Why I’m not surprised by Inverdale’s ‘looker’ comments

ImageOver the weekend, BBC commentator John Inverdale landed himself in hot water when shortly after French tennis player Marion Bartoli had won Wimbledon, he took it upon himself to remind everyone watching the champion that she was not very hot.

The Radio 5 Live presenter’s comments came as Bartoli went through the crowds to celebrate with her dad. “Do you think,” he said, “Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5’11”, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.

“You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it,’ and she kind of is.’”

I’m angered by John Inverdale’s comments.

But I’m not surprised.

Because that’s the world we live in, folks.

The sentiments behind Inverdale’s outburst – though shocking, hurtful and outrageous – are all too familiar. In a world where women are objectified, as if their primary goal in life should be to be pretty, perhaps Inverdale was merely saying what so many people had taken as a given.

Germaine Greer writes in The Whole Woman: “Every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful.”

Every woman has that suspicion that beauty is the standard by which she is being judged; it is a marker of the elusive ‘complete package’. Many women feel there are many things they would trade in, just to be considered beautiful. So many intelligent, potentially world-changing, kind, compassionate, talented, championship-winning women are all too aware that they live in a world that will judge them – regardless of their achievements – on whether they conform to a rigid and arbitrary standard of beauty.

But what upsets me most about sentiments like those made by John Inverdale is their potential impact on the future generation. My hope and prayer is that what Naomi Wolf calls ‘The Beauty Myth’ will be less prevalent in the lives of future little girls. But I fear that little girls who might for a split second have watched Bartoli’s victory and dreamed of being just like her one day would have heard the message that their future dream victory would be meaningless if they did not grow up to be ‘a looker’.

Whether we’re parents or not, it’s our responsibility not to follow John Inverdale’s parenting tips: telling our daughters all the things they probably can’t be (beautiful), or can’t have (long legs). But instead telling them what they can do … (everything).

Maybe there’s hope. Because people  are talking about this issue. We are no longer accepting comments like John Inverdale’s. More than 600 people have complained to the BBC over the comments. Outrage has spilled out in social media. We’re saying enough is enough.

The revolution has begun…

But there’s is such a long way to go. Take a look at some of these horrendous tweets if you’d like some evidence)