And you loved Agassi for his tennis?


‘Sexist’ was the word Sarah Sands of The Independent used to describe coverage of Wimbledon last week. I’d make a joke about it, but I’m afraid she might read The Baptist Times. And might kill me.

Ms. Sands’ comments are of course, fair. There is a hideous discrepancy between how we react to women and men on the court. Men are always judged on ability, while women seem to have to deal with not only lower pay but also comments about their appearance that have little relevance to their blah blah blah… I’m sorry, I nodded off while I was writing. Who cares?! It’s tennis!

Tennis is not important. If people are being discriminated against (and I think some probably are) we need to keep in mind that these are people who play tennis for a living. If there is undue pressure on them to look pretty, let’s keep this word in mind: tennis. Inequality? Tennis. Voyeuristic exploitation? Tennis. Almost any objection or irritation whatsoever? Tennis, tennis tennis! It’s hardly the miners strike or the suffragettes. Emmeline Pankhurst would, I think, be as likely to push Ms. Sands in front of a runaway horse as one of the Russian lovelies she wishes to defend. Tennis, like most sport, is, as several commentators have pointed out, a distraction for the masses, something to put their energy into so that they’re too tired to change the world.

But even in tennis there are limits. Justin Gimelstob, a member of the Board of Tennis Professionals, was quoted last week as having said some stuff that even I think crosses the line (a foot-fault, if you will). He apparently revealed in public that he wished to serve balls at Anna Kournikova’s stomach (weird and misogynistic enough) and that was the least offensive of his lewd suggestions. If one laughs, it’s in the same way you laugh at Prince Philip abroad: ‘No. Way. He did not just say that.’ Yes he did. Unacceptable.

You see, that is the kind of attitude that gets feminists (and I imagine all thinking women) angry. And makes it difficult to say appreciative but respectful things about the likes of Maria Sharapova, who is one of the few things about being forced to watch the head-slappingly dull game by friends and family that prevents me disembowelling myself.

Because there is certainly over-sensitivity among the women’s equality movement. But you can kind of see why they become somewhat frustrated and angry about things. I, personally, am quite old-fashioned. I believe in some gender-specific sex-roles in marriage. I have no problem with wives submitting to husbands, for instance. But when I see many men who pay only lip-service to the Biblical requirements placed on them in such scripturally literalist relationships, using Scripture as a way to get out of housework and to always silence their wives’ opinions, I have to wonder. And I have to examine my own motives.

Because, as in the utterly irrelevant world of professional sports, the official line about equality often does not reflect the reality of our selfish and prejudiced hearts. So, I say to traditionalist Christian men who see themselves as custodians of unfashionable but traditional values: are you sure you’re not just a swine? And to women, angry at irrelevant sexism that only affects the privileged world of professional sports: are you really highlighting the bigger, more important issues? And to the poor C of E, debating women Bishops in the news last week? Good luck. I’m really sorry for the potential split, but I’m so glad Baptists, not being Anglicans, have no right to comment.


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