Last week was a week of historic firsts: Brits basking in temperatures warmer than Miami and the nation’s sweetheart Murray clinching the Wimbledon title.
Last week was a week of historic firsts: Brits basking in temperatures warmer than Miami and the nation’s sweetheart Murray clinching the Wimbledon title. Whilst both are worthy of celebration, the sexism of last week’s Wimbledon tournament was not, as such, a historic occurrence.
Although female athletes have and continue to achieve success in their respective sports, press exposure remains largely fixated on their physical appearance rather than celebrating such accomplishments. Just take the vitriol that accompanied French No.1 Marion Bartoli following her victory in Wimbledon. Social networking sites were ablaze with branding the women’s Wimbledon Champion ‘fat and unattractive’ and thus undeserving of victory, as if conforming to rigid social acceptable standards of what the press deems attractive is a crucial requirement to secure the prestigious accolade.
Aesthetic appearance v. performance
Despite Bartoli’s outstanding performance against German opponent Sabine Lisicki, this for the most part remained largely unremarked upon. Murray, meanwhile, was heralded as heroic for ending the 77 year wait for a Wimbledon champion, his physical appearance by no means overshadowing his victory.
As if the press had exhausted all its efforts on lambasting female athletes, sexist coverage veered off-court to the Wimbledon WAGS.
Just take tabloid coverage of the sporting star’s significant other long before the match occurred. We were relentlessly bombarded with images of the male athlete’s spouse donning lingerie or bikinis pouting provocatively at the camera. The predominantly male audience invited to ogle over the shots of their heaving cleavage and buttocks in the same manner reserved for bare-breasted Page Three regulars.
More often than not, said photo is accompanied by a disparaging headline that the female has injected a little ‘spice into the sport.’ In stark contrast, the male professional tennis player is not subjected to such coverage prior to a match in an identical fashion.
However, sporting stars other halves’ were not merely sheltered from the sexual objectification of their bodies but were similarly subjected to intense scrutiny in the press for their clothing choices. Off-court, headlines were dominated over the course of the tournament by dissecting and pitting the tennis star’s significant other’s Wimbledon style against each other as if they too were the spectator sport.
Just take the alleged rivalry between New York resident and underwear model Jarah Mariano currently dating world number one Fernando Verdasco and Murray’s long-term love Kim Sears in the run-up to the quarter finals. Any fashion foot wrong was mercilessly exhaustedmatch by match for the amusement of the British public, culminating in Sears’ alleged ‘opponent’ Mariano crowned the winner on account of her ‘racy runway style.’
Claws on the Catwalk
Murray and Verdasco, meanwhile, escaped unscathed, their athletic prowess merely scrutinised in an identical manner.
Such blatant sexist coverage has merely served to expose the sexism women continue to face in contemporary society. High-profile women are rarely praised in our national press for their individual achievements and academic accomplishments, not too unlike the Wimbledon wives and girlfriends.
While, for instance, Novak Djokovic’s long-term love Jelena Ristic has achieved a Master’s degree and is at present the Director of the Novak Djokovic Foundation which aims to provide education to underprivileged children in Serbia, this has for the most part remained unremarked on in the press, who are seemingly intent on bombarding the public solely with photos of her as the new face of a lingerie and swimwear brand.
Strawberries and Melons…
Reducing Ristic to a pair of breasts merely serves to symbolise that women’s achievements and accolades are not worth equal weight as their male counterparts and whose worth is merely reduced to providing fleeting ratification for male spectators.
So what is the future for press coverage of sporting star’s other halves? While I firmly believe that such coverage has no place in contemporary sport, it seems unlikely at this point in time that it will cease to decline anytime soon.