Did Wimbledon unmask lingering sexism in sport?
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As Simon Barnes of The Times wisely noted in the immediate aftermath of Murray’s triumph at Wimbledon on Sunday, the world has changed dramatically since Fred Perry won the men singles’ final at Wimbledon 77 years ago. In the article titled “Murray ends 77 year wait for British win”, Barnes listed the ways in which society has changed “beyond recognition - in society, in politics, in population.” However, these huge leaps forward seem to have failed to include female athletes. Last weekend at Wimbledon, although wonderful and indeed ground-breaking, has also cast light on the shadow of sexism still looming over sport. Controversy has raged following careless headlines and news coverage that named Murray the “first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years” which is, of course, inaccurate: Virginia Wade was the last Briton to win the prestigious competition 36 years ago. This imprecision has prompted debate over the status of female athletes and has brought into question progress made against sexism in sport. Chloe Angyal, the editor of Feministing, poignantly drew attention to the error on Twitter: “Murray is indeed the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years unless you think women are people.” However, although many have defended such headlines as innocuous, arguing that it is simply assumed that journalists and presenters meant the first British man to win in 77 years, this justification seems a little weak, particularly when faced with the reality that sexism has permeated the tournament as an uncomfortable yet generally accepted undercurrent. And who can forget John Inverdale’s remarks following Marion Bartoli’s victory, about whether her father warned her that she would “never be a looker”? Sadly, although these musings that echoed through households at prime time did inspire anger, the BBC still allowed him to commentate during the men’s singles final the next day following a fairly dubious apology.
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