The shockwave’s of an athlete enjoying the limelight after a huge victory which resulted in ‘Twirlgate’ is the most bizarre reaction to sporting achievement that I’ve ever come across.
Personally I’m a football fanatic and I love a good celebration, many of the top footballers in the world have crafted their own signature celebrations, its part of the sporting carnival, the athlete’s brand which is so important to players that seek out celebrity status and lucrative product deals. The media attention that surrounds sporting professionals has turned athletes into sex symbols for as long as I can remember, because we all love the glamour and roguery that comes with the event or the individual.
Sport in itself is a product, sportswear is branded and sponsored in most cases with nearly every single sporting event you can think of being heavily commercialised by big brands and endorsement deals.
Athletes can hardly be expected to fly the flag of gender equality when we all prop up the commercial world in which they’re crowned. Athletes such as Eugenie Bouchard who dedicate their lives to sporting achievement are naturally going to achieve a state of physical eliteness which results in a degree of idolisation, we see this happening across the board with male and female athletes. If you Google search Christiano Ronaldo the first image you’ll see is a picture of the man with his top off, with the only debate being if he is the best or the second best player in the world right now, while contemporaries such as Lionel Messi carry on about their business without the six pack media hounds.
I do acknowledge the suggestion that “It treats female athletes as quaint curiosities rather than serious athletes” (Erin Riley The Guardian), but I think this is boxing off the young tennis player in a negative way, both as an athlete and as an individual.
To assume she is some shy victim of media old men is beyond daft, she may be only 20 years young but I think she’s savvy enough to know how to act in front of the camera which gives her access to the world stage.
“I think it was an in-the-moment thing and it was funny” Eugenie Bouchard
Even a household name and seasoned pro like Serena Williams was quick to comment on this so called act of ‘sexism’ in sport:
"I didn't really want to twirl because I don't need all the extra attention. But, yeah, it was fine... whether I twirl or not, it's not the end of the world”
Perhaps that’s the difference between an athlete looking to build a brand and an athlete with a well established profile, perhaps it’s the difference between someone buzzing in new found media attention and someone who’s lived with camera’s in her life for the last ten years, or perhaps it’s just the difference in personality or humour on the day.
Furthermore some female athletes just love being, well fabulous, sure society has created a socially acceptable niche for girls to bask in a certain brand of femininity, but if Eugenie Bouchard enjoys that mould why are people so quick to dictate how she promotes herself as an individual or as a sports personality/brand. Perhaps the reaction has been so negative because the reporter was male?
Now I don’t mean to suggest that just because you’re wearing a pretty little pink dress automatically means you’re seeking out degrading media attention, just so you can land yourself the next big Adidas deal, but I think we have to be realistic and acknowledge the fact that some athletes enjoy the camera and some athlete’s enjoy being both celebrities and the face of big brands.
Footballers like David Beckham have made good if not better careers as brand celebrities than they have in their chosen profession, and if Eugenie Bouchard was to exploit this position she wouldn’t be the first female tennis player or female athlete to do so, and she may very well become the biggest name in tennis over the next few years but one thing is for sure, she’s not going to get there on twirl’s alone, which is why she’s focusing on her game unlike the ‘Twirlgate’ obsesses who are probably already tuned in to the next serve of media hype as we speak.