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“women’s Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli deemed ‘undeserving ugly fat slut’ by sexists because she’s not a tall skinny blonde”

I wish I didn’t know about this. Except I’m not surprised. Public Shaming opens with this photo:

bartolilisicki

And then:

28 year old French tennis player Marion Bartoli is your 2013 Women’s Singles Wimbledon champion!

That’s Bartoli there on your left. And I’m sure you can see the problem here. You don’t? Oh, that might be because you’re not a BIG SEXIST ASSHOLE. Because, if you were, you’d take one good look at the Wimbledon champ on the left there, then take one good look at the Tennis player next to her, Sabine Lisicki, whom she beat to win the title and realize “THE WIMBLEDON CHAMPION IS NOT A TALL SKINNY BLONDE MODEL LOOKING WOMEN! THIS CAN’T BE!!!!”

Following is a collection of disgusting misogynist tweets along these lines:

bartolitweets

Go on. Go read the pile of rage-filled, reeking-of-entitlement hate Bartoli prompted simply by daring to appear in public playing world-class sports.

Don’t tell me “It’s just a few idiots” or “What do you expect from the Internet” or any of those bullshit excuses. Our culture teaches boys and men to treat women like garbage, and they gleefully do so publicly, with no inkling that they should be ashamed. Some boys and men are able to overcome that training and behave like human beings. Far too many are not… including a BBC sports commentator (via the Guardian):

The Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli said she would not let comments about her appearance by the BBC presenter John Inverdale spoil the greatest day of her life. The BBC was forced to apologise after Inverdale suggested the French player was “never going to be a looker” on Radio 5 Live, shortly after she defeated Sabine Lisicki to win the women’s final on Centre Court.

On clinching the title Bartoli made a beeline for the players’ box where she embraced her father and former coach, Walter. Inverdale told listeners: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little: ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?…

Earlier Inverdale told his listeners that he poked fun at Bartoli’s looks “in a nice way”. He added: “She is an incredible role model for people who aren’t born with all the attributes of natural athletes”

Imagine, at your moment of triumph, being reminded that no matter what you’ve achieved, you’ve still failed, by the only measure that really matters for women: whether men find you attractive.

This shit has to end.


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  • Absolutely horrifying and embarrassing. what the FUCK is wrong with these idiots? Unbelievable.

  • Gee

    I don’t get it. She looks perfectly normal to me. Why are people acting like she is some kind of tiny, freakish troll? Ordinary-looking women win ports events all the time. What is it about tennis that they expect you to be a model? It bears remembering that what the commentator said is sexist on two levels, though. It’s maybe even worse for Bartoli’s opponent, because he was basically saying, if you’re a “looker” you won’t have to work hard or fight, you’ll just get it handed to you. Way to insult her talent and years of hard work. You just can’t win, can you?

  • Isobel_A

    ‘Never going to be looker’ is an unforgivable thing to say – we don’t say anything about Andy Murray’s looks, do we? We just celebrate the fact that he put in an amazing performance and won.

    ““She is an incredible role model for people who aren’t born with all the attributes of natural athletes” I don’t have so much of a problem with – Bartoli isn’t as tall and athletic as other tennis players, which in fact makes her achievement greater – she has to work harder that say, the Williams sisters, to move around the court and return, because she’s shorter and hasn’t got the same reach..

    Having said all that – I thought the final was a fiasco. I don’t think Bartoli had to play anything near her best tennis to win, because Lisicki fell apart so completely. Lisicki is probably in actuality the better player (as she showed in places where she managed to pull her nerves together, she won the points every time). In the end, though, it comes down to mental attitude as much as flat-out talent (which is why Murray wasn’t winning before now), and Bartoli had more experience, and held it together better. She won, and she deserved the win, and Lisicki will have learned something about managing nerves to take to her next slam.

  • LaSargenta

    Umm…

    She is an incredible role model for people who aren’t born with all the attributes of natural athletes”

    She’s obviously a natural athlete if she won Wimbledon. Anyone who gets close to being at Wimbledon … anyone who makes it onto a NHL team, or who plays for the Browns … whether or not they win … is a natural athlete. He only kept digging himself in deeper. What an asshole.

