You Know Who Cares About Women Grunting in Tennis? Sexists.

Illustration for article titled You Know Who Cares About Women Grunting in Tennis? Sexists.

Summertime is almost here, which means that tennis season is upon us again—that magical time of year when we gather around the television with our loved ones and talk a bunch of sexist shit about female athletes just doing their fucking jobs. You know, grunting season.

Tennis is a sport that involves using your arm muscles to swing a big fly-swatter thingy as hard as you can at a tiny little ball, over and over, for hours. Sometimes, when a tennis player (male or female) hits the ball with the swatter, they grunt with exertion—just like you, when you lift a heavy box of video game cartridges or sit down too hard in the recliner. Oof! Gross!!! The difference is, though, that these tennis-grunters are professional athletes who are the best in the world at hitting-tiny-balls-really-fast-with-a-thingy, and their priority, weirdly, is not your boner. Their priority is winning the tennis. Full stop.

And make no mistake, though male and female tennis players grunt with equal frequency and vigor, the anti-grunting brigade is deeply sexist. Take this Wall Street Journal article, entitled "Confessions of a Tennis Grunter":

Grunting is a much bigger deal in women's tennis. The debate over player noise has come and gone for decades, but it's especially contentious now, with a pair of imposing grunters ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world-Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Sharapova's grunt is a loud, straightforward yelp, but Azarenka's grunt is something to behold. The first time you hear it, you're amazed. It screeches and flutters and carries. It sounds as if someone has accidentally stepped on a bird.


FASCINATING. The author goes on to concede that, "What's obvious-and a little hard to justify-is that men generally get a pass on grunting." Yes. Yes, they do. But if you're having such a hard time justifying that stupid, sexist double standard of tennis grunting, then why write an entire article dissecting the animalistic grunts of female tennis players? Whyyyyyyyyyy? Can't we stop? Can't we just watch the tennis?

Nobody gives a care about male tennis grunts, because men are supposed to be animals—strong and virile and vital and whatever. Women are supposed to be dolls. So female tennis grunts are sexualized and ridiculed in ways that male grunts aren't. Women are pretty and graceful. We are not supposed to be strong or gross or human or publicly unhinged or particularly athletic (except for the kind of athleticism that keeps us slim). Muscle and sweat and exertion (and sexual agency, which is at the root of a lot of grunt jokes) defeminize us, and there's no greater crime for a woman than failing at womanhood (and in much of the public consciousness, womanhood really boils down to bonerz). So in a sport like women's tennis, where the uniform is a miniskirt and most of the players conform to conventional standards of hotness, you bet your DUH that viewers get pissy when some big old bellowy yak grunts break the illusion.

Like, if there was a Pooping Season (stick with me here)—a time of year when a bunch of men and women pooped competitively on TV—you know the women would get criticized for pooping. "Ewww, gross! Women shouldn't be pooping! It's unladylike!" "'s pooping season. You said I could participate. Also, you were just pooping just now!" "Shut up, lesbian! Go cloak your shame!" (I SWEAR TO GOD THIS IS A GOOD ANALOGY.)

Grunting is natural. It's a thing that comes out of our bodies when we work. So if you care about tennis, then watch the goddamn tennis. And if you're serious about "letting" women be professional tennis players—if you want them to be really, really good at something while also looking hot in a tiny skirt—then don't criticize them for fucking playing tennis.

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I have been watching tennis religiously since the early 80's. As the women's game has gotten faster and more physical, I expect to hear more grunting than back in the days of Navritilova and Evert. But what many of the female players are doing today isn't grunting. At the risk of using terms loaded with sexist implications, some players, like Sharapova, are really shrieking or screaming. Its distracting and annoying as hell, and many players have admitted its far more attributable to strategy and unnerving their opponent than to athletic exertion. Its hard to "watch the goddamn tennis" with all that going on; its distracting and disrespectful. And I'd feel the same way if men were doing it, but sorry, they aren't.