Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wimbledon coverage perpetuates sexism

This year's Wimbledon brought much excitement. Additionally to the close, grueling matches, the first few days built up surprises one after the other as the superstars such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams unexpectedly followed each other out of the tournament.

Wimbledon will most likely be remembered, once again, for these thrilling moments, and not the blatant sexism that appeared in media coverage upon the closure of the tournament.

The coverage of the men's and women's singles finals tells us two things about women: 1) they don't count, and 2) they are only allowed to succeed if they are attractive.

To Andy Murray's win in the men's singles finals over Novak Djokovic, the media in a number of countries, and multiple languages suggested that Murray ended Britain's 77 years of pain without a Wimbledon winner. Some of these headlines proclaimed "British champion ends 77 years of tennis hurt" (The Mirror), "Andy Murray credits home crowd after ending 77-year wait" (The Telegraph), and "Andy Murray wins Wimbledon, ends 77-year British drought" (USA Today).

These headlines make me wonder: What exactly are British women? Next door neighbors?

The articles fail to account for four British women who won singles titles in that 77-year period. An article on Buzzfeed credits Dorothy Round Little (1937), Angela Mortimer Barrett (1961), Ann Haydon-Jones (1969), and Virginia Wade (1977) for the wins. Thus, The Atlantic points out "Britain's last Wimbledon champ won 36 years ago, not 77."

One must give credit to outlets that at least specified in the article that Murray was the first "men's" champion after 77 years, but even in that case information about female players is missing.

Once again, we see a normalized pattern in sports media coverage that positions male athletes and men's sports as the only ones that really matter while failing to account for women's accomplishments. The women are, thus, rendered invisible.

But, considering the somewhat exceptional level of equality in men's and women's tennis, the women's Wimbledon champion, Marion Bartoli, also received some coverage. Except, according to some fans and even one media outlet, she was too ugly to win.

The Daily Mail reported that Bartoli received extensive criticism over her looks on Twitter.

Perhaps the most disturbing comment came from BBC radio commentator John Inverdale, who said:

"I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life...did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe 'listen you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5-foot-11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that."

BBC apologized after hundreds of complaints. Of course, they should.

Still, we are left with blatant sexism perpetuated by some of the most respectable media outlets.

But beyond sexism, the above give examples also contain misleading and even inaccurate information. And that is simply poor journalism.

-- Dunja Antunovic

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