  • Isobel_A

    ‘Athlete’ yes, absolutely. ‘Natural’ doesn’t necessarily follow. You can make up a lot of lack in terms of ‘natural’ ability with sheer dogged determination, which seems to be what Bartoli has – huge amounts of determination.

  • David N-T

    You know, it seems to me that we’re moving in the wrong direction in such matters: I can’t watch a youtube video these days without the comments section being filled with vitriol, often of sexist, racist, or homophobic nature. Is it that trolling is now becoming a cultural norm, the feeling of relative safety and anonymity that makes people say out loud what they really think about someone because they might get socked in the mouth for talking like that if they said it face to face, or that people are actually regressing on a society wide scale in their views?

  • PJK

    I just went through the entire list of published tweets at the Public Shaming link and to my surprise there were three tweets on there that came from female twitter users. Not that this excuses any of the “men” (I use the term loosely here, maybe the term “gits” would be more appropriate) for their comments, but why are these women beating on Marion Bartoli?

  • althea

    No, you can’t win, Gee. What it is about tennis is that there have been glamorous model-girl champions – including the Williams sisters, no less! – that the trolls (online ones) can compare to ones that are a hair off glamorous model-girl looks. Same ones that think Marilyn Monroe was fat. I don’t know how they’ll accept as read that the women are fit athletes or they wouldn’t have gotten to Wimbledon, but still fish out the grade-school insults as if Bartoli was some chick off the street who beat a “real” champion.

    I’d like it if some skilled hacker would write a program to run down these creeps and flood their inboxes with similar hate.

  • Danielm80

    When someone says “we’re moving in the wrong direction,” I almost always agree. As I’ve mentioned a few times on this site, I live in an ultra-conservative, ultra-religious neighborhood. I hear sexist, racist, and homophobic comments nearly every week. But I thought I was seeing small signs of improvement (nationwide, if not in my neighborhood). Paula Deen was widely condemned for making racist remarks, and so were two members of the Big Brother cast. The Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage were celebrated all across the country, and even people who oppose same-sex marriage have been saying things like, “Of course they should have the same rights as other couples. I just think we should call the relationships ‘civil unions.'” And Orson Scott Card has admitted publicly that the battle against same-sex marriage is a lost cause.

    So I was feeling pretty positive about the United States–which almost never happens–and then I saw this news story. This is not the first example of sexism and objectification I’ve seen in the news this year, or even the tenth. It seems as though every time I go on the Internet, I hear another story about sexual harassment, and each one is more horrific than the last.

    What I’m wondering is: Why isn’t sexism being challenged in the same way as racism, homophobia, or anti-Semitism (as in the backlash against Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, and John Galliano)? There have been protests, but they tend to be on smaller websites like Public Shaming, rather than the nearly universal outcry against Paula Deen. Am I just not paying enough attention, or is this kind of sexism still considered no big deal?

  • Isobel_A

    The hilarious thing is, I watched that match on Saturday and of course I noticed Bartoli is shorter and somewhat less trim than some other players (and I am in no way calling her fat). It made me think of all those Pinterest pins that are taking over lately, with ‘strong is the new skinny’, where the ‘strong’ women are still just really, really skinny women, except they also work out a lot and have muscles. I looked at Bartoli and thought – proof that you can be supremely fit without having to be a stick. ‘Cause there’s no denying she’s extremely fit – who among her detractors could run around for two hours in the heat (it was over 30 degrees in centre court), constantly bouncing and moving between points the way she does?

    The whole thing about her being ‘fat’ is a complete non-issue – it’s not like her lack of absolute tiny-ness has any effect on her tennis, or she wouldn’t have beaten the more traditionally sylph-like Lisicki.

  • David N-T

    What I’m referring to isn’t legislation or public condemnations, but rather, the comments that people will say in public. Maybe it’s because we come from very different places, but I rarely ever hear in person the kind of things that I can find on any given day on the internet, and almost never with the same amount of vitriol.

