If you haven’t seen the t-shirt Serena Williams sported in her post-match Wimbledon press conference, then you are missing out. Given the attention to attractiveness, court assignments, body parts (i.e., “back packs”) sex sells women’s tennis controversy at Wimbledon, Williams clearly has the last say. Perhaps it was in jest, but the point of the t-shirt which contrasts her athletic achievements (11 Grand Slam Titles) with a primary focus on her body, mocks the attention given to the feminine, attractive, sexualized nature of the dialogue surrounding her (and other female athletes) play over the fortnight. To hammer this point home….Just think if Roger Federer wore shorts to his press conference with print on the front asking “Are you looking at my trophy?”
While I was out of town participating in the Up2Us Regional Sports-based Youth Development Conference hosted by the LA84 Foundation, a graduate student forwarded me an article link I felt compelled to share (thanks EH!).
A nydailynews.com article ran yesterday titled “Wimbledon turns Centre Court into Babe Central, giving players spotlight based on looks, not talent” which outlines that “hot, attractive” lower-ranked players were scheduled to play on Centre Count, and top-ranked players like Serena Williams were relegated to play on less prestigious courts. In the article All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins was quoted as saying “good looks are a factor” when scheduling matches on Centre Court, in large part it seems due to television coverage.
Greg Couch writes more about the “babe factor in tennis” on his blog where he states, “A few days ago, Maria Sharapova played Gisela Dulko, and on Wimbledon’s official website, the report of the match said, “As Sharapova and Dulko ran and stretched and lunged, most of the male spectators could not have cared less about their topspin forehands and would no more have recognized a western grip from a western movie — this match was about hormones, pure and simple.”
Unfortunately, it is also “pure and simple” another example of sport media and women’s sport promoting “sexy” athletes (which you could also read as White, feminine, & ponytailed) over athletic competence–which reinforces notions of what matters, what sells, and what is valued. If you want to read a new book out about this issue see D. Daniels (2009) “Polygendered and Ponytailed:The Dilemma of Femininity and the Female Athlete”.