Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Game, Sexism, Match

Nick here. Yours truly was at the US Open last night (and briefly into this morning, thanks to the ultimately vain comeback of the rising Frenchman Gasquet), and something truly appalling started happening about 11 o'clock.

As the crowd thinned, and the Aussies, cheering on former US Open Champ Lleyton Hewitt (who needed the cheering) got more rowdy, a ballgirl took rotation. And whenever she ran out to retreive an errant tennis ball, the catcalls began. Loud cheering, whistling, and remarks which were less than flattering. When she was rotated off, jokes flew across the court about how "we want the ballgirl back."

The NYTimes US Open Blog makes an excellent point that there's a wide disparity in the outfits of ballguys and "ballbabes," so much so that I think back to the costumes on the original Star Trek. But what's sadder still is that we would allow this to happen. This is a professional sporting event, attended by a clearly high-class crowd, capable of containing its volume for long periods of time, paying for tickets, overpriced (though pretty good) food and merchandise), and having the endurance to sit through four hours of...tennis. Entertaining, yes, but not thrilling.

I'm disappointed the people of my new hometown, and I'm disappointed in Americans. Aren't we better than this? Can't we realize that this is just a girl who wants an opportunity to be on the big stage? Who just wants to do her job? Maybe I'm just oblivious to how prevalent this sort of thing is, but it's truly sad to see this happening in this day and age, and I hope the US Open responds by making ballgirls more common, and less an object of gawking. An organization that dedicates facilities to an African-American jazz artist, someone who died of AIDS, and a lesbian (and still living!) tennis player, surely can respond sensibly to this travesty.


Roger said...

Let's not make a big deal about this all story. It is not a general trend in tennis I think.

If you look at other sports, tennis is not that bad.

Also, let's keep in mind that we are talking about Aussies here.

I also think, but I am not quite sure about the validity of this point, that the outfits of the ballguys and "ballbabes" match the outfits of the players. In the past 5-6 years the outfits of women players became increasingly sexy (besides for the Williams sisters) so it is totally logical that the outfits of the ballgirls change too!

And again, I think it is totally disproportionated to be in shock. This is far from being real sexism. I found the all idea of cheersleaders much more shocking.

Sean Weide said...

Thanks for the insight. I was hoping someone would write about this.

Phoebe said...

Welcome back, Nick!

Why not a call for revealing outfits for men and women alike? It must get hot chasing all those balls, why not at least be comfortable?

(Not that funny, I realize, but couldn't resist.)

Rita said...

I was a ballgirl for a professional men's tennis tournament for a couple of summers in junior high. Everyone had to dress in the same frumpy oversize t-shirts, and the main danger was not getting catcalled but getting in the way of a frustrated player when he was armed with both racket and ball. Sometimes they liked to take aim at children between points.

In short, I don't think that this kind of behavior is a major problem on the professional circuit except at probably the most high-profile events.