Tennis, the F Word and Expectations for Female Passivity

I bet that most female members of the Her Campus readership can admit to letting a few naughty words slip through their lips every now and then. Be it a word rhyming with ‘duck’ when you stub your toe or another that rhymes with ‘sit’ when you narrowly miss the bus. Perhaps you’re prone to using swear words to emphasise your statements; for example, ‘Can you clucking believe it?’ (Have you guessed I’m not allowed to publish swear words yet?)

What I’m trying to get at is this: swearing is a normal, everyday habit. Yeah, it ain’t always charming, but it happens. Sometimes you just gotta let it out, right?

Nonetheless, today a woman’s sweary outburst is front page news. Kim Sears (fiancé of Wimbledon champ Andy Murray and general darling of courtside cameras - not to mention animal portrait painter) was caught directing some foul language towards Murray’s opponent, Tomas Berdyk, during yesterday’s match at the Australian Open. According to professional lip readers Sears is thought to have said, ‘F*cking have that, you Czech flash f*ck’.

Caught in the heat of the moment, Sears’ choice of language can be justified. I’m not a tennis expert, but I heard it was a pretty tense match. Some have even welcomed Sears’ reaction as a refreshing exhibit of passion in the otherwise stiff-upper-lip-world that is professional tennis. Admittedly, Sears is often more vocal than the usual tennis crowd (think Judy Murray’s cool, poker face spectatorship) and is seen applauding and cheering during Murray’s matches.

My amusement from this situation comes from the media reaction it has generated. Sears’ use of the F word featured on the BBC News at 10 and I’ve noticed several page spreads of this story in the reviews of today’s papers. My question is, so what? Kim got a little potty-mouthed, but why is everyone getting so potty about said potty-mouth?

It comes down to the fact that the media have previously painted Sears with the same brush as Kate Middleton. Sears has been repeatedly set up in comparison to the Duchess of Cambridge; a quick Google search of ‘Kim Sears Kate Middleton’ revealed plenty of articles not only comparing the two women, but setting them up as rivals. For example, ‘OMG: It’s a Kate Middleton vs. Kim Sears fash-off at Wimbledon 2014’ and 'Andy Murray’s girlfriend Kim Sears steals fashion crown from Royal Kate Middleton’.

By setting up Sears and Middleton as competitors in fashion, the media not only creates the impression that Sears is like the Duchess but that Sears should behave like a Duchess. A member of the Royal family and mother to the third in line to the throne, Middleton must maintain the stiff-upper-lip protocol engrained in the monarchy. In turn, Sears is expected to be passive, respectable, an accessory to her fiancé’s battles on the tennis court. Not foul-mouthed. Voiceless.

I guess this ‘extraordinary’ event of a woman letting off some steam with the help of expletives appeals to the editors of national newspapers for two reasons. A) It is sort of funny, no one expected Sears to swear when she’s been placed on the same pedestal as Middleton. B)  Sears is a good looking girl, and any image of her across a page of tabloid is going to work. After all, any girl-behaving-badly episode is going to sell.

Since the match, Murray has come to the defence of Sears. ‘In the heat of the moment, you can say stuff that you regret,’ Murray told reporters. But here it is again: Sears sinking back behind her fiancé, passive to the amused media frenzy. Come back sweary Kim, I say, defend yourself. Perhaps something to the tune of: ‘So I said a bad word, what are you going to f*cking do about it?’ 



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