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 females 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 female 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 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 mike and change the world.