Andy Murray has made a name for himself in tennis, not only for his impressive skills on the court but also for continuously calling out sexism. In the last year, he's called out sexism in Wimbledon's scheduling, and reminded two sports reporters that yes, women do play tennis — and they win medals for doing so.
While his feminism has always shown itself in quiet comments like these, Murray is now speaking out about the duty of male athletes like himself to stand up for women in sports and help break down some of the barriers that still exist. In an interview with ELLE, Murray talks about the incredible women he's worked with in his tennis career and what men can do to lift them up.
While it may seem to some that he's the only male tennis player doing so, Murray believes that others exist, but that they need to be more outspoken and to push toward total equality in the sport.
"I certainly wouldn’t be the only one," he said. "But what I just don’t get is why it wouldn’t be something that tennis players are proud of, like, to be the only sport [where the men's and women's game and earnings] are even comparable. That’s positive. We still have so many issues, but it’s something that tennis players should celebrate."
Yet, many male players are still stuck in the idea that men will always be better at any sport, and therefore a man could not possibly learn how to boost his game from a woman coach. But, he pointed out, there's inherent sexism in the idea that a woman can't coach a man, since so many men coach women.
"Some argue, 'Oh, well, she’s a woman, so she can’t understand the men’s game,'” he said. “But then how can a man understand the women’s game? I obviously grew up getting coached by my mum, so I didn’t see any issue. But even I — when I came on the professional tour, there were no men coached by women, so looking for a coach, you assume you’re looking for a man, but when you get older you realise…well, no, it doesn’t have to be that way."
In fact, Murray once had a woman coach, Amélie Mauresmo, and got a lot of flak from other players when he was considering working with her.
"When it first came out in the press that I may be working with a woman, I got a message from one of the players who is now coaching. He said to me: 'I love this game that you’re playing with the press; maybe you should tell them tomorrow that you’re considering working with a dog,'" he said.
But as much criticism as he got for working with a woman, the criticism she got was worse — especially compared to the men who had coached Murray in the past and since.
"The amount of criticism she got in comparison to any other coach I’ve ever worked with — it’s not comparable at all," he said. "Now, when I lose a match, I get the blame. When I was working with her, it was always her fault."
Clearly, both players and spectators still expect women not to be as good at sports, as either coaches or players. There's still an incredibly misguided idea that women are too emotional to play professional sports and they let their feelings get in the way of the game. According to Murray, the exact opposite is true.
"A lot of the top men are very, very emotional on the courts. Not all of them. But some of them. And I would be one. I don’t handle my emotions particularly well in comparison to a lot of the women," he said. "If you talked about the worst behaved tennis players, most of them would be men." (Just look at John McEnroe.)
Murray's perspective on the gender bias that still exists within sports isn't exactly surprising — after all, gender bias still exists in basically every profession — but it is at least a little inspiring to know that people like him are fighting for change.