We Heart: Kim Clijsters

Just after tennis player Kim Clijsters beat her opponent in the Australian Open, she scored a major victory for the women of the world.

After the game, when Clijsters went on camera with courtside interviewer Todd Woodbridge, she confronted him about a nasty text message he sent about her.

“You thought I was pregnant?” she said in front of 38,000 people, many more watching on TV. “I’m not.” Clijsters turned to the audience. “Let me say what was written in the message–she looks really grumpy and her boobs are bigger.”

Wow! Outside of bad reality TV, I’ve never seen a woman on camera directly confront a man for calling her fat! Not only that, when Clijsters was speaking she seemed happy, victorious and beautiful. Instead of being humiliated by a guy making fun of her body, Clijsters turned the shame where it belonged, on the one who made the comment instead of the recipient and that is a huge win for women.

Whether you happen to be Hillary Clinton or a high school student, having someone make fun of your appearance, or even just the threat of it, has been an effective way to keep women quiet and in their place. The ‘ugly feminist’ and ‘dumb beauty queen’ are caricatures–flip sides of the same coin–both images relentlessly telling women: You can’t be strong and pretty, so make your choice. And, by the way girls, here’s a hint on which way you should go: Women get power in our culture by being attractive to men, so if you risk trying to get powerful some other way, you may lose your power!

Another cool thing about this story: it was another woman player who got the text from Woodbridge and exposed it to Clijsters. No catfight here. Most likely, not the reaction Woodbridge was expecting. What would happen if women refused to call each other fat? So often, we are the ones acting out on our training to keep each other down by judging and rating each others appearances. Our competitive drives get funneled into socially acceptable and non-threatening to men stakes like beauty, boys, and popularity.

By calling out a ‘mean guy’ for his nasty gossip, Clijsters shook up stereotypes about women and men, also teaching us all a lesson: don’t trashtalk! Another cool thing about her–when she was actually pregnant, she ‘retired’ from tennis only to successfully return to competition a year later, showing the world that moms can be tennis stars.

Sometimes a victory speech isn’t just a victory speech. Here’s to hoping more women get the mic and change the world.

Reprinted with permission from ReelGirl. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. The problem with the question, "What would happen if women refused to call each other fat?" is that some women ARE fat. And we're okay with it. While fat is still a wounding word for many, that question merely reinforces the idea that it's bad. Instead why not ask, "What would happen if women refused to put each other down (often in an effort to make themselves feel better)?" "What if women refused to let other people feel bad about their bodies?"

  2. You’re a bit daft. Clijsters and Woodbridge are great mates. She babysat his kids even. And you don’t get the Aussie sense of humour (but Kim certainly has picked it up).

    • margotmagowan says:

      J.S.

      I get the sense of humor! That's what I was writing about. What if every time a woman was called fat, she laughed? The world would change.

      Margot

  3. Carol King says:

    Great story – thanks for sharing. I'm not a tennis fan but I love that she confronted him on the air – a strong, confident woman with a sense of humor. She's a great role model.

  4. J.S., are you saying that Kim Clijsters made the story up as a kind of insult/joke? Yes, Australians often use insults or jibes to provoke people they are friendly with, in an ironic way, but this was an epic thing to do on live camera. As a commentator, Woodbridge should be neutral and only concerned with the tennis performance. Kim brought to the surface the kinds of problems that women tennis players probably have to deal with behind the scenes all the time.

  5. Pedestrienne says:

    J.S., I grew up in Australia, and I have often found the "Aussie sense of humour" to greatly involve belittling of minorities — an example being the oft-used insult "girl" to denote a weak male. I don't actually think there's anything wrong with "not getting" that – in my 28 years, I have failed to.

  6. You seem to have blown this out of proportion! I think it was meant as a bit of a joke (perhaps inappropriate) which Kim handled in the same manner. She was laughing when she brought it up! Rather than a confrontation, it looked to me more like a bit of a 'tut-tut' finger wag. But, Todd did not call her fat – he said her boobs were bigger, a somewhat different matter. Most women's breasts enlarge early in pregnancy, so he was asking that question. Nasty? No. Sexist? Perhaps. Not worth holding up as an example of trashtalk. Todd is not a nasty person. I think that the one who received the message behaved at least slightly inappropriately; she should not have showed Kim, but gone back to Todd himself if she thought the text was inappropriate. He might then have realised it was not his business, the recipient would have put the issue back where it belonged, and Kim would be none the wiser. More importantly, a molehill would not have become a mountain. I think Kim was right to bring it up, but it should have been done privately as the text was sent privately. If it wasn't for people's hunger for gossip and publicity, peddled and supported by every form of media, this kind of story wouldn't even make a whisper in the schoolyard.

  7. margotmagowan says:

    withoutscene,

    I was thinking about bodytypes like Clijsters, but I agree and it's a great line– "What would happen if women refused to put each other down (often in an effort to make themselves feel better)?" I believe the world would change, absolutely.

    When my daughter was five, she learned the word 'chubby' at school and thought it was a 'bad' word. When she came home, she called me chubby all day and I couldn't figure it out. Then my husband showed up, and she called him chubby and I got it and said, "Chubby isn't a bad word." My husband said, "What? You think I'm fat!"

    A lot of work to be done in this area.

    Thanks for your comment and for reading the blog.

    Margot

  8. And yet the "related post" below this article when accessed through facebook sets women right back with: "5 looks at Venus Williams' ass(ets)". Ugh!!!S

  9. ….she scored a major victory for the women of the world.

    It's hard not to laugh at the idea that fat women are not women but I've always known feminism has a big (ha!) problem with weight.

    Anyways, he suggested she might be pregnant not fat, since when is saying someone has bigger boobs and looks grumpy=fat?

    And yeah, I have to agree who cares if he did? Really if you wish to be offended by what is not offensive, that's tough on you. I'd suggest one to get over, like most women with any class are not 'offended' by being called lesbian.

  10. …. and after all that, he still didn't apologize… he just commented on the "end" of his own career… just another example of someone not being sorry, but only sorry they got caught.

Speak Your Mind

*