Andy Murray on his feminist awakening: Female players sacrifice as much as men do
Murray says he didn't set out to become a champion for women's equality, it just happened that way
Andy Murray has built up a reputation around the tennis world for his devotion to ensuring that female tennis players get the respect they deserve. He's doesn't seem to try to be a feminist, it's just how he is. For example, when Sam Querrey defeated Murray at Wimbledon, a reporter said that Querrey was the first American to make it to the semifinals since 2009. Murray quickly snapped back "male player," taking the reporter aback. Murray has done this in similar fashion several times before.
On Monday, Murray penned an article on the BBC in which he talked about the state of tennis -- and the sporting world in general -- and its attitude toward women.
According to Murray's article, his experiences with coach Amelie Mauresmo are the cause for his fine-tuned ear for casual sexism, sexism that the people speaking may not even know they're perpetuating. He said that he's often been asked why he worked with a female coach, an uncommon practice. To Murray, however, it was never really a question.
"My experience of working with Amelie Mauresmo gave me a small insight into attitudes to women in sport and, because it was unusual for a male tennis player to work with a female coach, I am often asked about that," he wrote. "Working with Amelie was, for me, because she was the right person for the job, and not a question of her sex at all. However, it became clear to me that she wasn't always treated the same as men in similar jobs, and so I felt I had to speak out about that."
Murray has done just that throughout his career. His female role models, however, don't stop (or even start) with Mauresmo.
Having a mother who was as interested and involved in sport as mine was, it has always felt very natural for me that girls should be as engaged in sport as boys.
I now know that's not the case, and that many girls drop out once they become teenagers.
It is something my mum is passionate about changing. She has a programme called Miss-Hits which teaches girls the basics of tennis - currently boys outnumber girls four to one in the sport.
Murray has become incredibly popular throughout the sport of tennis for his outspokenness, but to him it isn't about building a reputation as a feminist. Indeed, he leads off the article with an aura of humility writing: "I've never set out to be a spokesperson for women's equality." However, it just happened for Murray, and he has become a bit of a spokesman by accident. As for why, he said that since Maurisimo he has "been asked about women's equality and would [he] find it hard to look any of the top female tennis players in the eye if [he] did not speak [his] mind."
For Murray, the problems are bigger than questioning the skill gap. He said that tennis has done great things to equalize the sport, such as have equal payouts for Grand Slam champions, but it isn't perfect. He talked about the regimen involved in becoming a professional tennis player, and how women "make those same sacrifices and are as determined and committed to winning as any of the top men on the tour."
In other sports, Murray has seen steps forward and steps back. Although there have been concerted efforts to keep women playing sports and keep people watching women's sports, Murray thinks that more can still be done. He writes that he's encouraged by the way things are moving, but he doesn't think people should get comfortable.
"In general, I think the future is positive," he concluded. "We've got more female role models than ever before, more female commentators than ever before and more people championing the rights for women in sport than ever before.
"Things are moving in a positive direction and I am excited about a future in which the playing field might be level for all."
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