The Media’s Coverage of Serena’s Reaction: Sexism?

Last night, during the semifinals of the U.S. Open, Serena Williams was given a point penalty after arguing a foot fault call. The penalty gave the match to Kim Clijsters, who probably would have won anyway.

The call was the correct call, but it was unfortunate that the lineswoman called it at that stage of the match, since Serena surely foot faulted before.  Serena’s reaction was obviously unwarranted, as she was verbally abusive to the linesperson.

But the articles I’ve read about the match described Serena’s reaction as “bizarre” and “ugly.”  That may be true, but why the double standard for men and women?  Jimmy Connors did something almost as bad in 1991 but the media overlooked it and the crowd loved it.

Every year, CBS replays a match from 1991 when Connors beat Aaron Krickstein in the 4th round.  They replayed it again yesterday.  The match was a great match, and the fact that Connors was 39 and hadn’t played for a while and the crowd was really into it made it a famous match.  (By the way, the match is way overrated.  Connors won a match in the 4th round.  Big deal.  It’s sad that they always have to replay this match instead of an old Sampras championship match, for example).

Anyway, Connors hit a shot out that was initially called in and overruled.  Connors went nuts and verbally abused the umpire.  Then, for the rest of the match, Connors kept pointing at the umpire when he made a good shot.  So he taunted the umpire about 20 times, not just once, yet the media didn’t criticize him and the crowd egged him on.

Serena said she wanted to shove the ball down the lineswoman’s point, while Connors just unleashed an f-bomb and told the umpire to get out of the chair, so admittedly what Serena said was a little worse.

So I’m just saying that when Connors complained he was considered a hero, while the coverage of Serena was more harsh.  Part of this, but not all of it, can be explained by the fact that Serena’s point penalty ended the match, and what she said may have been a little worse than what Connors said.  Still, we have a double standard.  We accept it and even love it when men argue but when women do it we criticize them.

(Now, if it comes out that Serena really threatened the lineswoman by saying, “I will kill you,” which Serena denies, then she deserves the criticism.  But if not, it’s a case of glorifying men arguing while criticizing women for it).

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