    Sure, Paula Deen et al., are chastised, but for every case like that, there are countless ones that go by because, let’s face it, the person who wrote it is a pipsqueak by comparison in terms of media exposure. Plus, part of me can’t help but feel that there is a guilt assuaging dynamic going on here, whereby people have their two minute hate at the nasty bigot in order to differentiate themselves from the bigot. The problem of racism then becomes the offending party’s personality flaws rather than a widely held set of attitudes. If I’m correct, this has the unfortunate side effect of delaying the acknowledgement of the existence of these attitudes, and attempts at rectifying them.

    As far as sexism not being challenged with the same intensity as racism and homophobia, it’s possible that you’re correct, though I wouldn’t feel qualified to claim an informed opinion on the matter. My own experience with racism leads me to believe that people will decry overt racism, but bury their head in the sand when it comes to covert forms of racism and go to great lengths to deny that it is, in fact, racism.

  • LaSargenta

    I disagree. My perception of athletes who compete at a level that most people, even fit people who do a lot of training, cannot compete is that it would be impossible for them to get there without what you are calling natural ability. Does natural ability guarantee that you get there? No. I have “natural ability”, I was a jock in school, I was good, and I am, despite a bad lower back injury, still good although older; but, my priorities were not training. HOWEVER, I have people in my life who are or who have been competitors at Olympic or professional levels or who just barely washed out of the above. Everyone of them was a natural athlete to begin with — coordination, capability, quick learning for reaction to others or flying objects, excellent peripheral vision (maybe not needed in swimming, but most sports benefit from this), etc. — but the differences were in dedication to training and luck for getting access to the right coaches, scouts, and financing. Training alone if you don’t have at least some of that other stuff will not get you there. Perseverence won’t get you there without more.

    I’ve played pickup hockey (believe it or not!! and it was fun and humiliating at the same time … but it isn’t so bad to be beat by someone that good.) with guys who never made it past the scouts for the NHL (or even the OHL). But, they were good enough to get a look from one or two…and even those guys are natural athletes.

    I work out at a gym with a strong presence of competitive bodybuilders. I’d venture to say that maybe that would be the only sport where pure stick-to-it-iveness and training will get you somewhere high.

  • It wouldn’t matter if she weighed 400 pounds. No woman deserves to have her worth reduced to whether or not she gives a guy a boner.

  • Bartoli isn’t as tall and athletic as other tennis players

    She may not be as tall, but clearly she’s *more* athletic than the others, since she won the damn tournament and they didn’t.

  • It’s hardly anonymous when people are using their real names (and often their locations) on their Twitter and Facebook posts.

  • Women can be misogynist. Women grow up in the same culture men do, and we all absorb the anti-woman attitudes. As with other cultural norms, we often aren’t even aware that they’re there or that they could be different than they are. It takes effort to even *see* them, and more effort to overcome them.

  • Isobel_A

    We wouldn’t be having this conversation if she weighed 400 pounds (and I say this as someone who weighs about half that) because she certainly wouldn’t have won Wimbledon.

    I have no idea why you’ve replied to me to say this – where have I said anything of the sort, or done anything than admire Bartoli for her dedication?

  • Isobel_A

    I disagree. As I said above, partly what won her Wimbledon is that she’s put in huge amounts of work, and trained hard. That has made her athletic. What clearly won her the match (if you were watching) is that she mentally held it together, whilst Lisicki couldn’t cope and completely fell apart. Bartoli played very well, but she’s played better. She did not have to pull out her best tennis to beat Lisicki.

  • Isobel_A

    OK, I guess I agree with you partway. Certainly about mental attitude, that was what gave Bartoli the win.

    I don’t entirely agree regarding athleticism – I guess that yes, she must have better than normal woman on the street natural abilities, but I still think she’s not as naturally gifted as other players, but she makes up the difference with sheer hard work. I admire her very much for it.

  • Danielm80

    I think you’re correct that Paula Deen or Mel Gibson is a bigger target than Random Person on the Internet. I guess we’ll find out the next time a celebrity makes a sexist remark. Sadly, I don’t think we have long to wait.

