Suppose one lives in a world without social media, internet, TV, or other means of news communication not to have heard about Serena Williams, famous champion tennis player, incident and arguments at the final of the US Open last weekend. Her voice advocating that women’s discrimination materializes in all aspects of tennis and particularly in the implementation of rules and penalties given was loud and clear. In another situation, I would have sat down and cheered for her as loud as she was. But now, I was in thoughts…
We live in a world where all arguments and all difficult discussions are easily “won” by the one side if some sort of discrimination is put forward. No, I am not talking only in sports but also politics and all other facets of life.
I found myself struggling to decide if I understood deeply her agonizing “scream” for fairness or myself being a rule-follower I was upset with any breaking of rules and not acceptance of the penalty/punishment. All that in the light of women’s unfair treatment…I was troubled.
I started playing in my mind with thoughts and examples of the brilliant book of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I read recently called “Dear Ijeawele – A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions”. The main message of the book was that the moment one starts to putting women above men also gets in this bad circle of gender discrimination. Equal society supports equal and fair treatment. But you do not fix something so fundamentally wrong that is embedded in the society’s DNA, such as gender biases, by creating more wrongs.
I agreed so much with the amazing author when she discussed about the Mrs/Miss differences versus only Mr on the other side (other side? Hehe). I had my own encounter with the biases that it creates. A few years ago, I went to a shop to have my watch fixed. As I was completing the forms (with my then boyfriend next to me – or where we already married? I cant remember, and maybe that’s the point), the lady-employee insisted in asking me whether I am Mrs or Miss (as if that would change the service I would receive later). My husband stills smiles now – a bit proudly – when he describes my reaction, after ignoring her a bit “for you I am Dr”. The assumption that my title had to be between Mrs and Miss is fundamentally flawed – I can be Adv., or Prof, or Dr or whatever I want to be. Also, as the book went on saying, having a description of marital status in women’s title versus men’s being Mr whether married or single is a demonstration of historical gender discrimination. But the solution would not be to create a distinction between married and unmarried men (Mr and Msr? Hehe) because that is almost as if accepting the wrong distinction of Mrs and Miss as if something acceptable and proceeding with implementing it for males as well. That is wrong – plain and simple wrong. The suggestion is to stop the historic and in some senses enforced by tradition discrimination – not to extend all the past wrongdoing to males so that we are even. Feminism does not promote revenge against males (on the contrary, feminists were burning their own bras, not the men’s underwear – ok ok I am joking).
To link now these thoughts to Serena Williams, how do I feel about it? I am not particularly proud of a fight for women’s rights in action here. Her actions say, "men break rules, they get unpunished so when we break rules leave us unpunished". So instead of fixing the past wrongdoing, allow us women to be wrong too. Something flawed here, right? For me, everyone that breaks rules should be punished regardless of their gender. Isn’t that real equality and fair treatment?
And because I know some of you are thinking “but this rule is nonsense”…Fair enough. Then let’s challenge the rule, let’s understand its root, let’s evaluate it, let’s change it if needs be. But by breaking it who is at fault? Does breaking a racket on the ground promote good sportsmanship (definitely a problem with this word too..)? Because I did not want my kids to see that – how will I explain to them that you are not allowed to do that when you lose at school, if that goes unpunished in an important game by professional athletes? How do I explain to my kids that at sports, we do not break the rules (whether we like them or not)? In heart, I understand partially her frustration, I hear what she says about other players doing so and left unpunished – but that was not the right time to do so and definitely not the right reason not to get a penalty.