Friday, April 23, 2021

Simona, sexism, and the denial and dismissal of sexism and misogyny in professional tennis

I like Simona Halep's game. I like the way she handles her career. I like her personality. To be even more candid--I like Simona. But her insistence that there is no sexism in professional tennis is, in a word, delusional. 

Halep, a former world number 1, has explained to us that there can't possibly be sexism in the sport because the umpires call the matches the same for both women and men. This is a head-spinning statement of 'logic" that could just as well have come from a Lewis Carroll creation.

  • When women have to constantly fight for equal pay, that is sexism.
  • When an ATP player (Jo Wilfried Tsonga) says that women are inherently inferior athletes because of female hormones, that is sexism (a lot of the media found that amusing--that, too, is sexism).
  • When an ATP player (Novak Djokovic) says that it's fine for woman to get more prize money as long as men then also get even more prize money, that is sexism. 
  • When an ATP player (David Ferrer) dismisses a ruling from a female umpire because "girls are so stupid," that is sexism.
  • When an entire Davis Cup team (Spain) becomes hysterical when they are given a female captain because "she can't possibly understand the men's game" (apparently, men must easily understand the women's game, since so many of them are WTA coaches), that is sexism.
  • When a member of that team (Rafael Nadal) criticizes said captain for being "defensive" when she has been attacked in public for days on end, that is sexism.
  • When the former director (Raymond Moore) of a major tournament says that the WTA players "ride on the coattails of the men," and that the women should "get down on their knees and thank" them, that is sexism.
  • When an ATP play (Andy Murray) hires a woman as a coach and he becomes the butt of many ATP jokes, that is sexism.
  • When an author (Patrick McEnroe) thinks that his observations on Venus Williams' "inappropriate" kits are important enough to include in his book, that is sexism.
  • When a member of the ATP Players' Council (Sergiy Stakhovsky) uses his position to campaign against equal prize money, that is sexism.
  • When members of the media ask about "tennis,"  and "tennis players," but they mean "men's tennis," and "male tennis players," that is sexism.
  • When an ATP member (Rafael Nadal) repeatedly brings up the subject of male models to justify women not getting equal pay, that is sexism.
  • When commentators use sexist language (more common among females), such as calling women "girls" and "young ladies," that is sexism.
  • When ATP members (Tomas Berdych, Giles Simon) declare that women's tennis is inferior, that is sexism.
  • When an ATP player (Nick Kyrgios) uses a WTA player's private life to publicly insult an ATP peer, that is sexism. 
  • When a former player now turned coach (Dmitry Tursunov) compares breaking rackets with rough sex, that is probably worse than sexism.
  • When a journalist (not to mention, countless fans) informs us that ATP players should make more money than WTA players because "the market rules," that is sexism (hello!--what about the inherent sexism in the "market"?).
  • When ATP players tell Andy Murray that they would rather forgo a pay raise if women are getting one, too, that is sexism--and worse. 
  • When fans in Australia loudly and demonstrably object to Vika Azarenka's grunting (which it isn't--it is screaming), that is sexism.
  • When an ATP player (Sam Querrey) stars on a television show that is based on outrageously male-dominant gender roles, that is sexism.
  • When Wimbledon inspects the insides of women's skirts, that is sexism (actually, it's assault).
  • When the French Open decides to deny night matches to all WTA players, that is sexism.
  • When a coach (Toni Nadal) dismisses the ruling of a female umpire by saying "we had some problems with a girl," that is sexism.
  • When an ATP player (John Isner) says that he could never hire a female coach because they wouldn't be able to live in the same house or apartment, that is sexism. 
  • When a former ATP player (Tim Henman) bases an entire interview with ATP players (and they go along with it) on "what would Serena Williams' ranking be on the ATP?" that is sexism.
  • When an ATP player (Alexander Zverev) is credibly accused of committing violence toward a woman and the ATP remains totally silent, that is sexism
  • When the Next Gen draw ceremony features female models who reveal groupings and letters under their clothes, that is blatant sexism.

Sexism coming from the ATP and the sports media is, of course, nothing new. From John Newcombe ("The ladies' game is the icing on the cake") to Stefan Edberg to Janko Tipsarevic--the organization has long shown a disdain for women. Halep herself was the victim of one of the most overt examples of sexism from a member of the press when he asked her a deeply personal and totally inappropriate question about her breast reduction surgery.

Whatever compels Simona Halep to deny sexism and misogyny in professional tennis is something about which I won't make guesses. What is really sad, though, is that there are so many fans who are well aware of all the sexism, but they continue to support the ATP--not just men, but a lot of women. I no longer watch ATP matches unless my favorites are playing, or two ATP members are playing who have not demonstrated sexist attitudes or said and done sexist things (or those few who have openly supported female players).

Why on earth would I want to watch someone who believes that I'm inherently inferior to him?


Anonymous said...

No doubt someone will feel the need to point out that Serena in her prime would have lost to the ATP #200, as if that justifies any and all sexism in the tennis world. For some, competition is an enabler for people to strive towards their potential. For others, it's an excuse to indulge our animal desires to dominate and secure the lion's share of rewards. The anecdotes you've related make it clear the latter attitude still predominates. Given this oppressive climate it's understandable if some choose to meekly slot themselves into the perceived pecking order.

Diane said...

Well said. (In Simona's case, however, it's hardly a meek effort.)

And the only reason that strength and speed are considered "superior" is that they are male attributes.