Thursday, June 26, 2008

There are tennis fans...

... and then there are fans of women who play tennis. Or rather, their bottoms.
Yep, it's summertime here in Great Britain and the charming, world-class tournament that is Wimbledon has begun. The men's games have been reported upon fairly normally, with all the disappointment and excitement directed at various players' performances. The women's games have also been receiving the same depressing commentary as always - aside from a bit of cursory critique of each player's ability on court, the majority of the mainstream coverage of the sport has, yet again, been about the ladies' bodies and clothing choice.

This year though, instead of just posting a million upskirt shots, the tabloids (and, unfortunately, some of the more upscale papers) have had something to complain about. Guess what? One of the lovely lassies isn't conforming to their fantasies. Maria Sharapova, one of the world's best tennis players who won the Wimbledon women's tournament against the favourite and defending champion Serena Williams at just 17 years of age in 2004, has decided that she'd like to play wearing shorts this year. Nothing too tight or too baggy, neither too long nor too short; just a pair of white fitted women's shorts, allowing her comfort and freedom of movement without having to worry about what kind of underwear she has on as they will always be hidden from the crowd. Why not? I'd do the same - personally, if I were in her position, playing tennis in front of millions of viewers and knowing that there are tonnes of seedy reporters who will jump at the idea of plastering my arse all over their front pages without my permission, perhaps wearing shorts might encourage them to consider my gameplay instead. Y'know, like they do with the men's tournament. And hey, her legs are still visible, her outfit is shaped and fitted, so if they really must comment upon her body it's still there to see. In fact, you'll notice from the picture that she's showing more or less the same amount of skin in her shorts as in her dress. Millions of women participate in sports dressed in similar attire every day - it is practical and comfortable, doesn't flap around and generally does the job of covering you up without negatively affecting your gameplay. Which is what all basic sportswear should do.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this point I must confess that I am utterly, completely bored. I want to get angry about something, or maybe be pleasantly surprised. With this in mind, let's see what that beacon of bad taste, The Sun, has to say on the subject.

DISMAYED tennis fans yesterday condemned Maria Sharapova’s new Wimbledon shorts as pants.

They reckoned the leggy Russian babe will look far too manly — and asked: Where are the tiny skirts we love so much?


Roofer Steve Johnson, 35, of Earlsfield, South London, said: “I come here for the tennis but there’s no denying it’s a bonus to watch some of the women players running around in short skirts.

“Sharapova’s a great player but I feel she’s letting down blokes in the crowd by opting to wear shorts.”

Marketing executive Gary Olsen, 40, of Bristol, said: “Sharapova’s a great looking girl and a great talent.

“But I don’t understand why she feels the need to recreate the look of Martina Navratilova.”

It's okay, folks - I've taken my tranquillizers today and have none of that dreaded PMT that will no doubt turn me into a raging monster incapable of rational thought*, so your country is safe! Also, here's a personal confession - I think a lot of the tennis players today are hot. The men and women on court, and in many other sports (rowing, anyone?) are physically stunning as a result of their training. However, there's a difference between "casually noting that the athletes are good-looking" and "reducing 50% of the players to their collective body parts and sex-appeal and normalising this in the media", which is what I'm taking issue with today.
Firstly, using Martina Navratilova as an insult is probably one of the worst things here, because it shows how common the judgement of women by their appearance is. Yes, Navratilova did wear shorts on court. She's also the former World #1 Women's Tennis player, and has been described as "The greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who's ever lived", but that's irrelevant because she didn't pander to the heterosexual male gaze, which is the whole point of women's tennis don't'cha know.
'Letting down the blokes'?! Here's the thing, Mr. Johnson - Sharapova does not spend all her time playing in tournaments and training to stay in peak physical form just so the lads can have a nice bit of totty to ogle once a year. This is her CAREER. She enjoys tennis and is so fucking good at it that she can play in the biggest event of the year and have a good chance of winning. She is an athlete, not a Hooters waitress, and her future in the world of tennis rests upon her being able to play the sport better than the vast majority of people, not upon whether you can see her bum and give it marks out of ten.
Moving on to Mr. Olsen. I can't help feeling he only chucked the word 'talent' in there as a nod to decency, to stop people saying he's just a dirty old man. As we've already established that, standing still, Sharapova's outfit reveals no less than her previous ones, we can gather that he, and the other men in these articles, are angry because they can't look up a young woman's skirt. Allow me to spell out in simple terms, Gary, the possible reasons for her decision to wear shorts.

  • She wants to.
  • She is fed up of having people like you, strangers she's never met, passing comment upon her like catcallers in the street.
  • There are no rules against wearing shorts.

What's all this about her being manly? So WHAT if her attire is a tiny bit less feminine than before? So WHAT if her knickers aren't on display? She's a woman making a choice about what she wants to wear. Her clothes do nothing to conceal the fact that she is female, in fact, if you are calling her outfit masculine then I suggest that you imagine Roger Federer wearing the same ensemble.
Whilst it's not as 'ladylike' as the tennis skirt, it's still a far cry from what's considered 'menswear'. But even if it were utterly manly, why does it matter so much?


