Eugenie Bouchard answers stupid question after winning quarterfinals at the Australian Open
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
After making history as the first Canadian in 22 years to reach the Australian Open semifinals, the most burning question to ask Eugenie Bouchard must of course be who she would date, yes? With publicity already being generated by her “Genie army,” a group of adoring (mostly young male) fans, was it necessary to attract more attention to her youth and femininity?
“You’re getting a lot of fans here,” said courtside interviewer Samantha Smith, “A lot of them are male. And they want to know, if you could date anyone in the world of sport, of movies—I’m sorry, they asked me to say this—who would you date?” Covering her face and blushing like an iconic blossoming teen, Bouchard’s hesitant but good-natured reply was, “Justin Bieber?” Met with hearty laughter and booing from spectators, she laughed and covered her face. “Okay, let’s get back to the tennis,” said Smith. Indeed.
The small spectacle was met with eye-rolling by tennis fans everywhere. While some tweeted about the ridiculousness of the question, others were outraged by the answer.
“It was bad that Bouchard just got asked on-court who, of anyone, she would date. It was worse when she said Justin Bieber,” tweeted Bruce Arthur, sports columnist for the National Post.
She responded to a terrible question with a predictable answer. I really don’t think that between winning against Ana Ivanovic and preparing for a match against (the now champion of the 2014 Australian Open) Li Na, she had time to consider her dating options. All possible answers aside, the outrage should really be over the question being asked in the first place. In response to an article in the online Courier-Mail (Australia) one comment read, “It is extremely disappointing that your tennis coverage would involve asking such a tacky, sexist question. Eugenie is an elite athlete, not some Aussie pop tart. I hope Channel Seven is ashamed of themselves.”
With Bouchard seeming completely naïve to the ridiculousness of the question, we can easily think there is no harm done. And in the long run that may be true, but this question had no place on the court—especially not after the biggest win of Bouchard’s career. To ask a question like that at that moment was downplaying her accomplishment and allowing women’s sports to once again be trivialized.
A Channel Seven spokesperson defended the question saying, “These wonderful athletes are not robots. We try to give viewers an insight into their personalities, as well as how they hit their forehands and backhands. And Sam achieved that. She asked Eugenie about the match, her coach’s advice, her composure, the Genie Army, and her next opponent, Li Na. And she also relayed a light-hearted question from a fan about dating—which was answered in the same spirit.”
The response sounds solid, but let the backlash serve as a warning to this poorly planned piece of sports reporting. The question should have been left to teen magazines.
While Bouchard’s win is greater than all the negative publicity generated by the incident, it nonetheless distracted from the true success of the moment. Although it’s easy to believe the question was good-natured and meant to reveal Bouchard’s humanity, the real effect is highlighting the double-standard that exists in sports. With mentions of the “Genie Army,” (and the fact that it exists at all), there is no need to further emphasize the differences between men’s tennis and women’s tennis. Although the sexualization of players occurs in male sports as well (see: David Beckham and Ryan Kesler), it is largely self-induced without the prompting of the media. While the struggle for females to receive recognition in the world of sports still exists, questions like these cannot be taken simply as “just plain stupid.” Whoever was responsible for prompting this question has, consciously or not, promoted sexual stereotypes and assumptions based on gender for the purpose of attracting attention. Next time, let the talent be the real attraction.