If a Woman Plays Like a Man is it an Insult or Compliment?

5 years ago

After losing in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros this year, Dominika Cibulkova said that her opponent, Samantha Stosur, “played like a man.”

"I have to say that she played unbelievable today," Cibulkova said. "Her topspin and her serve and I mean, she played like a man, and it's really hard to play against a man."

Stosur is ripped and her game typically features high-kicking serves and heavy topspin forehands. While her playing style could be compared to a man's, it is unique to her. Stosur went on to be defeated in her next match by finalist Sara Errani so obviously, as impressive as her skills are, she's not invincible or unbeatable.

Sam Stosur Credit Image: © Panoramic/ZUMAPRESS.com

While the post-match interview was not included in the official French Open news release, it did make headlines on many sports media sites including FoxSports, Yahoo! Sports and Deadspin as well as around the blogosphere.

But Cibulkova is not the first person to compare Stosur to a man. In 2010, Serbian tennis player, Jelena Jankovic said that Stosur gave her no chance to win because she played almost like a man. And Stosur is not the first female tennis player to be called a man by her peers. A few years ago Amelie Mauresmo received the same treatment.

Dunja Antunovic over at Sports, Media & Society takes a closer look at the comment and why it is getting such response.

"As long as female athletes are expected to conform to the rules of femininity and as long as the idea that male athletes are superior to female athletes prevails, we are likely to hear that a female athlete "plays like a man." Yet, a critical analysis of this comparison in the online space carries the potential to change the dominant media discourse and, subsequently, perhaps even ideologies of gender."

The blog After Atalanta reads a bit more between the lines and says this about Stosur's "style"

What [Cibulkova] is really saying is "she's a dyke." And because Stosur does not compensate/apologize enough for not being uberfeminine, Cibulkova attacks her. Stosur isn't going to pose naked in a racquet ad. She isn't going to glam it up for lots of photo shoots.

So if a woman is told she "plays like a man," is that like a guy being told he "plays like a girl?" Is it an insult? Or a compliment? 

Chris Evert said that Cibulkova's comment would have caused quite a controversy years ago but today it is very much a compliment. And Cibulkova may have meant it as such.

Courtney Szto argues in The Rabbit Hole that for female athletes, “playing like a man” should not be considered a compliment.

Saying that [Stosur] plays like a man assumes that all men are better than all women, which is far from the truth.

If a young boy strives to play like Stosur or Sharapova is that a good or bad thing? What do you think?



dare to dream

Also online at prettytough.com and womentalksports.com

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