U.K. tennis champion Andy Murray chalked up a second Olympic gold after defeating Argentina's Juan Martín del Potro in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night. But his win took a back seat to his comments in a post-match interview when he reminded a BBC presenter that, yes, women's tennis is also tennis.
John Inverdale, a journalist known for his loose tongue and his subsequent apologies for it, asked Murray, "You're the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That's an extraordinary feat, isn't it?"
"Well," Murray said, noting that though he is the first to defend a singles title at the Olympics, "Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four [gold medals] each."
Murray's comment was widely praised on Twitter — even J.K. Rowling gushed about the tennis player.
Ludicrous as it sounds today, it wasn't too long ago when the general public held fast to the idea that a woman's place was in the kitchen. Female astronauts? Forget it. An all-female cast in a film about friendship? Wouldn't sell. A woman as president of the United States? That's nearly offensive.
Although the 21st century has made stunning progress in terms of gender equality, antiquated attitudes about women persist. At the Rio Olympics, for example, there has been plenty of criticism that women athletes aren't being given the respect and airtime they deserve.
Despite their astounding, gravity-defying feats at the games, the female athletes are often compared to their male counterparts, their success attributed to the men in their lives. Their every move is over-scrutinized and they're often judged not by their performances but by how happy they look in the stands.
But vocal critique about the enduring sexism in sport are catalysts for change in the way female athletes are regarded — and comments like Murray's emphasizing their achievements help spur that change.
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