who show more respect to the female players. But we really need some female masters of ceremonies.
6. Don't just sit there--fight sexism when it occurs.
When members of the sports media always compare female players with male players and never the other way around, say something. When an ATP player declares that women can't possibly compete as well as men because of our hormones, show your outrage. When members of the media make wink-nudge jokes about what that ATP player said, put them in their place.
When masters of ceremonies patronize players, educate them. When commentators assume that a female player is "copying" an ATP player and she isn't, complain. When commentators call women "girls," correct them. When the sports press (I'm talking to you, Great Britain) makes sexually oriented comments about WTA players' bodies and refers to the tour in demeaning ways, call them out and make them stop doing it.
The Original 9 were women with spine. The WTA couldn't have better role models.