  • singlestick

    This isn’t public shaming. It’s just the nasty rants of fools. And there is, I guess, a “reality tv plus snark” attitude at play here in which people think that they can gleefully, and openly, broadcast venom. “Hey, it’s my right to freedom of speech,” they’ll moan. I also would guess that there would be just another outpouring of bile had Serena Williams won Wimbledon.

    There is also something at play here that the entire universe exists to amuse and to please us. I will bet good money that most of the people posting comments barely know who either Bartoli or Lisicki are, and certainly have not followed either player’s career. They just want to see pretty stuff on their TVs if it is not some “name brand” celebrity.

    Sadly, it’s pointless to condemn this, because the people who enjoy and participate in this stuff don’t care whether their comments cause harm or offense, because the people they see on their TV are not real to them.

  • singlestick

    You cannot easily tease out “natural athletic ability,” training, work, determination and mental toughness. Andy Murray had never won Wimbledon before. Is he somehow “less athletic” than other male players? The top competitors in any sport are among the best at what they do, no matter what combination of skills, talent, work and training, got them to their level. It’s not like Bartoli walked in off the street, having never played before, and won the championship.

    Some of the this artificial assessment of player talent reminds me of the old days in tennis and other sports in which aristocratic “amateurs” were deemed to be superior to professional tennis players.

  • OnceJolly

    People do make unfavorable comments about male athletes’ appearances (check out the various ugly lists on the Bleacher Report, which is part of Turner Broadcasting). However, I don’t recall ever seeing comments made in this context for a male athlete – when covering a triumph , a “reporter” identifies “looks” as the salient obstacle to be overcome. (In general, both weight and height might come up in such stories, but only when they are actually relevant to performance.)

  • OnceJolly

    I suspect “all the attributes of natural athletes” includes Inverdale’s own notions of physical beauty. Though I doubt he would be able to justify this premise on the basis of the majority of athletes that he’s covered throughout his career.

  • David N-T

    I would argue that it takes real effort NOT to see it: people had to be educated not see it, because it’s pretty obvious. If you want evidence of that, just look at the acts of mental contortion, evasions, tantrums and other tactics of avoiding the obvious that they’ll go through if someone points out the problematic aspects of their words.

  • OnceJolly

    I think one can both celebrate Bartoli’s accomplishment and acknowledge her mistreatment without exaggerating her status in women’s tennis. Marion was able to take the tournament without actually facing any of the top 10 seeds that had entered, this is her first Grand Slam victory (at the age of 28), and her two-handed stroke is (by her own account) a way of compensating for a lack of physical strength. I hardly see anything that justifies your conclusion that she’s “*more* athletic than the others.”

  • Danielm80
  • Matt Clayton

    I said that to MAJ on Twitter earlier.

    Bartoli won Wimbledon fair and square (she trained well and stayed focused), and I don’t give a shit if she’s not a gorgeous statuesque player like the Williams sisters or Anna Kournikova. Athletic events are judged on effort, not how studly/gorgeous the players are.

    What’s even more disgusting is the xenophobia being thrown around as well. It’s bad enough these guys are being sexist, now they’re throwing her under the bus for being French.

  • LaSargenta

    Worth remembering that when the Williams sisters started getting known in their careers, there was a lot of shit being spewed about their bodies, their clothes, and their race. At least twitter didn’t exist then. But, call-in shows did.

    And going back further, I remember my mother, a big fan of Billie Jean King, getting in heated arguments with people at the grocery store who were spewing tons of comments about her body.

    Frankly, women’s bodies are just open targets to most people, including when they are athletes.

  • Yes. That they are athletes is incidental. They are women who dare to show their faces (and bodies) in public, and so that makes them fair game.

  • But male athletes are *never* judged on their looks. Sure, some male athletes get extra fame because of their looks, but has anyone ever said, say, that David Beckham is a great soccer player because of how he looks? (I have no idea what kind of player Beckham is. Maybe he’s not that great and football fans get angry that he gets extra attention for being handsome. But of course, that extra attention isn’t about his game, either.)

