A double standard in women’s sports


Serena Williams Instagram

Serena Williams celebrates after a win at this years French Open.

By Alexis Bennett, Staff Writer

After the 2015 U.S. Open quarterfinals win over her sister, Venus Williams, Serena Williams was asked why she wasn’t smiling in the press conference.

“You just won a match. Normally you smile when you win. You come in here, you laugh. What happens tonight? Is it because you beat Venus or because you’re thinking about what is going on next? What’s wrong?” said a reporter in the press conference.

Serena Williams explained how late it was and that she was tired and didn’t want to be there answering those kind of questions.

No male athlete has gone into a press conference late at night and asked why he wasn’t smiling or outwardly expressive. Also Serena just gave everything she had to win; when a woman isn’t smiling it doesn’t always mean that something is immediately wrong.

Today women’s sports has a double standard. Instead of female athletes being praised for their athletic ability and successes, they are being judged by their looks and personalities. Today’s perceptions say long legs, blond hair, and a pretty face makes you a great athlete, even if you have no success to back it up.

It’s the same with fashion. Women are asked more about their hair or outfit rather than their athletic performances. In the Australian Open, Eugenie Bouchard was the first Canadian woman to ever make it past the second round. Eager to talk about the first-time win, Bouchard was stunned by her first interview. An Australian reporter was not interested in her victory but rather about her outfit.

“Give us a twirl,” said Australian reporter Ian Cohen. When Bouchard questioned him, he said, “A twirl-like a pirouette, here you go.” Bouchard may be light on her feet on the court, but last time I checked she was a professional tennis player not a dancer. No woman should be asked to show off her outfit and be brought down from a tremendous win for her and her country. Top-ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic is in many magazines for his modeling ads, but he was never asked by a reporter to “twirl” after a big win. Men are asked how their skill, determination, and work ethic solidified a big victory.

Unfortunately, appearance works both ways in women’s sports. At the peak of her fame Anna Kournikova was one of the most common search strings on Google. However, the former tennis player has never won a single’s title. The former tennis player is still widely known around the world, but more people know what she looks like in a bikini rather than on a tennis court.

Professional athletes spend hours a day training, eating, and preparing for their next contest. However, some of the most successful women in sports are criticized for their boyish physique or bulky muscles. Strong female athletes like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey are at the top of these discussions, but these powerful women often fight back for their body that they have worked so hard to create and maintain.

“Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than f****** millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely bada** as f*** because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose, because I’m not a do nothing b****,” said Ronda Rousey in a UFC 190 vlog in late July.

No woman, especially a female athlete who is so successful in her sport, should have to defend her body from other people. Rousey also gets a lot of grief from people when she defends her body; they often call her a b**** or rude. Women don’t have to sit there and take criticism from people when being blatantly rude to their face.

“Williams has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to,” said Ben Rothenberg, a New York Times writer, in July.

People don’t understand that some women cannot have certain body types because all women are made differently. Some gain muscle easily and maintain it well, but some do not and have to find other advantages to be successful. For Rothenberg to say that most tennis players don’t “choose” to have Williams body is a lie. Some female tennis players may strive to have Williams’ physique but cannot physically build the muscles that Williams can.

Regardless, muscles or not, female athletes should just be admired for their skill, tenacity, toughness … just like a man.

“I’ve been like this my whole life and I embrace me. I love how I look. I am a full woman and I’m strong, and I’m powerful, and I’m beautiful at the same time,” Williams told “Good Morning America.”