Tennis Star Iga Swiatek Quizzed On ‘Makeup’; When Will We Stop Asking Sexist Questions?

Props to Swiatek who handled the question pretty well but why must she be asked the question at all? Why did the reporter sideline her achievement of winning the second French Open?

Sanjana Deshpande
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Being a woman, there's no escape from sexism and sexist questions no matter how accomplished you are! You could be promoting your film, fashion label or even sitting at a press conference after you just won a tournament, but the questions never change. Twenty-one-year-old French Open Champ and world number one tennis player of Polish descent, Iga Swiatek was quizzed about her make-up!

Yes, Swiatek who won her second French Open title in three years on June 4, Saturday, was quizzed about her 'makeup' routine in a two-part question during the post-match conference. Sports broadcaster Catherine Whitaker shared a photo of the transcript. She captioned it, "Here’s a thing that World Number One and freshly crowned French Open Champion Iga Swiatek was asked in her press conference today. Presenting without comment because there are no words."

What was the question?  "The second question is: Outside of the court when you go to a party, do you use makeup? Do you like to go elegant and smart and so on? Because many players we have seen in the past were staying hours in front of the mirror before going on court and using makeup. And you seem very natural like this," the reporter asked after questioning her about her best shot.

What necessitated the question? Why do people think it is okay to ask irrelevant sexist questions to women celebrities during press conferences?

While the 21-year-old did patiently reply to the reporter's query by saying that she does not wear makeup nor does she feel like she has to. But she reportedly added, "Well, that’s … Wow, I don’t have that in my PR brief, you know, so it’s hard to answer. Well, I’m not using makeup like really often. I honestly just learned how to do makeup like six months ago, so that’s pretty embarrassing."

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Props to Swiatek who handled the question pretty well but why must she be asked the question at all? Why did the reporter sideline her achievement of winning the second French Open? Why can't we accept that women have equally good sporting calibre? We don't see many reporters doing this with men, do we? Then why ask such an absurd question to women?

It's not the first time a sportsperson was asked questions pertaining to their personal life. Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has also dealt with such sexist remarks and gave a befitting reply. Even cricketer Mithali Raj was asked about her favourite "male cricketer" between India and Pakistan. “Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is," she'd snapped.

Susah K Cahn, a professor at the University of Buffalo, was quoted in an article saying that women are posed such questions because women's sports are not yet considered at par with that of men. Cahn says that women athletes have had to "embrace the media's sexualisation and emphasis on their femininity" for fame and money.

The report quoted another study which stated that even if the women athletes attempted to abstain from the media's sexualisation, they received flak from viewers and in some cases even their peers.

While women's sports are gradually gaining prominence, we still have a long way to go. Women athletes' determination to not give in to the media's sexist jabs, however, has only strengthened and now fellow sportspersons stand by each other and defend them, expressing their outrage over sexist remarks as such.

For the scenario to change, efforts have to be made on a larger scale with women being inducted into sports more. We need to make space for the women athletes in sports, and support them relentlessly. People need to unlearn the patriarchal conditioning that women only belong to domesticated life.

Views expressed are the author's own

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