Monday, June 30, 2008

Why, Women's tennis, why?!?

I love tennis. I played in high school and college and it was my favorite thing about each experience. I made a lot of good friends and still talk to three of them all the time- two of which are my best friends and one that is now my sister in law. I love the rules of tennis. I love the sound when you hit the ball. I love how beautiful top spin is as you see it across the court. I love everything about tennis- almost. There is one thing that has always bothered me and always will. Those freakin' skirts. Seriously? Athletes are supposed to compete in skirts? There are other activities in which one wears skirts that I am not entirely opposed to; dancers wear skirts- but it makes sense with the fluidity of their movements. Cheerleaders wear skirts to show their bodies- I can't think of any other reason. Librarians wear skirts so they can be the sexy librarians- okay now I am just trying to be funny. Back to tennis. In this day and age why in the world would an ATHLETE wear a skirt?!?!

When tennis first began, men still wore trousers and women wore dresses and long skirts exclusively, both off and on the court.

It makes sense that they would wear these inconvenient items while playing tennis at the time due to convention and decorum. Over time, the men began to wear longish shorts and the women's skirts rose scandalously to their knees. Again, this makes sense to me based on the times.

Then, in the 1930's one of my tennis idols, Alice Marble, became popular for winning titles and was noted to play "like a man" in that she had a lot of power. She also became notorious for wearing shorts while she played tennis. She was the first female player to do so in a professional match. It was very shocking at the time and she received a lot of press about it.

As a side note, Alice Marble was also responsible for the admission of African American women into the Grand Slam tournaments. In 1950, she wrote in defense of Althea Gibson, a very good African American female tennis player, and her right to participate in the tournaments. Alice said:

"Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it's also time we acted a little more like gentlepeople and less like sanctimonious hypocrites.... If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it's only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts." [Marble said that if Gibson were not given the opportunity to compete] "then there is an uneradicable mark against a game to which I have devoted most of my life, and I would be bitterly ashamed."

Following this event, Gibson, age 23, was given entry into the 1950 U.S. Championships, becoming the first African-American player, man or woman, to compete in a Grand Slam event. (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, Alice's brazen behavior did not catch on with the other female players and they continued to wear skirts. As time passed, the men's shorts and women's skirts got shorter.

Then in the early 90's, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and other male players started wearing the longer shorts that are worn by the men now- to every one's relief I think.

The women continued to wear the short skirts and mini dresses and still do today. As I said, there are a few players that wear shorts upon occasion.

Now to present day. Serena Williams is an amazing tennis player. I have watched her play many times and admire her confidence and power. She does have one perceptible weakness and that is fashion. Here and there she wears normal outfits, but more often than not she comes up with some crazy stuff- her own designs, I think. That jean skirt outfit is the worst tennis outfit I have ever seen.

I think she is very beautiful with an amazing body for sports. She is like a tennis machine. In her more sedated outfits like this one, I think she looks great.

As you may have heard, last week at Wimbledon 2008, she wore this white trench coat to warm up in. About the trench she said:

"I have a wonderful white coat I can wear on the court and also in New York for those rainy's ladylike and goes perfect with my personality... It's a very lightweight fabric... It's woven so it has a little give in it as well. On the inside, it's stitched with gold. It has a little give on both ways. It's very movable. It's very light. It's just delectable... You know, I absolutely love trench coats".
I like trench coats too. And boots. And purses. And skirts. But you don't see me wearing those to PLAY A SPORT!!! What the freak?!

Then, in the same tournament, Maria Sharapova chose some kind of faux tuxedo option that is supposed to be really innovative for some reason. The top picture with the tuxedo pleating I think it cool and not really that unusual looking. I also like the shorts. What puzzles me is the old man blazer. I get that Serena and Maria are trying to make a fashion statement for themselves, but both seem more than a little contrived- Serena's being FAR worse.

