Wimbledon’s Centre Court = Babe Central?

1 07 2009

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.

Wimbledon Thought Process2

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”.





The Sport Media’s Role in Promoting Femininity: An Example in Women’s Tennis

26 06 2009

feminine tennisA picture tells a thousand words and this picture is a perfect example of when female athletes are covered in the media, it is often in ways that highlight femininity-rather than athletic competence. For more on this subject read here, here, or here.





To Grunt or Not To Grunt: A Question of Gender Discrimination?

15 06 2009

tennis ballDuring the 2009 French Open Tennis Tournament Portuguese teen tennis star Michelle Larcher de Brito made a stir with her elongated “shrieks” when she strikes the ball. Wimbledon officials are now considering making a rule banning loud grunting for female players. While she claims it is just “part of the game” opponents and fans say otherwise.

As a former collegiate tennis player and coach, I get the distracting and annoying nature of loud grunting by an opponent. That is one side of the issue. Another side of this issue is the problematic and gendered nature of this discussion and pending rule.

First, male players on tour also grunt upon impact, therefore a rule should be equally applied to both men and women. However, there has been no parallel discussion of a rule application to the men’s tournament (although Connors, and Agassi were criticized for their noises). Second, the way Larcher de Brito’s grunts are being constructed in the media as “shrieks”,”screams”, and “annoying squeals”… it appears that males players grunts are expected. Third, this isn’t the first time the discussion of a “grunt/shriek rule” for female tennis players has surfaced. If you recall, in the ’90’s Monica Seles was the original purveyor of loud grunting on impact…and while there was much grumbling then, no rules were enacted. Maria Sharapova was also criticized early on for her grunting, but that seemed to subside as she took over the Kournikova mantle as the “poster girl” of the WTA.

Many scholars have documented how female athletes have to constantly negotiate the tension between the movements, noises, muscles, and bodies that are needed to perform optimally and adhering to a narrow ideal of femininity. Clearly, loud shrieking is NOT feminine and therefore is troubling and must be regulated (i.e., “make the offending women act more ladylike so we can enjoy the match!).

Update to post: June 24, 2009: NPR weighs in on issue “Tennis, The Grunting Game?” in which sports journalist Christine Brennan gives her take, and another commentary by Frank Deford “It’s Time For Tennis Players To Make Some Noise”. You can also read Pat Griffin’s take on her blog.