So, apparently the Middle East has managed to achieve peace between all its warring factions, global warming has been reversed and we’ve finally fed every starving child in every country in Africa – and nobody told me! Or, at least, that’s my assumption, based on this latest feminist flap caused by the innocuous act of calling a woman “sweetheart”.
Eugenie Bouchard, a twenty-year-old tennis sensation from Montréal, is deservedly getting alot of attention. In 2012, she won the Wimbledon girls’ title. She reached the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens in 2014, and the finals of a Grand Slam in singles at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships (the first Canadian to do so). She’s a truly gifted athlete, and she has worked very hard for what she has achieved.
She has, of course, generated huge excitement among tennis fans. The media has taken to calling her “Canada’s tennis sweetheart”. This is, apparently, an issue. There’s been a bit of noise in our forum of ignorant, impotent knee-jerking, Facebook. A local radio personality, Randall Moore, has been called “sexist” for using the moniker in one of his rants on Chez 106. And then there’s Mike, who doesn’t think Eugenie Bouchard should be called Canada’s sweetheart because she doesn’t rescue baby penguins or pet the wings of butterflies. (FYI, Mike-the-dad-blogger, petting the wings of a butterfly would not make you a sweetheart, it would make you an asshole – because that kills the butterfly. But I digress.) She also doesn’t knit or bake butter tarts, two more things that Mike associates with sweethearts. Um, what?
Sweetheart, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “a person you love very much”. Synonyms include beloved, darling and dear. It’s a compliment. Eugenie Bouchard is loved very much by Canadian tennis fans everywhere – and even just plain patriots who don’t care much for tennis, but enjoy seeing Canadians perform well on the world stage. She’s our sweetheart (for now, anyway). She’s also young and pretty, with a bangin’ body. And therein lies the problem, perhaps …. If she were a man, and someone called her Canada’s darling, nobody would protest. There’s no way of testing this theory, but I also suspect that her being called a sweetheart wouldn’t raise many eyebrows if she were older or unattractive. Because this is what many people are saying: “oh, you’ve given her this label because she’s twenty and blonde”. No, she has this label because she’s beloved on the tennis courts right now. That’s what rocketed her to fame in the sports world, not her looks. People who call her Canada’s sweetheart, or don’t pay much attention to the reference, innately understand that. So, who are the real sexists here? Could it be those who can’t see how she could be called “sweetheart” without her gorgeous smile and long hair and athletic frame? I know, I know: what a ridiculous thing to suppose. Almost as ridiculous as getting angry and flinging accusations around because someone’s been called a sweetheart?
As I said at the beginning of this post, there are alot more serious issues to which we ought to apply our outrage. In some parts of the world, a lovely girl like Eugenie Bouchard could aspire to, at most, a highly-priced bride. She might get stones or acid thrown at her if she tried to do anything more than that with her mind or her body. Here in Canada, she’s a tennis star. But …. but …. but people call her sweetheart! In the words of the aforementioned Randall Moore, responding to listeners who accused him of sexism, so what? If that’s our biggest problem, we’re definitely come a long way, baby. Oh, sorry! We’ve come a long way, fellow equally-competant-in-all-areas-and-certainly-not-darling-in-any-way human.
Related question: Would anyone who got upset over Eugenie being called a sweetheart also take up the cause of David Beckham? Or is this a one-way street?