Monday, September 6, 2010

Venus Williams Tugging at Her Dress and Rafael Nadal Tugging at the Back of his Shorts: a case of heterosexism, sexism, and racism

image of tennis player Andy Roddick playing with his balls is from here

I'll state from the start, there are far more important things to be discussing on an activist-focused blog. But I'm also wanting to offer readers some lighter posts from time to time, even while they are, at the end of the day, all concerned with similar issues.

Personally, I am disgusted by the heterosexism, the misogyny, and the racism that too often comes with U.S. television commentary during tennis matches, and the grotesquely double and triple standard against women in sports--having to adhere or work within sexist clothing imperatives and then getting critiqued when they do so. And having what the white boys do be generally regarded as just fine, while anything a woman does coming under incessant public scrutiny and criticism.

When watching tennis, I am thoroughly disgusted by seeing Rafa Nadal constantly appear to pull his underwear out from between his butt-cheeks. Why doesn't he wear loose-fitting shorts and a jockstrap and be done with the matter of fabric getting caught there? To the extent that women tennis players have had to do something similar, it is always done rather discretely along the side, never by jamming a finger and thumb between the cheeks and tugging out whatever attire had gotten caught there. We might note how men are not required to wear form-fitting clothes, do not ever have to wear skirts that are blown up revealing the shapes of their crotches and asses, or be generally more "physiquely visually available" to the viewing/voyeuring audience. We might also note that CBS has done all it possibly can to show the white and blonde and corporately pretty Maria Sharipova on screen, positioning cameras to have as much access to her body as is legal.

So when a Black woman who is not regarded by Madison Avenue as "pretty", Venus Williams, designs outfits that are flashy and tight, how much you wanna bet she's going to get ALL kinds of attention from media sports commentators, during the match, about it? And how much you wanna bet no one's gonna speak all through an Andy Roddick match about this matter of him distracting himself and us by tossing his dick and balls back and forth--and I'm not talking about the balls he hits over the net to his opponent.

English language note: "pants" in England refers briefs and skivvies: to lower body underwear. "Pants" in the U.S. refers to slacks or trousers or jeans: to lower body outerwear.

From Sports Untapped:

Why Nadal likes to pull the pants out of his ass

Added July 26th, 2010 by Jonas

A post I wrote about the great rivalry between Nadal and Federer spurred several comments about Nadal’s habit to pull his pants out of his ass between points. Now this is a very hot topic, first and foremost because Nadal-lovers want to defend his habit and Nadal-bashers want to bring it to light as something disgusting. Personally I think that what a man does to his ass is his own business, although I prefer not watching it.

So why does the great tennis God Nadal pull his pants out of his ass? Please tell me what you think and feel free to be creative and funny. The best reason/idea will get…uhhhh…laughter and a mention on this site! Here are a few of my ideas:

1. He wants to prevent skidmarks.
2. He doesn’t want too many middle-age Women to stare at the shape of his ass.
3. He does it for good luck. (Pants in ass means bad, bad luck).
4. He doesn’t want to seem all perfect like this Federer-chap.
5. He wants to attract more attention to his ass.

Nadal was asked about this in an interview some time ago:

Why wear the Capri pants that you have to constantly pull out of your rear (fancy word! editors note)? Why not shorts? (he has since then changed to normal shorts, but still needs to pull them out of his ass of course.)

[Laughs.] It’s not the fault of the clothes. It’s a habit that I picked up when I was competing when I was young. I am trying to break the habit, but it’s not easy.

Can’t be easy, because I don’t think Nadal enjoys these discussions about his ass and prefers to let his tennis talk. But as we all know, bad habits die hard.

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From Yahoo Sports:
Sun Sep 05 06:03pm PDT
Venus Williams' dress gives her problems during U.S. Open win

By Chris Chase

Follow Busted Racquet's U.S. Open coverage on Twitter.

Opinions on Venus Williams' pink, sequined dress with matching Bedazzled tennis underwear will vary, but on one thing we can all agree: It was quite a distraction.

Though Venus defeated No. 18 seed Shahar Peer in straight sets during their third-round match at the U.S. Open on Sunday, the tightness of Venus' self-designed dress clearly gave her issues throughout the match. During most points the tight garment would ride up Venus' hips, revealing her undergarments for everyone to see. Before the next point began, Venus would have to pull down the sides of the dress. The routine captivated the announcers in the CBS broadcast booth, who talked about the form-fitting dress for much of the match.

[Photos: See Venus in her distracting flashy dress]

At one point they had this hilarious exchange:

John McEnroe: I think that dress has distracted [Venus].

Dick Enberg: It's distracting you.

McEnroe: That's a fair point.

Enberg: It sounds like it might be a distraction to her opponent.

McEnroe: Well, she's tugging at it. She's uncomfortable with it.

Mary Carillo: She uses that fabric a lot in her designs, John. And for the last couple of years we've seen her have to correct her outfit after every point.

CBS went so far as to later display a "tug count" that tallied the number of times Venus and Peer pulled at their respective dresses following a point. At the time, Venus was leading Peer 42 to four.

