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Tennis Star Andy Murray Is a Feminist Ace

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Andy Murray Wins Olympic Gold in 2012

Andy Murray Wins Olympic Gold in 2012

Andy Murray Wins Gold—and Several More Hearts—in Rio Olympics

Scottish tennis star Andy Murray picked up a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics this year, proving once again why he is such a dominant force on the tennis courts. It was his response to reporter John Inverdale, though, that has garnered him more notice than any medal.

Following Murray's win in Rio during the singles' matchups, which marked Murray's second gold medal in the event, John Inverdale, a reporter with the BBC and with ITV, made a reference to Murray being the first to win two gold medals in tennis.

It should be noted here that Inverdale has not exactly been kind to women in the past. After Marion Bartoli's 2013 Wimbledon win, Inverdale rather clumsily put insulting words into Bartoli's father's mouth: “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," Inverdale told Radio 5 Live listeners, according to The Guardian.

Inverdale also likened tennis star Nick Kyrgios, the son of a Greek father and a Malaysian mother, to a character from the Jungle Book, and created another stir during the Cheltenham Festival when he used a rather X-rated comment (which he defended as a slip of the tongue) to describe a female athlete's love of a particular sport.

Andy Murray likely knew just how inappropriate Inverdale could be going into the brief interview with the BBC reporter, and so didn't hesitate to correct Inverdale when he said that Murray was the first to win two gold medals in tennis.

Murray was quick to point out that "Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four [gold medals] each," according to NPR, and acknowledged that he was the first to successfully defend a singles title for tennis.

As might be expected, the Twittersphere erupted, resoundingly chastising Inverdale for a lack of research and embracing Murray for his astute response.

This has been an Olympiad fraught with sexist remarks and actions, and it would seem that Inverdale has only added fuel to that fire. Inverdale's prior track record of making crass remarks does not help in that regard, although thankfully, he did not comment about the Williams sisters' looks in the process of being corrected by Murray.

This Olympics seems to have brought out a great deal of clumsy reporting, in addition to decidedly sexist commentary from a variety of sources. Whether it's putting swimmer Katie Ledecky's world-record-making swim a secondary headline after one that talks about Michael Phelps tying for silver, or news reporters debating about whether female gymnasts should wear makeup during their performances, the sheer athleticism female athletes bring to the table is often overlooked, downplayed, or forgotten and replaced by commentary about their looks or what they're wearing.

Murray's comments should have served as a reminder to Inverdale—and to all of us, really—that women play an extremely important part in these Olympic Games, as they have for many years and will continue to do for many more.

Easy to Dismiss Inverdale as Boorish Oaf, Elevate Murray to Feminist Ideal

Andy Murray corrected John Inverdale, which is a classy move for two reasons:

  1. It's not always easy to correct someone who has said something wrong, particularly in the heat of the moment. In Murray's case, he was no doubt riding high after having won a second Olympic gold medal after a grueling four hour match, so he had other things on his mind. He could easily have let the Inverdale comment slide had he let his emotions and adrenaline get the best of him. He did neither and corrected Inverdale before carrying on with the interview.
  2. It's Murray's moment to bask in Olympic glory, and no one else's except for the bronze and silver medal winners. He could have been excused for forgetting that the Williams sisters have four golds each, but he wanted to ensure that their place in Olympic history was not forgotten, either.

It would also be too easy to just dismiss John Inverdale altogether as a man who doesn't quite understand women's depth of involvement in the Olympics, but we can't do that, either. He's a man who has said thoughtless things. Full stop. He might not be a feminist, and for that matter, he may even be a misogynist, but there's no proof of either of these and only proof that he makes mistakes. Sometimes they are rude and racist, like comparing Kyrgios to a character from Jungle Book, or simply crass, as when he suggested that Bartoli's father might have told his daughter to be a scrappy tennis player because she wouldn't be a visual stunner like Sharapova. Inverdale, however, is human, just like the rest of us.

However, in the context of what has been a very sexist Olympiad, Inverdale's complete omission of Venus and Serena Williams—two of the most powerful women in tennis in the modern era—does stand out as a horrible continuation of sexist attitudes by a lot of reporters. Yes, he did not make comments about their looks, as he did with Bartoli three years ago, but by forgetting their four gold medals, Inverdale has also forgotten their role as two of tennis' biggest forces.

In correcting Inverdale, Murray demonstrated a lot of class, and while he may not have done what he did out of a desire to show himself as a feminist, he definitely has shown viewers that the role of female athletes should not be simply dismissed to the category of eye candy. Four gold medals carry a lot of weight, as it should, and Inverdale should consider brushing up on his Olympics history before he gets corrected by another athlete.

Kudos to Andy Murray for not allowing the efforts of at least two female Olympic athletes to be forgotten.

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