The request for Eugenie Bouchard to show off her skirt at the Australian Open is already known as Twirlgate. Why do female athletes still deal with this sexism?
It seems women nowadays are living through a generation of victorious firsts. The first female editor of the Economist was announced yesterday and the Church of England just ordained its first female bishop. There are even reports the new Star Wars movie will feature its first female stormtrooper – hey, even fictional appointments matter, and might even matter more considering movies and books are where young girls first encounter their heroines and most memorable role models.
However, despite all these leaps into a more balanced world, various news stories this week have been putting us members of the fairer sex back in our prescriptive box.
First there were the headlines proclaiming the end of Page 3 after its absence in some daily editions. Campaigners against the daily display of breasts in one of Britain’s leading newspapers hailed the move as the end of a sexist and puerile era. Feminist celebrations were short-lived. The Sun responded the next day with yet another partially clothed woman on the third page, a winking blonde bathed in sunlight, and an assurance the feature had not been scrapped.
And as for this week’s ‘Don’t Get Ahead of Yourselves Ladies’ story? The tennis player Eugenie Bouchard, a professional athlete who spends hours everyday honing her skills, was asked by a male reporter to “do a little twirl” in order to show off her on-court outfit to the media and crowd present for the Australian Open in Melbourne. Bouchard twirled and hasn’t been too damning of the reporter’s request, telling the press “I think it was just kind of funny.” (The Guardian)
The incident is already known as Twirlgate and is being lambasted across social media. Bouchard is entitled to her own thoughts on the whole thing. After all she lived it and fashion endorsements bring in lucrative avenue of income for athletes, but there is something that rankles about a woman of incredible talent being barked at by a man to ‘twirl’, and doing his immediate bidding.
We can’t help but imagine the empowering message the-time-Eugenie-Bouchard-told-a-journalist-to-eff-off-gate would have sent young women who live in a world where a daily paper’s exercise of free speech consists of a nubile woman, naked, just after you turn the first page.
Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun