Female Tennis Players

Jessica Nguyen

Popular Culture: Looking In the Popular Culture Mirror Essay

November 30th 2014

                Throughout history, men have displayed more power than women and society makes men seem more important. Men are portrayed to be more muscular and more “manly” while women had an icon of being “lady-like”, gentle, and proper. In today’s society, men are the dominate figure in sports and that they receive more media attention than female athletes. The sport of tennis, in particular, hasn’t yet been the main eye catcher of media like basketball and football.  However, tennis has shown more equality than other sports but still not enough.  Society and media focuses on the male athlete’s skill and performances while female athletes only receive attention based on their attractiveness or clothing style.  Female tennis players have been striving for equality and respect since the 1900’s, females are just as good as males in tennis.

In the year 2011, a Rogers Cup women tennis tournament poster advertisement came out and sparked a fire within the public. The slogan of the poster was “Come For The Ladies. Stay For The Legends.” This could be explained in many ways. When I read this, I thought of it as the buy a meal and get a free dessert time of deal; the female athletes, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, were the meal while the male athletes were the desserts. In my mind, when I go out to eat the dessert is the best part of dinner and with this slogan, the male athletes resemble the dessert meaning that they are the best part of the tournament, please come. A women activist named Heather Jarvis mentioned in her article that the poster is “demeaning towards women. It suggests women are just the initial attraction, they don’t actually matter” and behind the slogan “it says the real athletes, the real legends, are the men.”  The only thing positive about the poster is that they used pictures of the female athletes expressing their love for tennis. Down below is a photo of the poster.


Back in time, it was hard for women to participate in anything that men were in. It was hard to women to participate in sports. Soon, Title IX passed in the states in 1972, the title stated that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”.  Female athletes have increased since but still they have not yet been equal to males. Men are still overstepping women and even though women have been proving that they can be just as good, nothing changes. If it weren’t for female tennis players like Billie Jean and Serena Williams, then society wouldn’t ever believe that females are just as good as males.

The media has great powers that can change the way their audience think and feel about certain information. While male tennis players become popular throughout media by their strength and skills, society today focuses on the attraction and looks of female tennis players.  People don’t usually pay attention to how good a female athlete is but rather they focus more on attractiveness.  Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova for examples are two highly known tennis professionals have received way more attention about their clothing style and looks rather than their tennis game skills. Why is it that females only gain popularity with their appearance and not their talent? After I wrote out “female tennis players” in the search bar of youtube, all I saw in the results space was “Sexiest female players”, and “Top hottest tennis players”. When I searched up male tennis players, I did see some “Top hottest male tennis players” but I also saw a lot of “Best male tennis players”. Why is it that the focus of media is just on the appearance of females while they focus more on the strength and skills of males?

It’s basic knowledge to know that male athletes always get paid more than females. In Maria Sharapova’s situation, according to Forbes article, it stated that Maria was the on the top list of highest paid female athletes. The only reason she has this much fame is because of commercials and companies using her image of looks and style to bribe the people. There has been a huge controversy whether or not female tennis players should receive equal pay of a male tennis player or not. Winning the same tournament, Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka’s pay wasn’t the same according to the Forbes article, “Tennis’ Gender Pay Gap Problem Looms on the Sidelines”.  There have been many complains and reason towards this pay gap, some say it’s because the tennis rules for women and men are different while others say it doesn’t matter, it’s the same tournament. This just showed the unfairness between the gender differences. Why is society like this? Why can’t women make the same earning as a man if they are doing the same work? In the movie “When Billie Beats Bobby”, there was a part where Billie and her group of gal friends wanted to petition for a higher earning to be equal as men.  Many made fun of her for wanting and believing that females are equal to males but Billie proved them wrong by beating Bobby, the number one male player during that time, and made history.  She got the respect and equality she deserved but it still didn’t change how society works today.

There have been many complaints about sexism within tennis. After Andy Murray, a British tennis player beat Noval Djokovic in the Wimbledon finals, CNN and BCC cheered over that Murray was the first to win a Wimbledon. Murry wasn’t the first, there have been many female British champions but no one have ever thought about cheering for them. When you thought the sexism would be over, during the French tournament, Marion Bartoli won for the Wimbledon women’s singles but she didn’t get praised for it, instead many criticized her for her appearance. When you finally believe these sexist comments are done for another one arrives. CNN posted that “Serena Williams slammed Russian tennis Chief Shamil Tarpischeve for his “insensitive, sexist and racist” remarks”. Society did improve because WTA banned Tarpischev for a year and was fined $25,000. Even though sexism hasn’t improved, what improved were the people who are fighting for justice against sexism.

I am a female tennis player and when I walk around with a tennis racquet in hand, people judge me and also whisper to one another that I’m just playing because of the outfits. It really bothers me when the world judges before understanding, every sport has it’s rumors and expectations. In high school, tennis was known for only “Asians” and everyone assumed every Asian student knew how to play tennis. When the see an Asian female play tennis, many automatically assume, they only play the sport because it’s easy and the outfits are cute. Media created expectations, assumptions, and judgmental people.

Media has a huge influence on the people especially the younger ones. Media will always complement on how attractive a female is while for men on how muscular they are. With this, there will be a decrease in female athletes because younger girls would be scared to become that manly image that media disses on for females. Females can be strong and skillful in sports while at the same time be attractive and feminine. Why does society judge so much? Why does it matter how or what a person does? There shouldn’t be any shame for how a person is; everyone is different with different personalities, talents, strengths, and determinations. Tennis has been one step ahead of other sports by striving towards equality with the genders. Even though it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere, it has been improving with baby steps.



Works Cited

Serena Williams slams Russian tennis chief for ‘sexist and racist’ remarks. (2014, October 20). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/19/sport/tennis/tennis-serena-sharapova-tarpischev/

Men versus Women Tennis Matches. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.topendsports.com/sport/tennis/men-v-women.htm

The beauty necessity in women’s tennis. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.examiner.com/article/the-beauty-necessity-women-s-tennis

How the Media Portrays Female Athletes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from https://aimeelamoureux.wordpress.com/




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About chiiix3

Hello! My name is Jessica Nguyen and I am currently a sophomore at Portland State. I haven't found the right major for myself but I know it's somewhere in the sciences hopefully...

2 thoughts on “Female Tennis Players

  1. Jessica Nguyen,

    This is a very interesting topic and I’m glad you looked into it so you could share with us. The slogan you found “come for the ladies, stay for the legends” was quite interesting. I agree it creates the idea that the men are the better part. Although the image does display bigger pictures of the women then those of the man, so maybe it’s saying that the men are just an added benefit. I wonder who made the poster, a man or a woman? It’s sad that men see women athletes as just an attraction compared to the male activities which would be the main event. Thank you for writing on this subject, I think it’s more of a gender equality crisis amongst all sports not just tennis, but I enjoyed how you brought it to the audiences attention.

    • Thank you for taking your time to read my essay! I didn’t even think about who made my poster, wow, that is something I should have researched more on and added it to my essay. If I would have to guess, I would guess it might have been a male artist since back then males had complete dominance over females. Another thought is that maybe back then females didn’t even notice that they were also following the idea that males are above females. Who knows.Yeah, I agree that it’s not just tennis, its sports overall and hopefully one day things will switch up or at least be fixed. Again, thank you for reading my essay!

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