Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wimbledon official site no less sexist than the rest of the British press

I recently wrote that the British press is so sexist, it makes the U.S. press look relatively good. It turns out that even the official writers for Wimbledon are typical of sexist British journalism, which hardly surprises me. Greg Couch, writing for, brings to our attention the sexist garbage that was written yesterday on the official Wimbledon site about Maria Sharapova, Gisela Duklko and the tour in general.

Apparently, someone associated with Wimbledon was as repelled as Couch, for the article was later replaced by one that was appropriate, written by the same person.

One of the lines Couch quotes is "For all that the ladies of the WTA Tour wish to be taken seriously as athletes, there are times when they are fighting a losing battle." In context, this line is not pretty. But I'm not sure how seriously some of the women in the Sony Ericsson WTA do want to be taken seriously as athletes. One famous player's official website features photos of her posing topless (not explicit, but topless, nevertheless). And several top tour players have participated in a tour promotion that has them striking undeniably "sexy" (actually more of a cheesy sendup of sexy) poses, in which their faces have been airbrused all the way to Stepford. This promotion appears in a number of venues, including the tour's official site.

It is expected that some players will do photo shoots outside of their tour obligations. Some ATP players do them, too, though none of those players ever has to prove that he is, first and foremost, a good athlete, and that he just happens to be attractive, too. That is the diference between the selling of sex in the WTA and the selling of sex (rare as that sale is) in the ATP. Female athletes who want to be taken seriously as athletes should be objecting to their being marketed as sex objects, not colluding with the exploiters.

Bigotry and prejudice directed toward girls and women is generally accepted and encouraged, regardless of where one lives, and internalized sexism makes girls and women part of the problem. As I have said on more than one occasion, marketing female tennis players as sex objects does nothing to help the tour, but plenty to help the agents, photographers, makeup artists, publishers, copyright thieves, and webmasters who provide space for people to make obscene remarks about players' bodies.

Bloggers can write until we are blue in the face about the offensive "journalism" of the British press, including the official Wiimbledon website, but it is the players who need to put a stop to it.

(Thanks to After Atalanta for finding this story.)


Unknown said...

That press conference from Larry Scott was, um, interesting. This is what he said about the Looking For a Hero campaign: "It was really meant to draw out that duality that these are amazing athletes on the court and amazing feminine and glamorous women off the court. Our players are very comfortable with that positioning, and I think are great role models for women showing that, you know, you can be gritty and determined on the court and go to win, and still be a feminine celebrity off the court and enjoy events and parties..." What's so offensive about this is the fact that it's pretty obvious what he's saying in code when he talks about "feminine" women. Why doesn't he just come right out and say, "We ain't got any of them manly dykes in our sport no more. Our women be girly girls now!" What a nitwit.

Diane said...

Yes, "feminine" has always been the code of desperation for "no Lesbians here!"

I think it has another meaning, too, David, which is "No women who think they are 'men' here, either."

Unknown said...

Larry Scott's flippant attitude towards Justine Henin's retirement said a lot about him and his philosophy. I'm sure he would've required a suicide watch if it was Sharapova retiring (no knock on Sharapova).