I love Kim Clijsters. If this comes as a surprise to you, see these old posts of mine:
The Australian Open is taking place right now and Clijsters is a top contender to win the whole thing. She is also famous in tennis circles for being the first mom to win a grand slam since 1980. And since having her daughter, she has won the US Open twice. She is clearly very happy to be a mom but she is also a damn good tennis player. Yet, even when playing tennis and playing it well, she can’t escape chatter about her being a mom (or apparently, the size of her boobs).
Since she is a woman, AP articles about her start with the phrase “working mother” (does Federer ever have the title “working father” used to describe him?). As someone who is a working mother, I know that I am sensitive about the conflation between my personal and professional life, the easy way that people want to assume that my personal has a huge impact on my professional in a way that it doesn’t for people without children, especially because I am a woman. I imagine Clijsters may feel the same way.
Last week, Todd Woodbridge, a commentator and former player, looked at Kim, made a snap judgment about her body (he thought her boobs looked bigger), and used that to make a (false) assumption about whether Clijsters was pregnant. He then texted that to another tennis player (I’m sure that happens to Federer, too). Clijsters, having seen the text message the other day, clearly didn’t like this.
I am guessing that other players and commentators, when they feel the urge to judge the size of Kim’s boobs or decide that she is grumpier than normal (again – why must this signal for a mother that she is pregnant again? Has anyone watched tennis? The men are grown-up grumpy babies) or use those judgments to guess about whether she is pregnant, they will probably think twice now before doing so.
A couple of days ago, this happened after she won her match on center court :
The U.S. Open champion had just won her second-round match Thursday, swiftly beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3, and was greeted by Woodbridge for an on-court interview.
“You thought I was pregnant?” she lightheartedly asked Woodbridge, drawing stadium-wide laughter as she informed him she had seen the text message he’d sent to Australian doubles player Rennae Stubbs.
“Are you?” he asked, blushing.
“No, I’m not” she said, leaning into his microphone to reveal his message said Clijsters “looks really grumpy” and more busty than usual. Woodbridge joked his TV career was now over.
The 27-year-old Clijsters, known as one of the friendliest and polite players on the women’s tour, later said she’d enjoyed the playful banter.
The day before the match, Clijsters said she was chatting with Stubbs, a close friend, about “babies and having a second one” when Stubbs showed her the text from Woodbridge. When her match ended Thursday, Clijsters saw that Woodbridge was her interviewer and chuckled.
“I saw him walk out there, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m going to get him back now,’” she said.
As Jezebel says, “It probably isn’t the “end of his career,” but hopefully this does mark the end of Woodbridge thinking he can practice gynecology from the sidelines.”
Let’s be clear once more about what happened here, though. Woodbridge was policing Clijsters’ body and sending that to another female tennis player. Woodbridge was policing Clijsters’ behavior (oh no! she was grumpy! women shouldn’t be grumpy unless they are pregnant because we all know pregnant women are grumpy!) and sent that to another female tennis player. Woodbridge then blantantly said that he thought that these two things could mean that Clijsters, who was in the middle of a tennis tournament and about to play in a grand slam, was pregnant – to another female tennis player. So, now both that tennis player and Clijsters understand (though I am sure they knew this before) that their bodies and their behavior are being watched and judged by that male tennis commentator who feels like he can text that judgment around. Woodbridge was saying that Clijsters looked bigger and was acting meaner (she is famously one of the nicest people on tour) and those two things are markers for him of pregnant women. Ouch.
I am very happy that Clijsters made it known on national TV in Australia that this had happened and that she wasn’t okay with it. And I love that she did with her famously beautiful smile and super nice attitude, too.
Good on you, Kim Clijsters. I am cheering for you.