Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

If Derek Jeter looked like Quasimodo, would he be as popular as he has been in his career? Especially with the ladies?

mike flynn

New York, NY

Jul 9 2009 - 11:40am

Web Letter

Unfortunately, sexism in sports is most perpetuated by sports media: broadcast, print and especially talk radio. The popular daily ESPN program Pardon the Interruption, with reputable Washington Post sportswriters Wilbon and Kornheiser hardly mentions women sports, the WNBA is relatively ignored. When a women is mentioned, her beauty (or perceived lack thereof, as in misogynist sports radio) is the focus of the report, usually a reference to an attractive female athlete, a top male athlete's pretty girlfriend or an actress hot enough for Wilbon's hot tub. This sexist juvenile banter from married middle-aged men is accepted as a "boys will be boys" appeal to male viewership. Likewise, female athletic achievement is less than subtly dismissed as inferior to that of male athletes. At Wimbleton Roger Federer, competing to break Sampras's grand slam record of fourteen major titles, was roundly referred to as "the best player in the history of the game." Never mind that Stefanie Graf won twenty-two majors and that Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert won eighteen; they are defined as great female players. If majors are the standard for determining greatness, Federer needs to win twenty-three before being deemed the best player.

ann johnson

Alexandria, VA

Jul 8 2009 - 4:26pm

Web Letter

I think there is some mission creep in the ism neology. To me, the ism must suppose my set is superior to the other. For the formula to work here, I would have to accept that beauty is demeaning, so if I prefer the pretty to the truck-drivery, then I'm sexist.


Anyone, given a free choice, prefers the pretty to the not-sos. You will notice they do have roles for the aged and the infirm in movies: character actors. A child raised in a small town with only movies or TV to reel in the great outside would be convinced that no one is capable of deep feeling tragedy or romantic comedy who isn't alluring.

At the animal shelter, the pups and felines they have the most trouble moving are the less-cute.

Do I, a hetero male whose glands are still in working order, prefer to watch Sharapove to either of those two alibi artists in the finals at Wimbledon? Certainly. And that goes for all the boys on the other side, though they be quicker with more powerful strokes.

When I was young, I could play on public courts without notice, whereas the muscular young blades would be eyed from all sides. Had you asked the girls and women if they were expressing sexist proclivities, they would deny it, as would most anybody. But all you have to do is watch the eyes, and it's the same all over.

Clovis Bowden

Felton, CA

Jul 7 2009 - 9:33pm

Web Letter

The article began with reference to the Williams sisters, and then mentioned one other current female tennis player. Given this I suggest that the issue is not sexism as much as it is racism.

The Williams sisters are attractive black women, with features that are traditionally considered black. The other current female tennis players are white with no real distinguishing features between them.

The point is that tennis watchers would rather see a young nubile white female running up and down the court than see a young nubile black female run up and down the court.

Judy Burnette

Boston, MA

Jul 7 2009 - 6:15pm

Web Letter

There are two aspects to professional sports: the actual sport and the entertainment of spectators. Nobody is complaining of sexism in women's tennis at Wimbledon, as sport. But concerning the spectator entertainment side, men like to watch pretty women. And they are willing to pay for it. Is that wrong? If a homely woman want to play on center court at Wimbledon, all she need do is make it to the final.

Carl Goldberg

Phoenix, AZ

Jul 7 2009 - 4:42pm

Web Letter

Sexism on Centre Court? The traditional view that a woman can be athletic or sexy but not both is fading into oblivion as younger generations recognize that athleticism and skill are sexy. But an outstanding performer is exciting to watch even if you're not turned on: I'll happily watch a men's match if the players are good, but turn off a women's match if the players are poor. I watch sports I don't even care about if they're well played, and surf away from my favorite teams when they're playing poorly.

It's a shame the organizers of Wimbledon don't understand that what makes watching sports exciting is identifying with the players or teams. Every sports fan I know gets more of a charge out of identifying with a winner, or at least a highly skillful competitor, so watching a pretty loser like Kournikova is not much of a thrill.

If I were running Wimbledon, I'd put the most popular players on the show courts where their fans could see them. If that meant the pretty players were on the show courts more often (I'll wager the effect would be minimal), well, that's just business. Tournament organizers don't make fans' preferences, they cater to them. And they certainly aren't in the business of remaking society.

For me, the most exciting women's match this year was the semifinal between Dementieva and Serena Williams, until the very end when Dementieva lost her nerve and started making too many unforced errors. To Williams's credit, she showed more guts and determination, and that's the kind of character I want on my team. I don't fear successful women, I seek them out. Wimbledon would do well to adopt the same attitude.

Paul B. Gallagher

Horsham, PA

Jul 7 2009 - 3:58pm

Web Letter

Is there anything that the Majordomos at Wimbledon or anyone for that matter in all of fair England can say or do to cause offense to the crusty sensibilities of American Anglophiles? I think not. How very proper for the British to blithely admit that feminine pulchritude and not ranking or tennis skill determines the pecking order of court assignments at the All England during major tournaments.

Ah, what class! Let us all take a lesson in manners and morals and social finesse from our betters.

One wonders how long it will be before thongs are allowed (encouraged)on Court One. After all, this is the country whose future king, the Prince of Wales,famously informed his mistress that he yearned to be her tampon.

Yes, they do indeed improve everything they touch.

Frank DeVito

Wellesley, MA

Jul 7 2009 - 8:36am

Web Letter

As I see the Granderson quote, it is a bet that there are more casual male marginal viewers to be won over than there are hard-core fans. Being hard-core fans makes them less likely to quit the game or turn off the tube. The marketing leverage is all on only one side of the issue. In a battle structured like this, biologic programming is going to win outright. No contest!

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Jul 6 2009 - 10:10pm