In an article in Canada’s National Post, sports writer Joe O’Connor presents the following conundrum:
Women play 60 minutes in hockey, 90 in soccer and run 26.2 miles marathons, just like men do. And yet in tennis, in 2011, in an era where the gender wars are supposed to be over, on Sunday two women will meet in this year’s U.S. Open final and play best-of-three-sets — while the men will play best-of-five the following day.
Apparently women used to play best-of-five matches, but, according to 1973 champ Billie Jean King:
“But a woman — probably in a corset — fainted, and the all-male board decided we could only play best of three. We have offered to play five sets anytime.”
O’Connor tries to argue that limiting women to best-of-three would be on par with trying to limit Elton John’s Tiny Dancer to only three minutes — a cut that would mean we would have missed out on the chorus and, according to O’Connor, Elton John would be a nobody today.
While that metaphor is insane and in no way analogous to the sport of tennis, the fact remains that it seems curious that tennis is one of the only sports in the world in which women have their games essentially cut short.
One female player, however, Tracy Austin, offers a counter-argument, saying:
“It is not about how long Mariah Carey or Elton John sings,” Ms. Austin said from New York. “We don’t need five sets to be entertaining.”
That may be, but at the same time the implication is that women cannot handle the same game time as a man. No one is arguing that women can’t be just as impressive on the court, or that the games are not worth watching, but if you’re going to hold the U.S. Open in the year 2011, one does expect that the genders are treated equally and the beskirted ladyplayers are not treated like the weaker sex.
What’s your take? Are the current tennis regulations sexist, or are they immaterial? And should female tennis players still be wearing jewelery and skirts on the court?