[Photos -- Fashion at the U.S. Open: The best | The worst]

At a press conference following the match, Venus was asked whether the dress and its constant readjustment-necessity was a distraction. "No," she said. "The only thing that bothered me was when I didn't win the point, I think. That was it."

That tug count would suggest otherwise.

A few comments from the same website expose the sexism and racism of what is above rather succinctly. They note that what men do that is distracting isn't commented on by John McEnroe as much or AT ALL, such as men tennis players (in the cases remarked about below: those of Spaniard Rafael Nadal, and U.S. white guy Andy Roddick, re-arranging the position of their genitals throughout a match in obvious ways, or tugging at their own attire, front and back in ways that are gross. Pulling a tube dress down over shorts that aren't "underwear" isn't gross and doesn't draw attention to one's crotch or butt-crack, as the boys' behavior most certainly does--to only the mildest of critique, or no mention at all.

From the comments section, there is this:

Good Job today Venus considering your lack of match play this Summer...Loved the dress...McEnroe is an idiot sometime and so is CBS for letting him go on on about the dress...Carillo and Enburg tried to cut him off but he just kept on going...I want to see the graphic of how many times Nadal adjust his draws during a match or how many time Roddick adjust his's a dress people it has no bearing on the tennis players ability to play tennis...
Win Venus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

If you need to tug your pants all the time then there is clearly an issue with the outfit....The undisputed leader in tugging pants however still is Rafael Nadal! A disgusting habit... Change your outfits or underwear or whatever it is that bothers... and let viewers enjoy the Tennis rather than having to get annoyed with the distracting disgusting tugging habit! 

so the girls wearing the flouncy skirts with their asses showing is alright??? you see butt cheeks when the wind blows those skirts up. at least Venus has on shorts that are a lot longer than what the other girls in loose skirts tend to have on.....and i agree on a few of the other posters....i'd rather see Venus tugging down her skirt than Nadal picking his crack like he's infested with pinworms. yuck!

nadal is constantly tugging at his pants; roddick "rearranges" himself on every point when he's receiving. Both are disgusting habits (especially Roddick's but I've never heard anyone talk about that one).


Anonymous said...

Longtime reader, first time commenter.

I 100% agree that sports commentators and advertisers' expectations hold women to the double/triple standard. "Be fit, but be sexy!" "Compete in athletic apparel, but be cute about it!" "Be in our commercial because you're an athlete, but we will only show you taking photos of your tiny fluffy dog."

And you are correct, Rafa Nadal does pick at his butt constantly during matches. But it has nothing to do with having a wedgie, so your exhortations for him to wear a jock strap or other clothes are useless.

Nadal has a large number of compulsive rituals; the labels on his water bottles have to face precisely perpendicular to the court and in a neat row, his shoes have to be laced in a particular way, he always takes three tennis balls, chooses two, and throws one back, he won't step on lines, he has to enter the court last, he adjusts his hair and/or towels off between each service point.

I believe, from interviews, that Nadal would *like* to stop picking his butt, but cannot.

Julian Real said...


Yeah, I read that too online, that it's a bad habit Rafa can't shake. I'd have to conclude from the list of rituals that maybe he doesn't want to shake it, as they may all, in his mind, equal "continued success" and who's to know!? Maybe he's right. Too bad for the viewers, though, that he couldn't just stick with the water bottles and hair-sweep-behind-the-ears adjustment.

Patti said...

A couple of the comments I read at one of the linked articles are the type that drive me nuts. For example (and I'm paraphrasing), 'at least she's not dressed like a man as so many of the female athletes are doing now' (dressing like men how, exactly? wearing crotch/butt closed clothing rather than crotch/butt open and exposed clothing??) or 'though they're playing sports, they should still be ladylike' (ladylike meaning what exactly??...wearing open access clothing, I assume, in addition to 'running like a girl' and 'throwing like a girl', etc.?).
So, to me, it's more like "We'll humour you allowing you to play your sports, but don't forget that, as a female, you must still exist to be an object of our gaze, our lust and our derision."
I've never quite been able to wrap my head around how, for females, open crotch/butt clothing is seen as decidedly modest whereas closed crotch/butt clothing is seen as decidedly immodest. Guess that's patriarchal logic hard at work!!

Oh, and as for the male butt picking, crotch grabbing c'mon's a "guy thing"...YOU know.... no need for further comment or scrutiny.

Julian Real said...

Logical phallusy all over the place, Patti!!

Why women aren't valued and welcomed to wear shorts like da boyz anywhere that boys where loose shorts, why???

Ah yes, because the prerequisite is that women's attire give het male viewers a really good idea of the cup size of women's breasts, a good look at the amount of cleavage, or repeated glimpses up the skirt at the underpants is really just so damned pornographically objectifying of women athletes. You can practically hear het U.S. men jerking off to Maria Sharipova being broadcast regardless of her ranking. Gee, why so much media focus on HER?? I wonder. It couldn't be because she's thin and blond with long hair and corporately pretty and looks like she could be a teenager, could it? Naaah.

