Wimbledon Winners Marion Bartoli and Virginia Wade Dissed by Sexist Media

Marion BartoliWhat was the biggest story out of Wimbledon this weekend? Probably the fact that Andy Murray won the Men’s Single title.  The media was quick to point out it was the first time a British player had won the championship in 77 years.  Wait. Did they forget about Virginia Wade?  The British woman who won Wimbledon in 1977?  This weekend’s headlines essentially wrote Wade out of history.  The Times, Daily Mail and  Telegraph all reported that Murray’s win ended nearly eight decades of waiting for a British champion.  Even the ladies of The View reported the facts incorrectly.

In fact, the last British male to win before Murray was Fred Perry in 1936. But in reality, British tennis fans were never made to wait as long as the media would have us believe. Dorothy Round Little won the women’s singles – for the second time in her career – one year later, in 1937.  And four British women have won Wimbledon since Perry. Angela Mortimer won the championship in 1961, and underdog Ann Haydon-Jones beat legend Billie Jean King to win again in 1969.

Feminist writer Chloe Angyal, whose tweet “Murray is indeed the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years unless you think women are people” has been re-tweeted, at time of writing, over 12,000 times.

This year’s Women’s Single champion, France’s Marion Bartoli was similarly disrespected over the weekend. The BBC is facing mounting pressure to take action against one of its most high-profile sports presenters for criticizing the appearance of Bartoli, the No. 15 seed who won this year’s Wimbledon title.

John Inverdale incensed radio listeners before Bartoli beat German Sabine Lisicki when he asked if people thought her father told her when she was little that she was never going to be “a looker” like Maria Sharapova so would have to fight harder for success.

Inverdale said on Sunday he had written to apologize to Bartoli and told listeners ahead of Sunday’ men’s final that he used “a clumsy phrase” about Bartoli in trying to make a point that not all players need to be “6 ft fall Amazonian athletes”.

“This is appalling. Tennis is one of the worst offenders in sport in terms of the focus on women athletes’ looks and the BBC needs to take action,” Sue Tibbals, chief executive of the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation, told Reuters. “I thought Bartoli was an absolute inspiration, so spirited and gutsy, and she does not deserve these outrageous remarks. This is not a one-off event from this presenter.”

How a sports journalist could even consider commenting on anything other than Bartoli’s performance on the court is wildly inappropriate.

Bartoli, 28, won the admiration of Centre Court on Saturday when she won her first grand slam title in a straight-sets victory over 23-year-old Lisicki that earned her over $2 million in prize money.

The Frenchwoman shrugged off Inverdale’s comments during a press conference late on Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, 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.”

Many Twitter users praised Bartoli’s dignity as they called on the BBC to act against Inverdale but plenty of others added fuel to the fire by tweeting hurtful comments about her appearance. Really? She’s too fat and ugly to win a Grand Slam tournament? Why is it that Twitter seems to bring out the worst in some people.

On the other hand, Twitter offers the chance for rapid-fire, intelligent banter. Many of the Tweets defending Bartoli included the hashtag #Everyday Sexism, which has gathered a large following as people tweet examples of causal sexism in the workplace and public life.

This everday sexism reveals something about our society and hopefully will continue to trend. Perhaps then Inverdale and headline editors will be more cognizant of the issues.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation had apologized and so had Inverdale and that there were no plans for further action to be taken.

Marion Bartoli Photo via Flickr

 

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