Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The 'Road less traveled

An interesting little story for you:

So there was this guy, right? A hotshot junior tennis player in Alabama who had a couple of scholarship offers to some small schools, but because his dad was sick at the time, he stayed home and went to the big college in town: a Division I powerhouse. The hotshot (or so he thought he was) couldn't keep up with the guys on that team, but he knew the coach and his own instructor used to play there, so he got to hit with those guys a lot. And he got to pretty much be a practice partner for the women's team, which was also very solid.

Well, one day the men were out of town and the women were playing their own practice tournament. The junior played with them to help make the draw even and was paired against the assistant coach. Let me tell you, though: This dude thought that any guy, especially one of his caliber, could beat any woman player, even if the coach was the winningest player in conference history. The junior went on to promptly be blasted off the court by said coach and from that day on, his perspective about women in sports was changed forever. Actually, the junior can tell you the moment: The two were playing on Valentine's Day, and after the coach won, she shouted to the team: "I was feeling romantic, so I beat him six-love!"

And if you couldn't guess it by now, then that junior was me!

Why did I tell that story, you might ask? Well, I was checking out the results in the tournaments on the professional tours yesterday, and I saw a scoreline that really caught my eye: Stephanie Dubois (CAN) d. Ashley Harkleroad (USA) 6-2, 6-3.

Now, if you know Dubois, then you get a gold star because I sure don't. Everyone is supposed to know Harkleroad, though, since she's currently the cover girl on the latest issue of Playboy. But what has that Playboy cover accomplished? Nothing. What will it. Nothing.

See, my past eye-opening experience has made me more aware of sexism and the way it manifests itself. It's sad that Harkleroad thought this was going to pay off for her, maybe build her "Q" rating, so to speak. (I'm personally not buying the "want to show off an athlete's body" line she's throwing around.) A co-worker of mine that doesn't follow tennis and I were discussing it when the news broke. A month later, he couldn't tell you her name to save his life. What female's been in Playboy at the height of their popularity? It's always some last-ditch move or publicity stunt when they pose. Harkleroad was at that stage in her life? Trying to win matches and improve wasn't good enough? I hate to see someone feel that's the case.

Plus, the decision to pose isn't going to do much to get guys that are like I was to change their minds about things. A person always wants to be respected, but a move like Harkleroad's makes it hard.

I hate to sound like I'm proselytizing because I'm not a complete angel (I did see the pictures and the article, after all!). And this little posting of mine can even be perceived as sexist ("Who's this man that thinks he can say what a woman can do with her body?") I just hope that a woman wouldn't feel she has to sell her body just to get a few extra mentions in newspaper articles, when her main priority should be trying to win matches.

(Photo: Getty Images)


paula said...

Van, I agree with you in some way. It does seem like a last ditch effort, or desperate. But it is likely she ws excited about the money. I could look up her earnings, but I don't think they are that big. Also, I heard her speak not so long ago and she seemed like a "sweet girl", and that can also mean..uh...not so bright? Ouch. Not that I care. I like nice people better than smart people who are mean.

How are the pics? Is she a hottie? She seems like she is. I don't think I have it in me to buy Playboy. We;ll see.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Whatever her rationale is for posing for Playboy, Harkleroad's pictures reflect an ongoing objectification and obsession with women's bodies. I'd rather hear people talking about her backhand than about her ass.

Shelia said...

Hi Van! I actually have some time to visit today and I'm glad about it.

First, I like your young man eye opening experience. Those awakenings in men's lives serve us women well.

Of course you're dead on with this Harkleroad Playboy issue. I was beyond shocked when I read that she was going to do it! Not because of the nudity, it's her body and her choice; but because of her "career".

After coming off of such a positive Davis Cup and gaining a little notoriety for her game, I thought for sure that she was going to try and make the most of her 15 minutes. And perhaps for her, the Playboy spread was "the most".

However, I can't help but believe that she negatively changed the good PR that could have continued to come her way.

Bad, bad move for Ashley...bad move.