Eugenie Bouchard, 19 year old Canadian tennis player, is killin’ it at the Australian open. She just defeated the number 1 seed Ana Ivanovic to become the first Canadian woman in 30 years to reach the semis of a Grand Slam. Which is freakin’ awesome! New talent, especially in the sea of bland/unlikable ladies on the pro tour. And hey, that’s just my opinion, and there is no rule that talented athletes need be likable (Sampras was pretty boring, after all.) I’m just saying that as far as fans and growing the sport’s popularity goes, we need folks to turn out and get amped about watching the women play. Of course I think a big hurdle is the lingering idea that the women are less athletic (even though it’s pretty clear that Billy Jean settled that in ’73), which could be mitigated if the ladies would start playing best of 5 sets. If they play just as long and hard as the guys, we can stop arguing about prize money and just focus on the talent, the rivalries, and the heart pounding moments every tennis fan craves.
But I digress. Eugenie had a post game interview, which should have really focused on her hard work and great accomplishments on the court. But, surprise surprise, it didn’t. From Rebecca Rose on Jezebel:
After her win over Ana Ivanovic on Monday, Bouchard should have been doing a post-game interview about just how she managed to accomplish this most impressive feat. But NOPE! Instead, she got asked this:
“You’re getting a lot of fans here,” noted [Samantha] Smith, a former British tennis champ. “A lot of them are male, and they want to know: If you could date anyone in the world of sport, of movies – I’m sorry, they asked me to say this – who would you date?”
UGH. Because that’s what’s important. Of course.
This line of questioning, post game, is super disrespectful. Who this girl dates has no bearing on her game or her tennis career. Also it’s none of anyone’s business. Just because you, in this case ‘you’ being the media at large, thinks that someone is attractive doesn’t mean they owe you personal information (or kindness or courtesy, FYI.) They’d never ask Roger Federer that on court after a tough win over Nadal. GTFO.
Since Eugenie is conventionally attractive, it’s likely that she will have to deal with this kind of crap her whole career. And maybe, like Anna Kournikova before her, her looks will dominate the conversation more than her skills. Kournikova never got a fair shake, even though she made it to the semis at Wimbledon her first time there (the 2nd women ever to do so, after the legendary Chris Everet.) Everyone was mostly concerned with how young and beautiful she was. Thanks in no small part to a variety of injuries, she never really lived up to her potential, a Slam eluded her, and she became a punch line.
I hope Eugenie continues to work hard and brush past these moment of sexism. Even this kind of ‘everyday sexism’ can be really exhausting and depressing for the women on the receiving end. For the time being, female athletes (and actors, and politicians, and scientists, and journalists ETC ETC ETC) will have to deal with being seen as women first, and talented second. It still baffles me that we treat women like a weird alien species with mysterious parts and strange motivations. Women are people. Women tennis players are tennis players. Eugenie is a tennis player, a competitive athlete. The end.
Friendly reminder: if you see something you think might be sexism (or as I like to label it: gender issues happening) a good test is ‘would this be happening if gender roles were reversed.’ So again, if Eugenie were Nadal or Federer or Djokivic (em, love him), would a reporter be asking them about dating on court post-match? No? Then congratulations! You’ve found gender issues happening! Shout out to the world about it!