Of course men design women's clothes to allow het men plenty of access, and women designers know what sells based on what is compulsory. Would Venus's designs be welcomed if they were loose-fitting shorts and tops? I wonder what the commentators would say then. Clearly there's no fair and equitable option for women athletes.

I remember the first time I saw Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in SHORTS, you know, like the men wear. Shorts--baggy, not skin-tight, no skirt. SHORTS. Wow. They seemed so, I don't know--COMFORTABLE, appropriate to the sport, and not designed to welcome het men visually into the region of women's crotches. I'm glad Venus's designs make it clear that the tight shorts under the dress are not "underpants." And in that case, the dress riding up isn't really any more of a big deal than a t-shirt or other top riding up on men. But you'd think she was bare naked "down there" by the way some of these commentators remark. Within patriarchal rules, she can't win... at designing for women, but she CAN win at TENNIS.

I demand that men have to wear skirts that blow up so I can determine the religion of the male athletes, until such time that women athletes are wearing loose-fitting shorts, not skirts.

Well, maybe not! I'm not sure we need all that extra genital action in our faces.

The tennis dudes need to figure this whole matter out: clearly basketball players have, for goodness sakes! It's called tight undergarment that "holds things in place" and loose outer layer. Male genitals bouncing around and requiring constant re-adjustment is a solvable problem! Let them wear bike shorts and looser shorts--the male cyclists' genitals stay in place well enough.

I mean, it's not brain surgery after all. If we can send a few men to the moon, surely men can figure out how to not have to "touch themselves" in the junk and trunk areas of their bodies while on camera.

Patti said...

"Shorts--baggy, not skin-tight, no skirt. SHORTS. Wow. They seemed so, I don't know--COMFORTABLE, appropriate to the sport,..."

YES!! YES!! YYYEEEESSSSSS!!!! That's it EXACTLY!! That's what drives me so darn crazy when I read/hear people go on and on ad nauseum about how women wearing pants or shorts are doing so out of a rebellious nature and/or out of wanting to look like men or whatever derogatory statement they want to make!! The notion that certain apparel might actually be more comfortable (as well as actually more modest in that it doesn't expose the genital area)when engaging in whatever sport or activity is being performed seems to elude most people. And when it IS brought to their attention, and the comfort/modesty issue is undeniable, then it's time to dust off and trot out Deuteronomy rather than admit the truth behind the 'regulations' governing what is considered as 'appropriate apparel' for women.
Believe me, I have read and heard a lot when questioning why pants and shorts are considered less modest than skirts and dresses. And when all other argument fails, then it's "Blame it on God....he's the one who said that women are not to wear that which pertaineth to a man". And the best yet to support the "God's rules" argument (and I've read several iterations of this same logic) has GOT to be:
"Lest anyone should fail to understand that pants are “men’s clothing,” take a look at the sign on ANY men’s restroom". Oooohhhhh, okay! So when Moses returned from atop Mt. Sinai carrying those two tablets of stone that were inscribed by the very finger of God.....what we've been told for so many years were the Ten Commandments.....were, in actuality, gender-appropriate restroom signs. Got it!!

And if there is any question about women's involvement in sports being taken less seriously than men's involvement in sports, just tune in to a golf tournament and listen to the commentators. When it's men's golf, they talk about his stance, his swing, his successes/failures during other matches....his gameplay, in other words. But when it's women's golf, they talk about her apparel.

Julian Real said...

Hi Patti,

It all makes one thing we haven't come such a long way, and have, in fact, drifted backward into the sea of acceptable sexism and misogyny.

As for those restroom/public loo symbols: I just assumed the image with the slacks was for women and the other one was for men in kilts to use. ;)

Summerspeaker said...

Good call on the oppressive double standard, but I'm not sure what complaining about how the dudes touch themselves accomplishes. Coding certain body parts as gross strikes me as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Testicles are just testicles. Particularly in this context, what's the big deal? But I must admit I have minimum familiarity with sports viewing and its norms.

Julian Real said...

Hi Summerspeaker,

The point I'm trying to make is that if women behaved as men did, grabbing between their butt-cheeks to haul out some fabric, or tugging at their vulvas repeatedly, or visibly adjusting the position of their breasts after every point made in a tennis match, the press would have lots of pornographic and vile things about women to say about it. When men do it, "no big whoop". So you appear to me to be saying "no big whoop" and believe me, I watch enough tennis to not be particularly upset with what men do on the court. I'm used to it.

Again, the whole discussion is about the double/triple standard. And I was just making the point that men grabbing their crotches, tugging at and re-arranging their genitals, and pulling at their asses is "acceptable" and not remarked about, usually, by the commenters in the sport, but whatever women do--from how they dress to how loudly they "grunt" becomes fodder for commentators' criticism and all of that is part of a larger system in which men feel entitled to critique women's bodies endlessly and misogynistically, while men can get away with just about anything.

Do I think fat men with their guts hanging out and their ass-cracks showing shouldn't be allowed out in public? No. They should be. But when will men get it that they should shut the fuck up when it comes to publicly commenting about women's bodies, their attire, and how it is positioned on their bodies?