So today, another dudebro – this one the CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the director of the BNP Paribas Open – made another hellaciously toxic and sexist speech in front of a large audience.
When asked about how happy he is with the state of the WTA’s involvement at the tournament he’s hosting, CEO Raymond Moore’s response was… well, less than impressive.
“No, I think the WTA… you know, in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride of the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and are very lucky.”
Oh. Well then.
Of course, it continued from there:
“If I was a lady player, I would go down on my knees every night and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
Throughout the rest of his interview, Moore made a couple other blunders – including his slip-up where he used the word ‘attractive’ instead of ‘talented’ to describe up-and-coming tennis stars, then basically found himself in a lose-lose scenario where he tried to equate attraction to talent without also calling the women ugly. He also reiterated that Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have been dominant and excellent in the women’s tennis circuit recently, calling the younger Williams sister one of the best at her craft in women’s tennis, but by then it was too little, too late.
My issue is partially with his refusal to acknowledge how much of a draw women’s tennis is, but it goes beyond that.
Women in sports fight a daily uphill battle to be recognized for their craft. It’s either an argument of whether their sport is interesting – which, in tennis’ case, it most certainly is – or whether female athletes can be compared to male athletes (which is an easy, male-dominant way of thinking to inherently oppress the possibility of women being ‘equal’, since they consider female athletes to be ‘lesser’ than male athletes in general).
The issue with this, first and foremost, isn’t with those arguments – which, at the moment, I don’t feel like making.
This issue with what was said by Moore on Sunday is that he feels the female athletes in his sport owe a gratitude to the male athletes, for somehow gifting them with any privilege they may have.
Female athletes are not where they are today because of male athletes in their respective sports. As a matter of fact, I’d almost go as far as to say that many female athletes are where they are today despite the male athletes in their sports. With constant comparisons between male and female athletes, money being given more frequently to men’s training programs than to women’s from the ground up, and significantly less exposure for women’s athletics, any strides that female athletes have made in recent years have been made in spite of their male counterparts dominating the field.
That’s not to say that I would pay the same amount to watch a WNBA game as I would to watch an NBA game. It’s also not to say that I think that men’s athletics have a burden, so to speak, an onus upon them to bestow women’s athletics with the funding that they have been deprived of over the years. It would certainly be nice to see men’s athletics work to raise their female counterparts up and help them get the exposure that they badly need, but it’s not their duty to do so.
For Moore to assert that the female athletes of the tennis world should be praising their male counterparts nightly for some gift he believes the male athletes have bestowed upon them, though, isn’t just short-sighted and sexist – it’s an outright dangerous way of looking at how the system is currently structured, because it only furthers the likelihood of things remaining status quo.
Anyone who has ever watched Serena Williams play tennis likely knows exactly what a master she is of her craft. She’s a household name; she serves as the face of numerous ad campaigns in sports apparel and other business ventures, and she’s a part owner of the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. That’s right – this woman, who Moore seems to think owes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer some kind of daily praise and worship, owns part of a pro football team. She holds more titles than any active tennis player, male or female, and she’s the only player to hold the number of titles she does over the span of two decades.
To suggest that she owes the male athletes in her field some level of praise for getting her there, though, misses the very root of what women’s sports have become and what they still need to reach their potential. Raymond Moore should be pitied for having that thought process at all – but we should also look within ourselves to make sure we don’t feel the same way, because that’s a huge problem.