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Image / Editorial

The sexist commentary at Wimbledon remains a huge problem


by Jennifer McShane
02nd Jul 2019
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 Wimbledon in 2019 and once again female athletes are dealt the short straw on the playing field. Talk of their age and ‘basic’ outfits only serves – no pun intended – to demean their accomplishments writes Jennifer McShane  


Every year Wimbledon starts and I resist the urge to roll my eyes at the slew of ‘hidden meaning’ articles which are written examining the outfits worn by female athletes on the fields. What about the fact that they have won multiple Grand Slam titles? Excelled in their sport? Sacrificed to get to the top in an industry that rewards men before women?

This type of reporting doesn’t go unnoticed. Remember the time Andy Murray has called out sexist news reporters on behalf of his female peers? It’s almost a given the media frequently seizes an opportunity to trample over female sports players. Or take them down a peg with a commentary with their outfit over their parting score.

Ageism 

Take this week, for example. There was a highly-anticipated game between Cori Gauff and Venus Williams. However, disappointingly, the speculation around the match was mostly due to the fixation over the 24-year age difference between the tennis tournament’s youngest and oldest female players.

Multiple headlines led with Gauff’s age. She is a teen so her skills and accomplishments at such a young age should naturally be celebrated – she did beat a five-time Wimbledon champion which was no small thing.  But by focusing on her age compared to Williams’, it only gives traction to ageism against women in the game. And the focus tends to be on Williams’ age more often than not, given that she has become the oldest woman to reach a Wimbledon singles in 2019 final since Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Fashionable commentary

And then, there is the constant outfit critique. Too boring, too dull, too inappropriate.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with fashion commentary; the outfits form an important part of how the athletes will feel on the day, how they’ll move. Why shouldn’t they put time and effort into them if they so wish?

Today, Tuesday Serena Williams made a sartorial statement on the court by wearing Nike’s debut ‘Broosh’ – the famous Swoosh logo reimagined in Swarovski crystals, featuring a grand total of 34 jewels by the cult Austrian brand, a tribute to the age Williams was when she won her most recent London Slam at Wimbledon in 2016.

“I wanted her to feel like it was something her grandmother could have worn but of course give it a modern spin and make it just right for Serena,” Abby Swancutt, global design director for NikeCourt, said in an official statement.

The issue is the amount of coverage on the female outfits versus the men – there’s hardly any divide because it’s the female athletes who are under this scrutiny.

At the end of the day, these incredible women don’t want to be remembered for how they looked on a court or how old they were – they want – and deserve to be remembered for the trophies they held walking off it.

Main photograph: @TennisChannel 

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