When in 2013, defying all odds, French woman Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon, she was termed as Fat, Pig and Ugly winner of the Venus Rosewater Dish. She was criticized for her serve run up as well as her mobility on court… So much so, we all remember BBC commentator John Inverdale’s sexist comments that cost him his job.
Cut to 2016, we saw an extremely thin Bartoli. Apparently she has reduced a lot of kilos and is looking sick. So naturally, a section of social media users especially people on Twitter began to scan her, began to understand her problem and believe it or not, they understood her problem as well.. That she is Anorexic, about to die, suddenly people were worried about her health .is she sick!, OMG what is wrong with her ? , what has she done to herself? She looks pathetic and so on. So basically, when you have muscles, you are fat…And when not…you are Anorexic and sick. The breakneck speed in which we judge someone and body shame them just blows my mind. I am being honest here it is not that her appearance did not surprise me. I myself believe that there is a stark difference in her appearance from 2013 but does that give me the right to shame her? that too without knowing the reason behind it? The way social media reacted and comments that some wrote, surprised me the most. There are so many male players from different walks of sport, are they shamed like that? It is absolutely not Men vs Women issue; because I know there are so many women itself that body shames other women. It’s about understanding somebody and definitely not judging. Aren’t we told to respect everyone’s body type. Isn’t there are so many ads, and campaigns that are breaking the old shackles and teaching us to not to judge or have preconceived notions about anybody? Isn’t the beauty of human race is that everyone’s body is different and it is not the right way to measure the credentials of anyone? By just terming some one’s body shape as “fat” or “skinny” aren’t we unnecessarily perpetuating beauty standards? Haven’t we learnt anything?
Bartoli claimed that a virus that infected her in India is the main reason behind her weight loss and that she has been undergoing blood transfusion to survive. Whatever may be the reason, body shaming in any case is not acceptable. I am surprised that so many players from different sport have been subjected to it. Tennis legend Serena Williams has faced it all. Her built has been a topic of cheap laughter among audiences. The most surprising part was the fact that “her eyebrows are so bushy” was inevitably trending on twitter when she won her 21st Grand Slam. The unfortunate fact is there is a stark difference of how women players should be like is not limited to spectators or commentators. The shaming is seen even in higher officials and so called intellectual people.
I remember a Tennis great calling Daniela Hantchova too skinny to play a power pact game for longer duration and cited it the main reason for her losses in the matches that are stretched to three sets. Perhaps he did not know, calling someone skinny is as insulting as calling someone a nigro.
Bethanie Mattek Sands’ colorful attire too raised many eyebrows and was also termed overweight to be a tennis player.
Oh yes, “Anna Kournikova is extremely beautiful and hence could not win matches”. I remember a well known cricket commentator who was commentating on some match (don’t remember who was playing) but it was June and Wimbledon was about to begin. He said to his fellow commentators that if you want to see the beautiful Russian Ana, than you better hurry, otherwise she will be out of the tournament and then there was a humongous laughter in the commentary box.! In the recently concluded Rio Olympics, Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno too suffered abuse for her size after she faltered at the bar. One of her bully wrote: “Alexa Moreno has the body of two gymnasts together; a diet before going to the Olympics would have been nice.”
It is not that everybody is the same and for sure there are so many people who always come forward to give support to players but there is a small section of people who think just because they have registered their names on different social media with a password, they can say whatever they like. This certainly is not a sign of a progressive world. We are no doubt entitled to our view but as the Spider Man says – With power comes great responsibility and one should always keep that in mind.