  • I wasn’t picking on you. And you’re not wrong about what you say. But I think it’s important that we emphasize that the reason these assholes are assholes isn’t because Bartoli actually *is* cute and actually *is* a great athlete. That would imply that it would be okay for them to say what they said if she was as far from conventionally attractive as possible and also not a very good player.

    We wouldn’t be having this precise conversation if she weighed 400 pounds, but these sorts of comments get flung at women — all sorts of women, famous or not — all the time. And it’s not okay to ever call any woman an “ugly bitch” or “smelly slut,” no matter what she looks like.

  • The point is, this really is not a debate about how athletic she is. Can we not give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s pretty darn good for having won Wimbledon?

  • It takes effort to see that it’s wrong to judge women on their looks (or men on their wallets, or all the other misogynist, patriarchal crap we all live with). It takes effort to question to assumptions you’re brought up with.

  • singlestick

    RE: But male athletes are *never* judged on their looks.

    This simply is not true. And certainly in the case of Beckham, there is a lot of extra dross because some fans, male and female, don’t just consider him to be handsome, but to be beautiful.

    In the US, American football star Tom Brady is often berated as being too pretty, and hence a weak or distracted quarterback, especially when he dresses too well. There are some sports fans who insist that their heroes be rough and tumble average Joes, and never ostentatiously look or dress too “snooty.”

    And, yeah, absolutely, male athletes are derided as being ugly and judged on their looks. And then there are the incidents of racism in Europe (and elsewhere) so noxious that sports officials don’t quite know how to handle it. And this is tied up in some perverted notion of what a city’s or country’s ideal athlete is “supposed” to look like to best represent his team.

    That said, among the many despicable aspects about the comments about Bartoli is that she is not just being judged for her looks, but that the ugly comments are used to diminish her victory and to negate her as a person.

  • David N-T

    It’s not as if these are complex questions like those posed by advanced physics or philosophy. It wouldn’t be difficult to phrase such questions so that a 9 year old child could understand them. In fact, these types of question are often spontaneously asked by children with tremendous clarity. Compare that to the convoluted non-answers, evasions, and other feats of mental gymnastics to build up a wobbly answer that can’t possibly withstand scrutiny. It is common for people to get very defensive when it looks as if their answer is starting to or might start to unravel. Defensiveness and avoidance are not merely passive, they indicate active efforts to suppress unsettling questions. These acts contain no small amount of self-deception and it takes effort to create and maintain self-deception.

  • OnceJolly

    Given that Bartoli has been playing professional tennis for ten years, I have no reason to think otherwise. I was just responding to what I perceived to be a rather tenuous logical claim.

  • OnceJolly

    I think the view that children are somehow more capable of “seeing the truth” is a literary trope, rather than some kind of profound truth. I’m also skeptical (unfortunately) that moral truths are easily verified, or that various forms of self-deception are anything but ubiquitous. My (admittedly limited) read of modern psychology is that cognitive biases are commonplace, and that even an awareness of them doesn’t necessarily free one from them.

  • If that’s true, then I’m wrong. But does any of the abuse of male athletes approach the ugliness of what women get?

  • Children are also naturally atheistic, and yet the religious programming they receive turns most of them into adults who don’t even appear to *think* about questioning the “truth” of whatever religion they were raised in.

  • David N-T

    True, but my point is that suppressing and avoiding forbidden thoughts takes effort when it flies in the face of easily verified, established facts. It would take me no effort to come to the conclusion that the sky is blue, because it’s so glaringly obvious. However, if I had a stake in believing that the sky is green, the mental contortions and the careful self-deception that I would have to go through to create and maintain that belief would be far more extensive. Similarly, look at the tortured logic and dogged avoidance of rather obvious counter-arguments that, for instance, people who say that a film is “gay” as a criticism, or use homophobic slurs to describe a weak boy use to avoid coming to the rather obvious conclusion that they have some homophobic attitudes. Hell, I even know people who say “immigrants are ruining this country” and somehow think of themselves as non-racist.

