Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The ugliness of judging beauty, Wimbledon edition

As Andy Murray held the Wimbledon trophy aloft, the first British man to win the singles title in 77 years, I can't imagine there was a single person in all of England who looked at him and said at that moment, "Good thing he can play tennis because, you know, he's not exactly a looker."

Who would ever mar the greatest moment in a tennis player's career with a nonsensical, irrelevant comment like that? And on television, no less?

And yet, it happened.
That's what BBC broadcaster John Inverdale said about Marion Bartoli moments after she realized a life's dream and won Wimbledon on Saturday.

"I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, 'listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5-feet-11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.
You are going to have to be the most dogged, detemined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it,' and she kind of is." 
So on the day Bartoli was lauded along with Murray,  she actually had to respond to attacks on her personal appearance. Seriously. Here's what she said:
"I invite this journalist to come and see me this evening in ball gown and heels, and in my opinion he could change his mind. I am not blonde, yes. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely."
A few years ago, I wrote about the ugliness of judging beauty, how some people believed broadcaster Erin Andrews deserved to be harassed because of her appearance and how beauty determined too much in life. I've even joked about my gorgeous golden retriever and how she revealed the benefits of being beautiful to me.

As someone who has never had that advantage in life, I always chafed at those who put us down just for our appearance. But long before Brent Musburger revealed his creepiness in ogling a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, I came to the realization that it doesn't matter how many times women complain about being judged solely on beauty.

It's never, ever going to change. And the more we try to defend ourselves, the more ugliness is going to be heaped upon us.

I wish Bartoli had said nothing. I wish she instead called the BBC and asked that Inverdale no longer participate in broadcasts of women's tennis. After all, if that's the best he has to offer when a woman wins Wimbledon, he clearly doesn't belong in the booth.


  1. "I wish she instead called the BBC and asked that Inverdale no longer participate in broadcasts of women's tennis." One person (me!) has just done exactly that! Let's start a movement!