Former tennis player Sue Barker told us this yesterday as Andy Murray claimed his place in the showcase event, after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the honour of facing Roger Federer tomorrow.
And every summer, a significant proportion of the population point out that the last British Wimbledon winner was Virginia Wade in 1977.
Of course, what the pundits mean is that there hasn’t been a MAN in the Wimbledon final.
Because the men’s competition is most important.
Because men’s sport is better paid.
Because men’s sport is the norm.
And women’s sport is unusual…out of the ordinary…Other.
It’s not just in tennis this happens. Did you hear anything about England beating Slovenia 4-0 last month? No, because it was the women’s team, and everyone was paying attention to the men’s failed campaign in Euro 2012 over in Poland and the Ukraine.
Men’s international teams in the UK are invariably referred to in the media solely by the name of the country; the women, if they’re mentioned at all, always get “women” suffixed – England; England women.
It’s not just the media that do this – the sports’ governing bodies do too – the World Cup; the Women’s World Cup. In fact, during last year’s Women’s World Cup the Football Association tweeted updates and always used the hashtag #englandwomen. (They’ve changed this now and tend to add #lionesses to tweets about the England team.)
Sexism in sport is a reality. It may have improved somewhat, but there is still much to do. (Even equal money for the women at Grand Slam events continues to be questioned.) Stylist Magazine are running a campaign in conjunction with the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation to “demand a better deal for women in sport” – it’s a start, to be sure, but they have to practise what they preach. Like I said when I started blogging here, editors of glossies have repeatedly told me that women “aren’t interested in sport” unless, of course, it’s good-looking men competing; and men will only be interested in women’s sport if the women are conventionally attractive.
What a depressing view of the world. I don’t deny that we live in a patriarchy and all of our actions are subtly conditioned and affected by male dominance – whether or not we realise it. (I’m sure Sue Barker would be horrified if she was accused of being a handmaiden of the patriarchy by overlooking Wade’s 1977 win.) So we as fans and consumers of the media have to take a stand.
Watch women’s sport. And don’t include that embarrassed little addendum after the team’s name. (Unless you also include “men” after team names as well, which is always fun.)
Write letters or emails to editors of magazines or papers who aren’t giving women’s sport the coverage it deserves.
Tweet female athletes you admire, and tell them so.
Enjoy men’s sport as well. This isn’t an either/or situation.
And ignore the nagging voice that tells you, “Well, you knew what he meant,” and always, always pull people up on slips like “the first British Wimbledon finalist in 74 years”.
Unless, of course, they are in fact talking about Virginia Wade.