To add to the fun this year, Bethanie Mattek wore a leopard print onesie with a neck so open she could have kept a few extra tennis balls in there. A few years ago she wore shorts and high knee socks that I thought were pretty funny and kind of liked her for it because I thought she was stickin' it to the man a little at Wimbledon, but apparently that did not get her enough attention and is now going the Brittney Spears look-a-like route. Very disappointing.

So, why do women athletes do this stuff?!?! Take a look at these skirts. They are typical tennis skirts that you will see women wear on high school teams, on city leagues, and in the pros. Why?!?!? Picture yourself bending, stretching, and running in those things. The whole time people are just looking at your underwear- oh excuse me, your bloomers. Yes, they are called bloomers and they are the same underwears to go over your underwears that cheerleaders wear. So, we are basically in the cheerleader outfit playing tennis. I know, I was there. My freshman year of high school our coach required us to wear a skirt. I wore men's boxers under my skirt. That wasn't getting me anywhere with coach, so then I started wearing longish Adidas soccer shorts under the skirt that were sometimes longer than the actual skirt. It took me a couple of years to demand that I could wear shorts and pants at the competitive level, but in time I refused to ever wear a skirt. So, what is the possible explanation for wearing one? I have been around tennis girls for the last 15 years and I still don't get it.

So, for a lot of girls I think it is the Anna Kournikova thing- they want to look cute and sexy. That is great for the 22 or 23 other hours in the day when you are not on the court, but can't you throw on some shorts while you play a SPORT?!?!?! At this point it is not men telling women that they have to continue wearing the skirts. It is women deciding that they look cute in them! Some will think it is the money thing. You make more money, get more sponsors, and become more popular if you are attractive. That is true, but it does not account for the 70 year old club player that is going to show up in a skirt to play a match with no prize money or recognition. It does not account for the group of women who get together for fun to play- and they all show up in skirts!! Is it the coaches? Are they older people who are clinging to tradition? That does not account for the many, many young coaches out there. I guess there are probably many reasons, none of which I will ever understand. When will women get rid of the skirts all together, I ask?!?! When will women want to play sports without everyone looking at their underwear **shoot** bloomers the whole time?!?! When??! Why do women have to try and make some fashion statements or express their sexuality when playing a sport?! Just pick up the ball and serve it. Though to be fair, if I was a professional tennis player, I would try and make a statement as well. I'd wear SHORTS.


ferskner said...

Oh my, Charna. You are quite passionate on this topic, and I can see why. I confess, until very recently, I thought that the tennis skirt was really a skort, which would still be weird, but I thought that surely this major major sport would not require its female players to show their underwears whenever they played. But I've since learned that this is in fact true, and I'm glad to know that you have plenty of indignation about it. Although, I will say that when I was playing tennis a lot last summer, one of my friends bought a skort to play in, and we all thought that her game improved dramatically.

I like to think that the "sexy librarian" part is a shout out to me. What what!

ferskner said...

I forgot to say - why did the knee sock girl go from something as awesome as knee socks (my current favorite, as you know) to Britney!? When I first saw that picture, I was sure it was Britney. Horrible.

cowgurs said...

pipe down! who got your bloomers in a bunch? silly sharon, the skirts are for the benefit of the ladies wearing them. come now, how else can they get an even tan? it is also to remind them that even though they are athletes, they are not to act like beasts on the court which i have seen that most of you tennis buffs are prone must still act like a lady.(and yes this goes out to you and mad dog jaime). you must admit, without the skirt you would morph into steve....admit it...

Ragamala said...

i love tennis outfits! honestly, I considered playing the sport so I could wear them. sadly, i am not a very good player

Hale Yes!! said...

Sharon, I miss you so much!! You crack me up like no one else! How the heck are you? What have you been up to? We seriously need to get together soon for old times sake. I need to have a good laugh with you. Getting a little bit carried away. . . sorry about that.

I have some hilarious comics that you need to read with me because only you can really understand them. I tried reading them to other people and I am pretty sure they were trying to figure out why I was laughing so hard. I really do miss you!!

Melissa Hale

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