Monday, December 29, 2014

But I thought you meant tennis

Sometimes, when they learn the truth about me, non-fans want to talk with me about pro tennis. This is often a problem for me, however, because many of them mean U.S. Tennis, and men's tennis. Bring up a sport--tennis, basketball, golf--and people assume you are talking about the men's game, which, of course, is considered the real game. After all, sports are "for men" and everyone knows it.

I recently had someone ask me, "What's wrong with American (I don't like that term either, but that's another discussion) tennis?" My answer was: "What don't you like about number 1 in the world?" He stared at me with a blank expression on his face. "Serena," I said, and he gave me an "oh, you know what I mean--real tennis" look. "Did you mean men's tennis?" I asked.

Television broadcasters perpetuate the sexism by referring to the men's games as tennis, basketball, golf, etc. and then saying women's golf, women's basketball, etc. This doesn't always happen with tennis, I've noticed, which means that on some unconscious cultural level, female athletes get a bit of respect when they play with rackets.

I can't speak for anywhere but my own region, but it seems like a lot of people around here know who Federer and Nadal are, but I can't find anyone who knows who Djokovic is. Go figure. Many know who Sharapova is, but they have never heard of Kvitova, Radwanska or Azarenka. People are accustomed to following team sports in which all of the players are from the same country--this country. Golf opens the field a bit, but nothing opens it quite like tennis.

I'll close this with something that is quite good: When I hear people talk about the Williams sisters, it is generally with a lot of admiration. When I introduce them to facts they didn't know, such as Venus's illness and Serena's life-threatening post-accident condition, they are amazed by the Williams sisters' resilience and strength of character.


Karen Williams said...

Happy New Year Diane. It is my hope that 2015 will continue to open the eyes of everyone to the wonderful world of women's tennis. I always ensure that I specify women's tennis in my own writings, if only to let people know what I am talking about. Makes my life a lot easier. As for the Williams Sisters I had the pleasure of meeting
Venus personally while she was on a book tour and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the esteem in which she is held is truly heartwarming to witness. People love her. The line that awaited her for that particular book signing stretched all the way around the block and was a very good cross section of who's who in Cayman society. Wonderful person indeed.

Diane said...

Happy New Year to you, also, Karen!

I don't think anyone (other than real tennis fans) in my country will ever care about players who are not from the USA. I do think the USA will have another big player, and Madison seems the most likely. But someone could just sneak in, you know? (Or Sloane could wake up!)

I also think that the Williams sisters will be an important part of the culture after they retire.

Women's tennis--what a cast of characters! JJ, Serena, Vika, Petra, 'Pova--people don't know what they're missing.

Karen Williams said...

A funny thing has been happening to tennis writers of late. They are now waking up to the wonders of women's tennis and I think we have to thank Stacey for that. The women have also done their part to wake up bloggers and journalists alike to the wonders of the women's game. Many people who I previously know for a fact only focused on the men are now giving equal if not more treatment to the women. Very good to see. More of this in 2015 please.

sunny nine said...

Well I think the matches made the difference in waking some people up to women's tennis. sorry, anti-sharapova people but the 2 matches between halep and sharapova were often talked about in print. even the fed cup match between kvitova and kerber was tauted. Fed cup-people were talking. i think it has helped that some women are getting more aggressive in their tennis. some of the pundits at wimbledon were exclaiming about kvitova's style and i believe it was mc enroe who said that kvitova's win was the best display, man or woman, at wimbledon or something like that. ivanovic's stepping in with her forehand, wozniacki coming in. all these things and of course more made for great matches. i don't mean there hasn't always been great matches, but somehow it clicked with bloggers, pundits etc. don't know why but if it leads to more air time on espn for women at the majors then ......!

Diane said...

Well said, both of you.