Sport Tennis Is tennis the thinking man’s lingerie football?
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Is tennis the thinking man’s lingerie football?

Strong is Beautiful
AAP
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It doesn’t scream raging, in-your-face sexism like Lingerie Football but there’s definitely something whiffy about the WTA’s ‘Strong Is Beautiful’ campaign, which has been running for just over a year.

Strangely enough, none of the images show women tennis players doing what they actually do for a living – that is, playing tennis. It’s not good enough for these phenomenal athletes just to be talented, to possess the most extraordinary coordination, stamina, power, nerve and skill. They need to be models too.

Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova. Photo: Sports Illustrated

I’ve never seen them step out onto court heavily made up, air brushed, and dressed in sequins. So it’s interesting that these are the images presented to us. Perhaps the think tank behind this progressive campaign is Barbie (and Ken)? The WTA is certainly running with the message that being beautiful sells. Sex sells. Perhaps next year they could get the top ten to re-enact the world famous 1976 poster ‘tennis girl’?

It would be interesting to hear beauty pageant enthusiast Donald Trump’s views on this, seeing that the man with the blow-dried shredded wheat on his head is one of the celebrities featured in the WTA campaign. Tennis skirt lover Hugh Hefner was unavailable.

Is tennis now the thinking man’s Lingerie Football? Let’s hope not, but it’s easy to see where it’s headed.

The ATP doesn’t push men’s tennis in that way so it’s disheartening to see the WTA displaying double standards – fighting for equality on one hand, while promoting glamour on the other. It’s not criminal but their underlying messages surely should be examined.

There is a huge trickle down effect with these campaigns – you only have to go back to last year’s Wimbledon final to see the kind of casual, lazy, stereotyping we don’t want in the sport.

Marion Bartoli was still flushed with pride after her win when the BBC’s John Inverdale commented: “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’?”

Hey John. How about next year they don’t wear any clothes at all? Would that make you happy?

Running with the pack … disappointingly

Young girls have a lot to contend with – magazine beauty culture has crushingly negative effects on girls’ self esteem. At some point a stand needs to be taken.

Women’s tennis wasn’t always like this. In fact, it was a pioneering sport when it came to gender equality. Billie-Jean King set up the WTA and campaigned for equal pay, Martina Navratilova maintained the rage and Steffi Graf and Monica Seles were the personification of substance over image. First and foremost they were champion tennis players.

So what happened? What changed?

This is just another example of the tireless ‘sexing up’ of everything. We are a society obsessed with image and looks. Beauty is everything. At least that’s what the advertisers would have us believe.

Strong is beautiful, but being strong has nothing to do with being beautiful.

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