I could see it coming a mile away. It was the minute I watched the Serena Williams’ video of her post match interview after her second round win. A reporter asked Serena about the All England’s proclivity of using the married names of the women at the time they won events. Serena, as you know recently got married, and she is now addressed as Mrs. Williams. Some have opined that this is because she has not taken her husband’s name. I don’t know when Serena revealed this little tidbit (or if she ever did), but that is the story going the rounds.
The names of players like Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, are engraved on the Wall of Champions. Their names reflect their marital status at the time when they won their titles. The Wall of Champions not only provides us with the historical information of who won the trophy, but their names at the time they won their trophies. It is now 2018 and apparently it is now the thing to go back in time and right all the wrongs of the All England Club, starting with how the names of the players are engraved on the Wall of Champions.
The article written in the New York Times seems to suggest that the husbands of the women who won titles while they were married were being given credit for the women’s achievements. I had to read the article a few times to make sure that I was not missing the point of the article.
In the Caribbean (where I am from), women are now holding on to their maiden names (and yes until there is a different name for it, that is what it is) even after they are married. They do so to honour their parents (if their parents were married). For some women their maiden name has long been their identity. If you practice law, the name under which you were admitted to practice law does not change once you get married. As a matter of fact, once you are married, it is a long convoluted process to get your professional name to reflect your marital status, so many women who are professionals have 2 names: professional and personal.
I have always liked that the umpires at Wimbledon refer to the women as either Ms. or Mrs. Call me old fashioned but there is just something very genteel about that. If the women had a problem with it, I am sure at some point this issue would have been raised. By contrast, I find the way US Open’s way of referring to the women just by their last names particularly crass. Perhaps the reason for this is after watching tennis for about 3 months during the European swing, where all the women are referred to as Mademoiselle/Madame (French) and then Ms/Mrs (UK), my ears have become attuned to the way in which the women are addressed. During the American summer hard court swing, the women are referred to by their last names, which just takes away a little bit of flavour from the whole proceedings (maybe it is just me).
These days as part of the MeToo movement, people seem hell bent on going back in time to try and right all the wrongs. It started a few years ago with people getting upset over a Dean Martin song (Baby Its Cold Outside). I like that song. I have always considered it a song about a man trying to convince a woman to stay with him rather than going outside in the cold. Unfortunately, once someone had embedded in my mind that this song reflected rape culture, I no longer enjoyed listening to it, because now I listen to the song, and think damn, he is trying to drug this poor woman.
What I find particularly galling about this whole situation about how female players are being addressed is that there are other married women who are playing and I can’t think of any of them who have been asked this question. Dominika Cibulkova is styled as Mrs. Cibulkova. Tatiana Maria is also married and she is styled as Mrs. Maria and let us not forget Li Na who was also styled as Mrs. I don’t recall anyone asking any of these women what they think about being addressed as Mrs. and Wimbledon’s usage of women’s married names on the Wall of Champions. It seems to me that reporters think that all the hard hitting questions should only be asked of Serena Williams and that she should provide them with content. Frankly, it would be good if they asked all the women who are currently engaged to be married about how they would like their names to be engraved on the trophy and the Wall of Champions if they win. Isn’t one of the points of the #MeToo movement about giving women opportunities to express and tell their stories? Isn’t it about helping women have a voice instead of creating another box for them to check or fit into to suit our way of thinking?
And while I am on this topic, from scanning through transcripts it seems as if the only player who was asked about whether tennis needs a #MeToo moment is Venus Williams. Why is this question not important to put to all the players who are now sitting on the Players Council? Why are these questions only addressed to Venus and Serena? Is it that no one else is qualified enough to answer them or is it something else? Why are they being asked to do the labor for the other women?
Finally, I notice that everyone is celebrating the fact that Wimbledon has placed double the number of women’s matches on the show courts. It would be nice if ESPN decided that players who are highly ranked deserved more than highlight reels of their matches or a breakdown by some analyst as to what worked and what didn’t.
The defending champion on the women’s side is out, going down to the very talented Alison Van Untvanyk. I would say that this is an upset. While Alison has been playing good tennis for the past couple of months, Muguruza should and could have done more. She has been here before and it seems as if her champion’s mentality completely deserted her. I don’t know where she goes from here but no doubt there will be a parting of the ways with her coach Sam Sumyk in the near future.
Moving on today was mini-giant killer Diatchenko, Halep (who is looking really good), Bencic who saved multiple match points against grass goddess Alison Riske and Dominika Cibulkova who played a superb match against last year’s semifinalist, Britain’s Joanna Konta (what has happened to her?). Also moving on were Suarez-Navarro (who I understand is a great grass court player – Lord help me), as well as Angelique Kerber.
Tomorrow’s matches (or rather today’s matches) feature Madison Keys, Venus and Serena Williams and I am hoping to catch a bit of Giorgi going up against Siniakova. Safarova also plays against Makarova, and one wonders whether Makarova can continue her winning ways.
Enjoy the tennis folks.