This week, just as the Australian Open began, British tennis ace Andy Murray unveiled his new logo. Murray, who won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 2013, hired the “brand storytelling” agency Aesop to design an icon that will be branded on his on-court bag and training shirts at the Open, and will soon appear on a full line of “Andy Murray” clothing and accessories. Dan Calderwood, Aesop’s design director, said that the aim was “to create a modern mark that captures Andy’s energy and spirit whilst subtly referencing his affinity with the number ‘77.’ ”
The reference isn’t exactly subtle, though. In the video revealing the new logo, the 77 appears first, followed by the initials “AM.” In bold, slanted black numbers that recall a digital clock, the design reminds us of Murray’s historic, now literally iconic achievement: He was the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title in 77 years, and he won the cup on July 7.
In reporting Murray’s victory, numerous commentators and media outlets stated that he was the “first Brit” to win Wimbledon in 77 years. As I noted at the time, that statement is true — unless you think women are people. In the years between Fred Perry’s 1936 win and Murray’s 2013 triumph, four British women took home the Venus Rosewater Dish — Dorothy Round Little, in fact, won the title in 1937, just a year after Perry’s victory.
Of course, as it was repeatedly — often patronizingly — explained to me in the summer of 2013, when we talk about “winning Wimbledon,” it’s shorthand for winning the men’s singles title. Everyone knows that, so why bother specifying?
This, of course, is the very problem. The men’s title is treated as the default — as the one that really “counts” — and thereby diminishing the achievements of women players.
To their credit, some publications changed their Murray headlines and corrected their reporting when this inaccuracy was pointed out. But “77” is now quite clearly a part of Murray’s brand, and his own emphasis on the number tells us a lot about whose athletic achievements are considered historic, and whose achievements are written out of history.
And it’s not simply a matter of history. Earlier this week, Eugenie Bouchard, the No. 7-ranked Canadian who was runner-up at Wimbledon last year, was asked by one male on-court reporter to “give us a twirl” to show off her outfit. She had just beaten Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in straight sets. At last year’s Australian Open, after winning her quarterfinal, she was asked who she would date if she could go out with anyone on Earth. Over 45 years into the women’s open era, the notion that men’s tennis is the real game — and that the women’s competition is a cute little addendum and an opportunity to ogle women players — remains entrenched.
This isn’t unique to tennis, of course. Complaints about how women’s sports are “boring” compared to their masculine counterparts abound. These are particularly common about basketball, as though there is one objective definition of what’s interesting — one that always seems to be synonymous with “what guys do.”
Indeed, there are few sports where the women’s game is considered the default position. Gymnastics and figure skating are rare exceptions — we talk about “men’s gymnastics” and “men’s figure skating” because the sports are otherwise presumed to be for women. And in those rare sports where women are the default competitors, men who participate continually have their sexuality, and by extension, their masculinity, questioned. (Why we’re so quick to doubt the heterosexuality of men who spend their time surrounded by and often with their hands on scantily clad women is a question for another day.)
Murray’s victory is one of which he and his British countrymen are deservedly proud. But he’s not the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years. Branding himself with the number only reinforces the notion that men’s athletic achievements are the big game, while women’s victories are bush league. It’s time we stop acting like men’s sports — or as we so often call them, “sports” — are the only game in town.
Chloe Angyal is a senior columnist at Feministing.com and a facilitator at the OpEd Project.