You Cannot Be Serious | That Thing McEnroe Said

Since Wimbledon is well and truly under way now (my absolute favourite time of year), I thought I would address John McEnroe’s comments on Serena Williams last week. In an interview that was promoting his new book, he commented that Williams is the greatest female tennis player in the world. When questioned on the word “female,” (why not the best player, full top) he claimed if she were placed in the men’s circus, she’d be “like 700 in the world.”  While I adore McEnroe and don’t believe he should apologise if he doesn’t want to, I don’t adore the comment and it is unsettling.

I have had a few discussions about the comments and I’ll start with my main problem. It is widely accepted the men’s and women’s tour are different. Serena Williams has commented on this herself, and that is nothing controversial. And it’s not McEnroe’s comment that offends me, it’s the sentiment behind it. Why compare two tours that are considered so different? The question could have been dealt with far more professionally (I question whether it should have been asked in the first place) and like he has said himself, it could have been left unsaid. Further, why 700, McEnroe? Plucking a number out of thin air is not only unfair on Serena and women’s tennis more generally, but on seed 700 himself. The whole affair screams unnecessary. While I don’t consider McEnroe or those who disagree with me to be sexist, the fact remains that we are pitching one woman (and indirectly, a whole bunch of female athletes) against even more men and saying, “You lose, sweetheart.”

When talking to a male who simply didn’t see the problem although understood the backlash, I asked him if he was looking at it from a different point of view to me (me as a woman and him as a man). A point of view promoted by his gender; the gender that is told essentially from birth that when it comes to sport, you’ll always win, son. And he agreed. He agreed he would be seeing it from a different point of view for reasons x, y and z and I think those who disagree that the comment was unnecessary need to try and empathise with my view as once a girl and now a woman who loves sport.

And here is where I explain why the comment made me feel a little heartbroken. All of my life I have felt and seen other girls experience the weight of gender expectations their athleticism. When I won the cross-country in year 5 a boy told me his placing 6th in the boys’ race was still better. Last year I was told a male friend would beat me in a 200m race because “he’s a guy” (even though he admits to doing no exercise while I train quite passionately). Biological differences unfortunately do count for some differences in sport (as a kid and as professional athletes), but premium athleticism is something to be celebrated. Comments that pitch men against women and boys against girls strike a chord with me because myself or fellow females excelling in sport was never as big of an achievement as the first place boy.

Feminism Up.

~ Kat ~

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The Wonder Woman Review I was Always Going to Write

It took me far too long – far too long – to get myself to the cinema to see Wonder Woman. AKA the most kickbutt and exciting film I have seen in a long time. Spoilers: I loved it. Gal Gadot brought us another fantastic female superhero; the warrior of all warriors. Previously, it has seemed that my 20s cast a spell on me: The Dad in a Cinema Spell. I actually have come to fear the cinema because of how much my eyes let me down, begging me to just fall asleep right there and then in a crowded cinema. But – you guessed it – they didn’t even tease me when I watched Wonder Woman after a day at work. And missing even a second of the film would have been a tragedy.

WonderrrThe film is absolutely smashing reviews and, ten minutes in, it’s easy to see why. With Gal Gadot as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (American pilot), an army of strong women and a stellar and an often (just the right amount of) hilarious cast around them, yeah, it’s my new favourite film. It tells the story of princess of the Amazons, Diana, training up to become the strongest warrior of them all. In a world where it is normal for gender to be no boundary, Diana did not expect American pilot – a man?! – and a world full of war and destruction to turn up on her doorstep… or on the beach that can only be described as paradise. But she knows what she has to do. WW1 meets Wonder Woman and it’s super duper cool.

And what is compatible with a kickbutt heroine… a lot of chat about feminism. *Enter Kat with her I AM A FEMINIST t-shirt on, a grin and a lot to say.* But before I gush over the character and film that allowed us to forgive DC for previous *cough* disappointments, I will shortly disclose the basis behind my article about it in my monthly newsletter (Feminism Up). As I named the article, not all feminists wear capes. Wonder Woman is not the first film featuring a strong woman; a woman we all look up to. Further, we define strong in a very restrictive way. Strong = physically and mentally resilient. Yet our favourite male and female characters aren’t our favourites for these reasons. And Wonder Woman is no exception. We love her because she’s motivated by her beliefs; we love her because at the core of her strength is her compassion. We laugh with how out of touch she is with the human world but we adore her passion for saving the human world she doesn’t perfectly fit into. She’s not a “feminist” character because she exceeds the strength of any man, she’s a “feminist” character because of her beliefs.

Even if the wonder Diana Prince and film in general does wonders for feminism (and it does), it does have its faults. Originally, Diana’s competence is questioned by Steve and other men in the film. Soon they realise their mistake, but the focus on gender is a little unsettling. Further, her looks are often referenced, even though she is brilliant, intelligent and caring. All in all, however, Wonder Woman presents an independent woman who we admire (just like other female characters entirely unlike her).

The film is jam-packed with everything we love about superhero movies. Action and the whole Good Vs. Evil war. Love and friendship. KAPOWs and BAMs. And while it is not the first female-led film (or even superhero film), it is paving the way for a future in film we all want. Women fighting Hollywood’s archaic structure like the Amazonian warriors.

