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Is France's Amelie Mauresmo Martina v1.2?

Wed 7 Sep 2005 In: Comment

One former academic colleague credited Martina Navritalova's existence with keeping her in one piece through high school. So what about current lesbian pro tennis sports stars, like France's Amelie Mauresmo? In January 1999, Mauresmo aced Lindsay Davenport in the Australian Open Championship semifinals and embraced Sylvie Bourdon, her (ex) partner shortly afterward. But do her out lesbian identity and professional athleticism sit comfortably alongside one another? In sports media releases, Mauresmo is presented as a muscular model of female athletic competence, like Billy Jean King, Martina Navritalova and other past pro lesbian tennis dykons before her. I have problems with Pam Forman and Darcy Plymire's reading of her celebrity status. In some ways, women's pro tennis has evolved. Yes, it was unfair that Navritalova received fewer sponsorship deals than her straight professional counterparts after she came out. However, Nike didn't abandon Mauresmo when she did, although Mauresmo has yet to win a major championship. However, she has come close. She lost at the finals in the Australian Open (1999) and semifinals at Wimbledon (2002) and the US Open (1999,2002). In the United States, sports marketers have reached out to lesbian sports spectators and consumers as a lucrative market segment. The "Ladies" Professional Golf Association and Women's National Basketball Association are two examples. Professional golfer Rosie Jones (44) is another such figure in her field of endeavour. Is this corporate co-optation of feminism and lesbian/gay rights? Or do lesbian tennis fans (and teenage sportsdykes) derive pleasure from watching a powerful, competent professional lesbian athlete? Mauresmo's fame is not a sign of 'postfeminist' individualism from this perspective, but empowering. Inevitably too, there's been some homophobic bullshit. Some commentators have directed drivel about her muscular body and raised accusations about steroid abuse and gender identity, while has-been 'faded rose' and Australian fundamentalist activist Margaret Court made dark mutterings about rampant lesbianism within professional tennis in 2002. Court is related to prominent elements in the West Australian Liberal Party, explaining its vileness. Why shouldn't lesbian tennis fans cheer on Amelie? She's a professional athlete...and she plays for our side. Recommended Reading: Pam Forman and Darcy Plymire: "Amelie Mauresmo's Muscles: The Lesbian Heroic in Women's Professional Tennis" Women's Sports Quarterly 33: 1-2: Spring/Summer 2005: 120-133. [Contains her player stats and a bio] A Mauresmo fanpage. Her official webpage. Craig Young (politics columnist) - 7th September 2005    

Credit: Craig Young (politics columnist)

First published: Wednesday, 7th September 2005 - 12:00pm

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