Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The beauty conundrum

So the entire tennis world is up in arms over an allegation that the Wimbledon organizers place the pretty players on center court while the homely chicks are relegated to the courts located in the netherworld. I have honestly been shocked by the amount of press that this story has managed to attract, what with the universal fixation on the death of Michael Jackson and the astonishing number of related scandals now clogging up the news pages.

I was even more intrigued that a spokesperson for the All England Club apparently conceded that physical attractiveness is one of the factors that determine court assignment. This admission -- if indeed it was made -- was as dumb as the apparent statement by someone from US Air that pitchman Billy Mays should have been wearing his seat belt when something from the overhead compartment hit him on the head. There are some things that I would not expect a PR savvy individual to admit, even when they are true.

But I’ve written before about this whole beauty issue. I will not repeat myself. I will instead recount a recent personal experience that affected me and that puts into perspective how I came to understand (again) that even the women designated as “pretty” may not necessarily be thrilled by the attention associated with their beauty.

I’ve started learning to play golf. I loved it immediately, and, if I do say so myself, have discovered that I have quite a knack for it. I assume that there must be some transfer of skills from my tennis. No wonder so many tennis players also take up golf.

So, having learned the hard way (from tennis) that it is better to learn how to play a sport the right way from the start, I signed up for a series of group lessons. We were about fifteen, a group of men and women, randomly assigned to about five instructors. For several of the lessons, I happened to be in the cluster with the same instructor. In my cluster was a very attractive young women whom I easily befriended. It became quickly apparent that our instructor was attracted to her. For every 90-minute session, he spent about 60 minutes dedicated exclusively to her. I learned how to play by listening to what he was telling her to do and simply copying it as best as I could.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no shy wall-flower. So of course from session one I would pipe up and practically demand this man’s attention. So did other members of our cluster. He ignored us all, and remained zoomed in on his target. By lesson three I was utterly frustrated, so I joined a different cluster and got some serious attention. Problem solved.

One day, I am walking into class and ran into the young woman. I started teasing her about her “boyfriend” and about how the only way I was learning anything was by eavesdropping on their private sessions. She then started complaining to me about how fed up she was of this man’s attention. She was actually quite disgusted by it. She was a married woman who loved her husband and had made a point of talking about him to us all so that the instructor would back off. He persisted, disrespectfully, all under the guise of teaching her how to play golf. I understood then why her game never improved. She was too discomfited by the experience to learn anything.

She no-showed for the last two lessons. I was not surprised. I regretted only that I had not exchanged telephone numbers with her so that we could stay in touch and go out and hit a few together. And the experience reminded me that it is not always a picnic for women who find themselves defined only by their beauty.

So to this outrage over the apparent admission by a Wimbledon representative that less attractive women are discriminated against, I want to point out that this is not a compliment for the attractive women either. Because the message to the beauties is that their tennis accomplishments matter little. Their only worth is for the occasional up-skirt and boob shot. That too is profoundly offensive and deeply disrespectful to all women, pretty or homely.


William said...


I like your writing style... And the cat.

Thank you for the comment on my blog. I appreciate it.

So, your a Psychologist? I I do Behavioural Science therapy, and I think I'll extend it to a master's in Counselling Psych.

meeks said...

amen sister

Karen said...

I have an experience to talk about as well. When I took up tennis a few years ago, I was in a class with a really nice looking instructor named Eddie. A Latino, who was very good looking and had a rocking body. Had skin the colour of chocolate. Anyway, there were 10 of us in the group 8 women and 2 men. By the end of the first week, most had dropped out and there was only about 5 of us left. There was one very attractive young lady there (she was white, the rest of the women were black). Anyway, that girl had no hand/eye coordination and Eddie spent an inordinate amount of time with her. She eventually stopped coming because guess what, she realised that she was really not very good at tennis and Eddie finally had to teach those of us who actually paid good money to learn how to play tennis.

Anonymous said...

Women are every bit as culpable as men when it comes to attraction and preferential treatment . Why don't you talk to some short men and find out their feelings about how females treat them relative to taller men? Do you think a female instructor wouldn't pay more attention to a good looking male over a short, fat, bald guy? How would your golfing partner have reacted if the instructor looked like Brad Pitt? Yeah, she would've been back for more lessons, (sans the complaints) happily married or not. Don't kid yourself; this goes both ways. And it happens in all areas of life: at the bar with female bartender, the good looking guy gets served first, on the sales floor, the good looking guy will get tended to first; at social functions the tall, good looking guy will reap the majority of female attention. So on and so on… Tennis is just another facet of the same *unfair* phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Nature is a cruel master and couldn't give a wit about fair and certainly plays no favorites for males or females. Genetic reproduction, and all it's ugliness, is at the bottom of almost every single human behavior, and colors all aspects of life, society and culture. You can be angry about it; you can write about it; you can create laws to try and stem it; you can boycott till you're blue in the face. But, the simple fact of the matter is that it's not going away. Not now, not ever. For those lucky enough to be endowed with those traits found attractive by the opposite sex, they will always get preferential treatment. For males and females lacking in those particular traits, life is a much harder walk, for sure. As much as it is awful, learning how to deal with it is part of growing up.

tennischick said...

Thank you all for commenting. I agree with many points above.

To Anonymous (feel free to leave your name -- I don't bite :-) ), I agree with you. But one difference for men in my opinion is that they are less likely to be defined by their looks. Meaning that a short bald guy like say Danny DeVito can still have a tremendous career. His wife may not have that option because she is more likely to be defined exclusively by her looks no matter how talented she is.

That said, I was not at all intending to indicate that life is not also sometimes very unfair to men.

Anonymous said...

For every Danny Devito you point out, i'll raise you a Roseanne Barr.

Men always get judged on their looks, not to the extent that women do, you're correct on that. But, men get the added bonus of being judged by things like social status, career, money etc... It's the same type of superficial judgements. It's no more fun for a guy when the first question out of girls mouth is "what do you do for a living?" than for a girl getting "eye balled" by some guy. Different sides of the same coin, so to speak.

And i don't fear your bite, just haven't thought of cool name yet...sort of like annonymous

tennischick said...

Nice debate. Again, I do not disagree with you. What I am trying to say is for women it goes beyond judging to the point of being defined by their looks. Even Rosanne felt the need to abandon the domestic goddess look and try to conform to the prevailing standard of beauty. Her talent wasn't enough -- she had to be thin and pretty too. It's not just a question of being judged for a feature. It's about being completely and exclusively defined by it.

Let's agree to disagree on the rest. I have tennis to watch. :-)

tennischick said...

To William:
Thanks for stopping by. I have an interest in photography and loved the photos on your site. Nice work.

Of course you should do the Psych degree. Then again, I'm biased. ;)

William said...

Thank you so much for the nice words.

I have a degree in Psych from Queen's and then specialization in Behavioral Science. While I love this kind of work, I want to make sure I'm more internationally recognized. As, I have often given thought to living in New Zealand next.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog

For about a year now I have been giving tennis lessons to a womens USTA team made up of young extremely competitive housewives at a local country club, are there attractive women in the group? YES, have they passed flirting comments at me? YES, I am very much aware of their existence, as any man would be, I am also aware of the fact that the other women in the group, at the end of the day, are paying me the exact same amount as the "attractive women" so I try my best to be sure to give each woman a tip/instruction each time they come up in the rotation and I try to not spend an large amount of time chit chatting with any one specific player....