  • Danielm80

    I wouldn’t say that children are naturally atheistic. A child might not come up with the specific idea of a Son of God who can turn water into wine, but children are certainly inclined toward magical thinking. Plenty of kids believe that their parents know everything and see everything. Plenty of kids invent imaginary friends, or think that their wishes will come true. Inventing a god takes a little more effort, but it’s not any less natural than becoming a skeptic.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Children are also naturally atheistic

    I don’t think that that’s correct, nor do I see any way to test it. Children may not be born with an inherent belief in [insert god(s) here], and they certainly aren’t born with a particular set of religious views, but I’m not sure they’re born with an inherent disbelief, either. It may be more likely that “religious programming” gives them a name for something they may already believe, or at least that they have unanswered questions about. Adults become atheists, possibly but not necessarily converting from theism, as a result of their experiences.

    Also, I just stopped and asked myself, “How often do I think about my atheism? Is it something that I question, or have I accepted it as ‘true’?” Honestly, I don’t spend that much time considering it, weighing the evidence, or contemplating my options. I came to a decision, probably 20 years ago, and only occasionally has the question even come up since then.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    This is another point I was going to bring up. Thank you. I suspect children see their parents as god-like figures. This may explain why so many deities appear, form the outside, as parent-substitutes.

  • Damian Barajas

    Atheism does not mean rejection of god, otherwise you would need to know all gods that ever were, reject them and only then can you label yourself as atheist. Or is there a separate word for someone who does not know of the existence of the concept of god?

  • Damian Barajas

    Its important ot notice in this types of debates, how pundits assume the role of determining who is athletic. Also, who is beautiful, and in this case, deserving.
    It is also worth noting who won.
    Because if she’s not athletic, then you obviously don’t need to be athletic to win so arguing about it is a misdirection isn’t it?
    Besides, take a look, she seems very athletic to me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmFViE-u0KM

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Really? You want to turn this into a semantic debate? Well, I guess people are already having one on the definition of “athletic”, might as well spread the pedantry. >.<

  • LaSargenta

    Hey. At least the word “athletic” is relevant here. None of those twits, I mean tweets, mentioned a god, did they?

  • Damian Barajas

    Actually, you turned this into a semantic debate, since you asserted that atheism means disbelief not lack of belief. :)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Noooooooo… in the context of what I was saying, “lack of belief” is just using 5 extra characters to describe the same thing as “disbelief”, that is something other than “belief”. To suggest that “lack of belief” and “disbelief” are, in this context, different in some meaningful way is to engage in semantics. In fact, the only time I ever see anyone insist that “disbelief” and “lack of belief” are meaningfully different are internet arguments about the definition of atheism. And those arguments stem from atheists making the mistake that the phrase “atheism is just another form of religion” is a serious argument worthy of discussion, and not just marking off the spot on their bingo card and moving on. :)

  • Damian Barajas

    Yes, that’s exactly what I was getting at, however i replied to what you wrote, not what you meant. That is, I’m not attacking you, but the idea that children are not atheists in either the weak or strong sense of the words

    That we may be predisposed to believe is a great discussion point. Understanding the difference between being able or predisposed to believe and actually believing is not pedantry but I’ll admit that continuing this discussion here is :p

    So here’s an olive branch before we go too far down the rabbit hole.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Children can be “naturally” a lot of things including nice, cruel, pro-life or pro-status quo. I was raised by an atheistic father and a cradle Catholic mother who never even mentioned Catholicism until I was halfway through grade school but that did not keep me from having religious thoughts. Indeed, at one time I even thought about becoming a priest though most of my info on that profession — which was little — came from books and TV.
    And please be careful with your assumptions. I have seen enough adult people change religions or become atheists to question the notion that “most” adults don’t even appear to think about questioning the truth of whatever religion they were raised in. Then again, I have seen at least two confirmed atheists / agnostics / whatevers become religious as well.

  • “M”

    Anyone thinking it even halfway through has had to ask themselves at least once if this whole mess didn’t contribute at least a little to Marion’s current troubles (OB refers to them a bit obliquely, but there is more on her struggles here).

  • Ugh. The headline on that Telegraph link is beyond awful:

    Serena Williams shows it is possible to be defined not by one’s body but by sheer excellence alone

    That’s meant to be positive, but it’s incredibly sexist. Imagine saying such a thing about a male athlete.

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