Wimbledon To Drop ‘Miss,’ ‘Mrs.’ From Women’s Honor Board
Wimbledon’s honor roll — which lists the names of winners of the tournament — is all set to enter the modern world of the 21st century. In a small step toward gender equality, the All England Lawn Tennis Club has decided to drop the titles of “Miss” and “Mrs.” — used in front of female winners’ names — from the roll.
The names will now exist purely by themselves, devoid of any prefixes and titles carrying gendered undertones. The move, in theory, signals the end of an era in the coveted championship where women’s sexual availability was deemed somehow relevant to their on-field achievements.
“Many women no longer want to be defined by their attachment or unattachment to a man, and titles for women often create assumptions around age and sexuality as well as marital availability,” Stella Sutcliffe, founder of Go Title Free-campaign which calls for scrapping titles denoting people’s marital statuses, told Mail Online.
Sutcliffe added, “Marital status titles are not a part of a person’s legal identity… We think that offering the option to only provide a first name and a surname will help women and non-binary people to be free from categorization, and would create a more equal society.”
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What makes the practice of emphasizing a female player’s marital status in honor rolls especially disconcerting, though, is the fact that men’s honor rolls contain no reference to their marital status. Novak Djokovic, for instance, who won the gentlemen’s singles tennis titles in 2018, 2019, and 2021, is listed as “N. Djokovic” — not even a “Mr.” prefixes his name.
This is the tournament’s latest foray against inequalities in the treatment of its male and female players. In 2019, Wimbledon had ended the practice of umpires referring to female players with titles alluding to their marital statuses, while men were simply identified by their surname. Drawing attention to the disparity, in 2018, the New York Times had pointed out how, on the same day, Serena Williams’ win was announced as “Game, set and match, Mrs. Williams,” while just 90 minutes before, Roger Federer’s triumph was met with “Game, set and match, Federer.”
Mrs. Williams became a way to announce to the world the player’s gender and cultural identities. Speaking of the 2019 decision, Kim Elsesser, a former lecturer on psychology and gender at UCLA had commented: “How progressive — they’re no longer going to announce the sexual availability of the female players to the crowd.”
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Women didn’t just have to contend with their marital information being published. What’s worse was that the moment athletes were married, they were identified simply by the initials and surnames of their husbands following “Mrs.” American player Chris Evert’s 1981 triumph, for instance, led her name to be listed as Mrs. J.M. Lloyd since she had wed John Lloyd.
“I was aware of this convention — of labeling married women with not only the last names of their husbands but their initials too: at Christmas, some elderly relatives send us cards addressed to ‘Mr. and Mrs. P. Dennett’ as though my wife doesn’t have an identity. But surely Wimbledon must do away with such outdated and insulting styling,” read an article on The Roar, a sports op-ed publication in Australia.
However, not everyone is happy about the nixing of marital titles, though — seemingly because a long-standing “innocent tradition” is being done away with. That is, perhaps, reflective of society’s entitlement to information about women’s marital statuses — and, by extension, their sexual availability. Years of conditioning have deemed many women, too, to consider their identities inextricably linked to their marital status — as evinced by the opposition of many to the move.
For an organization that seems as steeped in tradition as the Wimbledon, though, the decision — albeit rather late — is certainly refreshing. While it is certainly progressive, it’s hardly the end of the track to gender equality still — the road to it will be a long one; but, at least, we’ve set out.