~ Kat ~

WHY

I have gushed about her and her influence on my health and fitness lifestyle before, but Carly Rowena has done another one of those good things that has made me fist pump the air and feel twice as motivated. She has released a video that features health and fitness personalities talking about why they exercise and what they love about their body. I urge you to watch the video and you can do so HERE. I think this mini campaign, if you will, works so brilliantly because of the two elements that I think shouldn’t be separated. We are talking about this thing we do for reasons that probably aren’t what we expect, and we are linking it with confidence: what we love about ourselves.

WHY

Even when I was younger and didn’t have a gym membership or running events to train for, I loved exercise. In hindsight I realise it was those cheeky endorphins painting a smile on my face. So why do I exercise? First and foremost it, it’s a part of my day that guarantees a slice of pure happiness. Mentally, I feel free; physically, I feel capable. And feeling capable is my favourite feeling that we tend to underrate. Even though it can add up to costing nothing at all. I exercise because I rarely get bored of it. If I am? I need to change it up. Variety is exercise’s best friend and I adore that while I love to run, I also love training my arms. I love to swim but I love to go to Zumba. The challenge of a new class the next day is like an everyday Christmas Eve for me, and the occasional meet up for a badminton or tennis match gives me excited butterflies. I exercise because it’s fun.

And something I like about myself? I’ve always answered, “my legs.” While I am by no means tall, they carry me everyday and are my most loyal cheerleader on my favourite days: running events. They are strong and have been the reason for some of my proudest moments. But I’m going to change it up. After years of covering them up, I finally wear all of the workout vests and all of the Topshop sleeveless tops I want to wear. My arms. Even though I don’t exercise for aesthetic reasons (I exercise for longevity and all of the reasons above), I have seen changes in my arms in the last two years. Not only this, but I’ve felt it. My arms are one thing that make me feel more than capable now- I’ve made a lot of trips this past year with a lot (a lot) of luggage. And I managed them because of the part of me I used to make myself feel terrible for.

There is no one size fits all for exercise; for falling in love with it. For realising you’re no longer exercising for the reasons you thought you were; or the goals you set out to achieve. It could take a lot of trial and error; a lot of tried and tested workout classes. But when you get there, there’s not going back. Those endorphins are too addictive and the by-products are too attractive. Carly’s project is super refreshing. Like I said, it made me feel motivated. Pumped to get in my next workout. More than that, it was brilliant to see a bunch of people united by the same cause, saying things that I completely relate to. It’s cool to be fit and it’s cool to be confident; I think the two go so fabulously hand-in-hand and Carly’s reminded us of that.

~ Kat ~

P.S. Carly recently posted a brilliant video on how to be happy, which I more than recommend you checking out!

Feminism Up: Issue #2

Last month birthed the start of a new and very precious project of mine- Feminism Up; a monthly online newsletter encouraging discussion about sexism, equality and the need for feminism. More than that: the need for as many people to participate in the discussion as possible. I have had a brilliant response and many (very reasonable) debates about the whole concept. Just increasing the discussion a little bit has made me geek out. Issue #2 will be released later on today and I thought I’d couple each release with a blog post about it. If you want to sign up to the newsletter, you can do so HERE. If you want to receive issue #1 before it’s too late, sign up before 6pm (GMT)!

FU Blog

This month’s newsletter is full to the brim with guest writers and fabulous pieces I cannot wait for others to read. Laura writes a poignant piece about being a mother in the workplace, the judgement mothers unfairly receive and a couple of cases of sexual harassment she has experienced. Guest writer Tom writes about women in film and whether all-female remakes are a bit of a let down and women then, consequentially, receive the blame. Holly writes a piece that is well and truly needed: all about the notion of “slut-shaming” and why we need to tackle it head on. Tarryn writes about LGBTQ+’s relationship with stereotypes. My first piece discusses about the gender expectations at the gym – and sport, in general. The issue ends with a feminist take on Wonder Woman and all things film and feminism.

It was inspiring to be so quickly approached by guest writers at the beginning of last month; friends and even those I don’t know wanting to write something for Feminism Up. It was awesome to see so many people easily relate to the movement of feminism and share their own experiences. This issue is packed with different perspectives and interesting topics- some that aren’t too easy to speak about, even thought they should be. If you want to check out more about Feminism Up, check out the Instagram or if you’d like to write something for the newsletter, please contact me at feminismup@outlook.com. I’d be super interested to chat with you.

FU Blogg

This evening will see the release of issue #2 and, two issues in, and I feel as though I’ve learnt a lot. I dreamt up this project half way through May, knowing I wanted to release the first issue just half a month later. Setting myself deadlines as soon as university deadlines ended was an experience, but I have been enjoying it so far. Here is what I’ve learnt from compiling a monthly newsletter:

  • The photos are the hard bit- organise this way in advance to the release date!
  • Feminism is a topic so many people are switched on about and inspired by. This has meant all of my guest writers so far have been beyond trustworthy and finished with their pieces way in advance- last month I had the other two pieces all polished up before I had finished one of mine!
  • Proofread, proofread and proofread again- and then ask a friend.
  • While I want the guest writers to have as much freedom as possible, sometimes they want some instruction. So have some and then give some!
  • Sometimes I don’t agree with something a writer has written. As long as it isn’t offensive or reflects badly on me or Feminism Up, that’s all okay. Wanting everybody to talk about feminism means understanding lots of different views- which is super exciting.

If you check out the newsletter, please let me know what you think and if there is something Feminism Up really needs to hear, tell me! ❤

~ Kat ~