The ATP World Tour Tennis Draw

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Thanks to Su Steenberg, Bath University's International Student Experience Project Officer for this blog post:

Trashy’, ‘Disgraceful’, ‘Sexist’…

What am I referring to?  You must know.  It been on the news every day.  It’s been on television for over a week. No? If you do an online search for ATP, you’ll find many pages about this year’s World Tour.  You’ll read a lot about Roger Federer not reaching the finals.  I’m not a tennis fan, I haven’t been following this tournament, I haven’t watched it on telly and I haven’t read about it but even I know about poor Roger.

But that’s not what I’m referring to. If you do an online search for ATP 2017 Draw, after the top 3 articles you will find just 4 items on what has been described as ‘uncomfortable viewing’, ‘shameful’, ‘awful’.  On Nov 5th, 7 of the world’s top ranked under 21 male tennis players were asked to pick a female model to find out which round robin group they would play in.  How did they find out?  My personal top 3 methods:

  • A South Korean player was asked to pull a model's glove off with his teeth.
  • One model revealed it by on her thigh by provocatively lifting her lace dress.
  • Another model suggestively took off her jacket to reveal it on her back.

I happened to watch the news the following morning when this was being reported.  It infuriated me and I wanted to know more.  But by the time I came home that evening it wasn’t widely reported. It wasn’t as newsworthy as Roger Federer losing a match.

It was claimed there was an outcry and as a result both ATP and Red Bull, the organisers, issued an apology.  The most interesting thing about the apology was their statement that the intention was to integrate Milan's rich heritage as one of the fashion capitals of the world. 7 young professional women had to partially, provocatively, de-robe not just in front of 7 talented young men but to a live and televised audience.  What did it have to do with tennis, with Milan, with fashion?

If there was an outcry, then what has happened since this ‘shocking’ event?  I don’t know.  A few people used a few adjectives (noted above), it was reported on television for a few hours and a half a dozen articles were written by the mainstream media. What happened to the young men and women in the audience and those who watched on television?  I don’t know.  Was it just a bit of fun, not a big deal?

For me, as a woman and mother, as a professional who works with young people in that age group, it was all the above adjectives and more.  Appalling and unacceptable come to mind. There is undeniable research proving that there is a link between sexist attitudes and sexual objectification and sexual harassment and assault. The ATP tagline for this year’s Next Gen tour was The Future is Now.  They need to seriously consider #NEVEROK.

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