SlutWalk Toronto Takes on Tennis Canada

SlutWalk, the feminist web site, is not happy with a tennis tournament ad

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The Players: SlutWalk Toronto, a feminist march created after a Toronto Police officer labeled women and people most at risk of sexual assault as “sluts." The wildly successful march parlayed itself into an online presence and (in its own words) is "a mechanism for increased dialogue on victim-blaming, slut-shaming, misogynist and oppressive ideas that need to be challenged." Tennis Canada, Canada's Tennis Federation which is sponsoring the upcoming Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto.

The First Serve: A tweeter snapped a picture of an outdoor ad pitching Rogers Cup tickets and tweeted the photo to SlutWalk Toronto. The ad reads " Come for the Ladies, Stay for the Legends."  SlutWalk then tweeted: "Way to champion female athletes, #RogersCup." Heather Jarvis, the site's co-founder told NOW magazine, "It’s demeaning towards women. It suggests women are just the initial attraction, they don’t actually matter...It says the real athletes, the real legends, are the men."

The Return Volley:  In an follow-up with NOW, Tennis Canada president Michael Downey said that while the organization is taking the criticism very seriously, at this time he has no plans to make a public apology or remove the ads.  He said the slogan refers to the men as “legends” not because they are superior players to the female stars, but because they’re retired champions. “It’s not that the women aren’t great tennis players, but they’re just current players,” he said. “I can guarantee you that Venus and Serena Williams will be classified as legends, but probably not until they retire." This morning, the SlutWalk tweeted, "Tennis Canada says they're not getting many complaints about their sexist Rogers Cup ad, won't take it down & won't apologise." In an update with NOW, Downey has said “It’s a timing thing. The legends event is at the end of the week. The women start on Monday, and the (men’s tournament) is Friday, Saturday, Sunday.” A Rogers spokesperson told NOW Tennis Canada developed the ad campaign and Rogers played no role in its creation.

What They Say The Fight's About: That female tennis players don't matter. Downey thinks there's just something lost in the timing and word play, while SlutWalk and Jarvis think that the organizers are treating women as the initial attraction.

What The Fight's Really About: That female tennis players matter for the wrong reasons. SlutWalk and Jarvis talk about it--Tennis Canada does think players like Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will sell tickets. But not because of their athletic prowess. And if they aren't interested advertising these players' skills, what exactly are promoters and the Women's Tennis Association selling?

Who's Winning Now: For now, SlutWalk Toronto. SlutWalk has been active on the Twitter scene--urging its followers to give Tennis Canada a few calls and getting a fair share of retweets. Downey's dance of semantics isn't going to win him fans or a Serena Williams autograph.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.