Taking Ourselves Seriously

January 31, 2012
Terrell and Janna Wiebe |

For the last two weeks, Terrell and I have been glued to the TV watching the Australian Open. We love tennis, and especially like to watch newbie Milos Raonic setting records as the highest ranked Canadian ever. We also love to cheer on our fave player, Roger Federer.

I always enjoy watching the men’s singles more than the women’s. It could be that the competition between the top 4 is really intense, as they are all outstanding players who have held the top spots for years. It could be that their manly grunts are less grating on the ears than the banshee screams that the women tend to make.

Despite the screaming, and hardly recognising anyone other than the Williams sisters (because the top 5 ranked players are constantly changing), one of my main beefs with women’s tennis is the focus on how the players look. Sure, it is also important how they play, but in the close up shots you see the makeup, jewellery and painted nails that match their (sometimes ridiculous) outfits.

To be fair, this is not true of all the players, especially the ones that have less money. But what I don’t understand is why athletes can’t looks like athletes. Women have fought for equality for years and are still fighting for it, but we’re not really helping ourselves out. Venus Williams wearing lingerie on the tennis court doesn’t say fashion to me, it says “object,” it says “offensive.”

Female athletes who excel at their sport should embrace their talent, embrace their power. Show the world that power is beautiful, that intelligence and the dedication to excellence are some of the qualities that a woman can have. The media constantly portrays women as sexual objects, and athletics are a place that I hoped could be untainted by sexualisation. Instead the tennis court is now also a place where women can be objectified and physical appearance can continue to dominate.

Athletes face enough pressure as it is without the need to look perfect added on top of everything. I hate that in men’s curling the players can all be bald with beer guts, but the women feel the pressure to have up-dos and big fake nails and makeup on simply because they feel the pressure to look good lest they be judged. And they are – the media is not kind to those who do not comply to the standard of beauty we’ve set for them. This is why tycoon Oprah Winfrey, no matter how many orphanages she builds or money she donates to charity or cars she gives away, all anyone can talk about is how she gained weight, or how ugly she is without makeup on. It seems that no matter what else a woman does, she is still valued based on how she looks – and the media only continues to solidify that message.

Women, let’s take ourselves seriously. Let’s stop gluing lollipops on our breasts and running around in t-shirts and panties; let’s stop gossiping about each other’s waistlines and start supporting each other. Let’s be real and show that being intelligent, genuine and compassionate is beautiful. Let’s take ourselves seriously so that our future daughters get a better chance at being taken seriously themselves.

-Janna Wiebe

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