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!


  1. Woop woop! I've been writing about this too - albeit in a shorter, swearier way. Well done for bothering to explain to the fuckwits why they're fuckwits - it's difficult to find the motivation!