How John McEnroe’s Disrespect of Serena Williams Shows That The Sports Still Have A Way To Go Before Gender Equality

No-one's entirely sure why he made the comments in the first place

Serena Williams demands respect from John McEnroe

by Gemma Faithfull |

Serena Williams is considered by some to be one of the best female tennis player of all time. She is one of the most successful and skilful in the history of the sport, overtaking Steffi Graf in 2017 when Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam. Earlier this year she announced that she would be taking a break from Tennis as she is expecting a baby, and despite this she is currently ranked 4th in the world by the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association).

Serena Williams is a female tennis player. She plays against other women in games and the game itself is a different ballpark. However, John McEnroe, a retired tennis player considered one of the greats, doesn’t seem to have his head around this yet.

In an interview, McEnroe was critical of the women’s sport and the difficulty of men’s tennis in comparison. However, he didn’t criticise the sport generally, he picked upon Serena Williams to highlight his point as an example.

If Williams ever played on the men’s circuit then she would struggle. In fact, McEnroe went on to say that her success would be an “entirely different story” and she would struggle to be as high as 700th in the male rankings.

On Twitter, Serena called him out for the disrespect and irrelevant comments. However, McEnroe has refused to apologize and when asked why he made the comment, he replied with “I didn’t know it could create controversy.”

Kate Dale, from Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign told The Debrief, 'If a woman who’s been at the top of her game for over 15 years can be called out like this then what hope is there for the rest of us? It’s not the first time Serena has been judged and I’m sure it won’t be the last either. Well done Serena for being able to call out judgement in such a gracious way, shake it off and continue being fabulous.'

McEnroe has claimed to be a feminist and proud in the past but his recent comments about Serena do anything but agree with this statement. It looks like he understands and is critical of the gender pay gap that exists in professional tennis, however doesn’t understand the problem with comparing the two games and players. Men need to stop putting women down and comparing them to men. The capabilities of a woman’s body are very different to that of their male counterpart, but this doesn’t mean their achievements are any less credible.

TGC’s Kate Dale discusses how any women are put off being active due to their fear of being judged, 'as women, we worry that people will judge our appearance when we exercise, how we choose to spend our time and whether we’re too good or not good enough.' The This Girl Can campaign was launched in 2015 with the aim of increasing female participation in sports. They found that 48% of women aged 14 to 40 worry about being judged whilst exercising. TGC are working hard to lessen the gap between male and female participation and since its launch they have helped 2.8 million women become more active.

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @gemmafaithfull

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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