This week, Andy Murray refused to let a BBC presenter ignore the Olympic achievements of Venus and Serena Williams. Stylist.co.uk's Moya Crockett says we need more men like Murray.
I’ve always liked Andy Murray. I don’t care about his sporting abilities, or the glory-by-proxy his wins have bestowed upon Britain; I’ve tried to summon up an interest in tennis, but it hasn't happened yet. Despite this, there’s something about a dour Scot with a Chandler Bing-style aversion to smiling for the camera (see also: Gordon Brown) that has always warmed the cockles of my cold, cold heart.
And now, my long-standing soft spot for the world’s least charismatic sportsman has been softened even more.
In case you missed it, Murray won his second gold medal at the Rio Olympics on Sunday, after defeating Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro. After the match, he popped along for an interview with the BBC’s John Inverdale.
“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals,” gushed Inverdale. “That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?”
It is an extraordinary feat, of course. But as Murray – who has been a self-defined feminist ever since he witnessed the “criticism and prejudice” experienced by his former coach, Amelie Mauresmo – was quick to point out, he wasn’t “the first person ever” to achieve it.
“Well, to defend the singles title,” he reminded Inverdale. “I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each, but hadn’t defended a singles title before.”
In Rio, conversation quickly moved on. On the internet, however, people applauded.
With his characteristically understated manner, Murray’s gentle rebuke to Inverdale has reminded men around the world that it’s not only possible, but necessary, for them to call out low-level sexism when they see it. In the moment, it would have been so easy – so easy – for Murray to say nothing at all; to simply nod and grin along with Inverdale, and allow the Williams sisters’ “extraordinary feats” to be obscured by his own.
But part of being a male feminist must involve calling other men out on their bullshit – particularly ones like Inverdale. (Lest we forget, this is the man who once said of tennis star Marion Bartoli: “I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker… so you have to compensate for that’”.)
Because while there are exceptions, it’s often actually easier for men than women to challenge sexist language and behaviour when they see it happening. That’s the messed-up beauty of patriarchy, y’see: sexist men tend to be more likely to listen to other men.
So three cheers for male feminist allies – and three cheers for Andy Murray.
Images: Rex Features