I’ve just come back from a lovely holiday and I had planned to blog about the fact that after a tumultuous year during which I barely read anything not teaching-related, I’m back into fiction, full of ideas for my second novel, not to mention the joy of the sand-friendly kindle and ya-da-ya. But all that has been eclipsed by the events of yesterday when Murray won Wimbledon. Full disclosure here, my Dad was born in Edinburgh (on a Polish RAF base during the war), so it struck me yesterday, as I cracked open the bottle of champagne I’d returned to the fridge after the loss of three championship points, I’m half Scots. Yay!
Anyway, Murray won and it was brilliant and no-one mentioned his long legs or his full lips or anything. Just that he played BRILLIANT tennis. You can see where I'm going with this one can’t you?
The day before, John Inverdale had mused about imaginary conversations between the women’s Wimbledon champ Marion Bartoli and her dad. “Do you think,” he asked his Radio 5 Live listeners, “Bartoli’s dad told her: 'You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?'"
Apparently, he meant to talk about her height (at 5ft 7, she’s towered over by other female players) but despite a 28-year broadcasting career, his words came out all wrong.
The comments were vilified and both the BBC and Inverdale apologised, which is good. It did make me think though. Many years ago when I worked on the Night Newsdesk of a national newspaper, I was called ‘emotional’ by a male journalist after I flipped when he cut me off from an important phone call. ‘Emotional’, like ‘hysterical’ are words I rarely hear directed at men. If I’d been a man a/ I’d have been called angry not emotional and b/ I doubt he would have cut me off in the first place.
When I wrote my book (unpublished – all enquires welcome) I was surprised at how many people – OK men – assumed I was writing ‘chick lit’ – by which they mean (they not I) vacuous self-obsessed tales of emotional and hysterical women buying shoes and trying to bag a man before they frazzle up. I doubt many male authors are faced with these prejudices and presumptions. I bet when they say they’re writing a book, people say, “Really, what’s it about?”
So, when I heard what Inverdale said and the fact Bartoli had to interrupt her celebrations to react to it, it made me think about all the prejudices women experience every day, when we’re just trying to do our jobs or live our lives. Most of the time, you take it on the chin and just accept it. After all, you’ll only be seen as hysterical if you cause a fuss. Bartoli brushed Inverdale’s comments off. Neither of the examples I have given here, gave me sleepless nights or upset me greatly. It’s just another one of those things. Rubbish isn’t it?