Battle of the Sexes and the Fight for Women's Rights
Recounts Tennis Match and the
Fight for Women’s Rights
By Jonanthan Nadler
The struggle for women’s rights was marked by several high
points, but few could be considered as pivotal as a sporting event
that took place in September 1973. This exhibition tennis match
between the legendary Bobby Riggs and women’s champion Billie
Jean King is the topic of a major motion picture that was recently
released and is appropriately titled “Battle of the Sexes.”
The film features Steve Carell, known primarily as a comic actor, and
Emma Stone, who is fresh off her win of an Academy Award for “La La
Land” and is today the world’s highest-paid actress. In terms of their
ages, the two stars are an almost exact match for the two athletes at
the time, with 55-year-old Riggs facing off against 29-year-old King.
However, Stone had to consume high-calorie protein drinks to gain
the weight needed for her to physically resemble the tennis star.
Stone had little experience in the game of tennis and needed help
from both King and professional coach Vince Spadea. King spent
plenty of time discussing the basics of the game with Stone at the final
women’s match of the U.S. Open and lauded the young actress for her
“amazing” performance, which she said captured both her “essence”
and her “vulnerability” when she was a young athlete. Stone noted
that, in addition to being entertaining, King’s victory over Riggs had
some positive effects on the issue of gender equality. The event also
helped to promote the game of tennis in general.
The battle for equality has moved into other areas, with the
emphasis today on equal opportunity and equal pay. Quoting a
recent study, King noted that women are today less likely than men
to me hired and promoted for their potential to be successful. Sexism
is still present in the field of sports, with tennis star John McEnroe
recently stating that women’s champion Serena Williams might be
ranked 700th as a male player.
King emphasized that female superiority was never an issue,
noting that women never claimed to be better at tennis than men.
Women were superior, at least on that late summer day in 1973.
Jonathan Nadler is a lawyer
based in the Philadelphia area.
In his spare time, Jonathan
enjoys a good round of tennis
out on the courts.