Women in sport: Should appearance matter?

The last few weeks have been great for British sport, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the first Ashes Test to name a few. However, I can’t say it has been so great for gender equality and sport. By this I am of course referring to the women’s Wimbledon champion.

When Marion Bartoli won the Women’s Wimbledon final, most rational people thought ‘well done her, that is what years of training and hard work has achieved’ which would be a logical and measured response. Not so for those few who seem to believe the women’s tennis, much like women’s volleyball, is played so that men (and I am not going to rule out women) can catch an eyeful. So ridiculous was the response to her win by a small minority that I was outraged to see posts on Twitter saying she didn’t deserve to win because her German opponent, Sabine Lisicki, was considered to be prettier. I could not possibly repeat most of the Tweets, and nor do I wish to give further airing to such vitriol.

Adding the fact Bartoli is French is to some something of a red rag to a bull. After all, lets be honest here, who deserves to win is all down to who people feel is more aesthetically pleasing and obviously has nothing to do with years of hard work and dedication to a person’s chosen sport. Oh wait…

Funnily enough, I didn’t see anything about Andy Murray’s appearance when he won the men’s singles final, and if there were any comments, I very much doubt they had a vulgarity of those directed at Bartoli. On a side note, I just want to add that he was the first British male to Wimbledon in 77 years. Virginia Wade’s win in 1977 has somehow been largely forgotten. Strange that.

To add to this, there was the attitude of other sportsmen and commentators. Why do they think it is all right to make comments such John Inverdale’s “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little: ‘You’re never going to be a looker. You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?” What on earth made him think that was an appropriate or even necessary comment? It is also an insult to Sharapova as he is suggesting she is successful down to her appearance; she also must not have put in years of training to get to where she has. Yes he apologised, but he shouldn’t have said it in the first place.

Somewhat surprising was the Tweet from cricketer Stuart Broad. Granted, it was not aimed at a professional sportswoman, but Andy Murray’s girlfriend: “Don’t really follow tennis, but well done to Andy Murray for the quality of your Mrs.” Quality of your Mrs? Really?

All that was necessary was congratulations on her win for her sporting ability. After all, I was under the impression Wimbledon is after all a sporting contest, not a beauty pageant. I think she summed it up perfectly when she said in response to Inverdale “…it doesn’t matter, honestly, I am not blond, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.”

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