Andy Murray Is The Feminist Ally Sports Needs Now
The tennis star rails against sexism in sports in a powerful new op-ed.
Andy Murray. Photo by Brendan Dennis/Wikimedia Commons.
Andy Murray, the British tennis pro currently the third-ranked men’s player in the world, used the BBC’s online op-ed page to pen an editorial about the power of women in sports. Published on Monday, Murray’s discussion outlines the successes he’s had working with his coach, the former number-one-ranked women’s player, Amelie Mauresmo, and highlights the gendered power structure that keeps not just tennis, but many sports tilted in favor of male participation, money, and credibility.
Since 2014, he has been training with Mauresmo, which brought those gender differences and ongoing injustices into sharp focus for Murray, who describes himself as a feminist and earned a spot of viral fame (you know, aside from being one of the best tennis players in the world) at Wimbledon this year after he casually batted down a journalist’s loaded, if inadvertently sexist, question..
“Working with Amelie was, for me, because she was the right person for the job, and not a question of her sex at all,” he writes. “However, it became clear to me that she wasn't always treated the same as men in similar jobs, and so I felt I had to speak out about that.”
He goes on to describe the joys he’s experienced playing with and practicing against women, starting from his childhood in Dunblane, Scotland, prodded to do so by his mother, Judy, who previously served as Murray’s coach, a practice that continued after he turned pro. Further, Murray expounded on the joys of competing in mixed doubles matches and praised the fact that both men’s and women’s Grand Slam winners receive equal prizes, though as Deadspin noted, he did not mention that for lower-level tournaments, men still vastly outearn their female counterparts, and Murray’s brand of feminism is only notable in comparison to some of his more retrograde male colleagues in the tennis world.
Amelie Mauresmo with tennis star Jonas Bjorkman. Photo by Tatiana/Flickr.
For Murray, there are benefits to teaching the game to young players without gender segregation.
“So much at an early age is about ball skills, hand-eye co-ordination and generating a competitive spirit anyway, and not about strength and speed, so would it not make sense for these skills to be taught to boys and girls alike, at the same time?” Murray asked.
But while Murray made sure to note that a great deal of progress has been made, there are still significant obstacles when it comes to how we value women’s professional sports.
Via the BBC:
“Traditionally male-dominated sports have invested significantly in raising the level of play in their top women, so that the performances are more attractive to big crowds, column inches and TV coverage. This has happened in recent years in football, hockey, cricket and rugby in particular. Now they are getting much more exposure which is great - if more girls can see women competing at a top level, it will hopefully encourage more girls into sport across the board.”
Still, Murray remains “positive” about the arc of history bending toward greater equality, writing, “I am excited about a future in which the playing field might be level for all.”