Because women's tennis, never forget, has little to do with tennis. The sport is just to get the ladies moving and bouncing for the men. Then, when the tournament has ended, you can see all those women you have been feverishly fantasising about naked in Playboy magazine. These women, these world-class athletes, these sporting role-models, just aren't doing their job if they don't dress up all feminine and sexy for the men. If they aren't getting their bums out for the lads, what right do they have to be on court? What's the point of women entering Wimbledon if they're just... going to play tennis?

*It's true! That's what menstruation does! I read it on the internet somewhere!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CEO Barbie 'unrealistic'

Post title is the link. This is The Onion's take on the recent news that women on Wall street are rarely found in the top spots.

Image originally found at Feministing.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sex(ual violence) and the City

Click the title for info. Police appeal here.

On Thursday night 5 women, aged between 20 and 36, were indecently assaulted over an area covering the city centre and west end between 6:15pm and 7:45pm. Analysis of CCTV footage and victims' testimonies have lead the police to suspect that all 5 attacks were carried out by the same man, and one woman was attacked TWICE. Here's the suspect:

These women were not 'out alone after dark' as at this time of the year they would have been travelling in broad daylight - and these areas aren't the most deserted at these times, either. Get those stereotypes right out of your mind.
I've only just heard about this and can't really comment at the moment. Check back later.

Death in the City

On the morning of the 29th May, the body of Moira Jones was found in Queen's Park on the south side of Glasgow. The following day, another woman, Eleni Patchou was found stabbed to death in the west end, as a result of a robbery at the restaurant where she worked. No link has been drawn between to two attacks.
A sentiment I heard expressed a few times by several people was that the woman in the park 'was probably African and/or a prostitute'. The area around Queen's Park does have a larger concentration of ethnic minority people, but why does that matter? Does it some how make it less of a crime if the victim had darker skin, or if she had to sell her body to make a living? And WHY did they assume she was a sex worker? There are prostitutes of all backgrounds (and sexes, but a male murder victim is never assumed to be a prostitute) all over the city, and yet I'd never heard this assumption made so soon after other attacks! Right away, before any information other than the sex of the victim had been released, people were making racist, classist and sexist assumptions and expressing them in a way as if such circumstances made this any less of the tragic and horrific crime that it was. Oh, and for the record? She was a white, UK-born sales consultant. What assumptions will people make with that information, I wonder?
No-one has been arrested in the case of Eleni Patchou, who was a trainee manager at the west-end restaurant. She was the last person left and was locking up after closing time when the attack occurred. No assumptions were made about her background. No-one was dismissive. Everyone was shocked, angered and saddened. Both investigations are ongoing. Neither of these women deserved their fate. I hope that the families of both victims receive justice and murdering bastards are found soon.

UPDATE: The GFN is holding a vigil to honour the memory of the female victims of violence in the city.

Eleni Pachou. Moira Jones. Michelle Reid. Jeannette Cooper. These are the names of four women killed in Glasgow so far this year. Some have already received more media footage than others - there may well be more names to add to this list, names that never reached the newspapers.

Last Thursday five woman were sexually assaulted in Glasgow in the space of an hour and a half - the Thursday before that, Moira Jones' body was found. The day after, Eleni Pachou.

The women of Glasgow - the women of the world - should not have to live in fear of men's violence.

We will be holding a vigil in George Square, at 6pm this Friday the 13th, to commemorate the lives of Eleni, Moira, Michelle, Jeannette, and all the women we've lost.

This will be a peaceful vigil with singing, flowers and candles. It will be a time to grieve for the women we've lost - but also a time to stand up, be counted, and let everyone know... we won't stand for this anymore. Violence against women must stop, and until our society changes, more women will die needlessly at the hands of men everyday.

We must let the city know that the women of this city are not and will not be victims. We invite men to attend this vigil and be bold about their refusal to participate in a culture then denigrates, objectifies and, ultimately, kills women.

Join us. Please forward this message, and invite your loved ones to attend with you.

In memory and in rage,

Glasgow Feminist Network x


Weeks after the event *headpalm* here's my account of the pro-choice protest in Glasgow on Monday 19th May.

I arrived there at a little past the starting time of 5.30pm, and there was already at good crowd of around 30 people there, chanting and waving placards. I picked up a 'Keep abortion safe, free and legal' sign and located some of my friends from the Glasgow Feminist Network. Aside from us there were several groups represented incuding Glasgow University's Labour group, Socialists and several others. There were men and women of many ages there, and one woman near me had brought along her baby, who sat in their pram and wooped with glee whenever we cheered! Just goes to show that being pro-choice doesn't mean you are anti-life. Helping to direct the event was a woman from the Socialist group whom I had met previously at the protest at Glasgow University Union.

As opposed to just standing and chanting, several speakers had been called out to speak about the importance of a woman's right to choose. Once they had all been out there was an open megaphone to anyone in the protest who had something to say. And boy, did I have something to say after spotting the 'Pro-Life' group across the way:

'Women need love, and who are they *points* to say we don't love them - after all, one way to show how much you love someone is to TRUST them to know what's best for themselves!'
Some of them had stuck 'Life' labels over their mouths. Whether they were trying to show us up as loud-mouthed bullies as well as pretending to be silenced if up for discussion, but the result of the vote on Tuesday showed that speaking out is better for supporters of women's rights than hoping for the best and shutting up. We'll be keeping our megaphones, thankyou!
One rather telling thing that I noticed was that, compared to our gathering, the other protest was about a third of our size. We were definitely the Pro-choice Majority.