After his comments about Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon, John Inverdale should be kept off the BBC airwaves today

Isn't it time the BBC woke up to the sexism at the heart of its sports broadcasting?

Share
Related Topics

Marion Bartoli had just defeated favourite Sabine Lisicki in a straight-sets victory for the greatest prize in tennis. Thanking her father, watching from the player's box, an emotional Bartoli said she had been waiting for this moment since she was a six years old. The moment was hers. She should have won blanket praise and adulation.

But the Frenchwoman's childhood dream was spoilt by John Inverdale, one of the BBC's leading sports presenters and a face of Wimbledon. It emerged that, in the build-up to the match, he asked on Radio 5 Live: "Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little 'You're never going to be a looker? You'll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight'."

No matter that he later tried to backtrack by saying, "We poked fun, in a nice way, about how she looks ... but Marion Bartoli is an incredible role model." (Notice there was no outright apology).

His comments betrayed an attitude that is always there, in the background, usually unspoken. A woman can rise to the top of her profession in politics, business, entertainment, or sport. She can defeat the greatest tennis players in the world, overcome injury and setback, to win Wimbledon. But ultimately, she will be judged on her looks.

If she can't meet the standards of "a Sharapova" - slim, long-legged, blonde - she's not good enough.

I wouldn't even say it's a dinosaur opinion, because there were plenty of (mainly male) users on Twitter younger than 55-year-old Inverdale saying much worse things - one professional footballer tweeted that he wanted to "smash the wee fat cow", another said she was "ugly", and there were dozens of sexual slurs.

German finalist Lisicki didn't escape the sexism. The same pro footballer tweeted that he wanted her to take her pants off. This might be the run of the mill for teenage boys, only now, through Twitter, is it broadcast to the world.

Inverdale is not a juvenile anonymous tweeter, though. He is a highly-paid leading "talent", to use the BBC phrase. He may have thought this was what listeners to 5 Live - also known as "Radio Bloke" - wanted to hear. But I can tell him that we - female and male listeners - don't want to hear it.

"Radio Bloke" should be wary of turning into "Radio Bigot". It's not long since its item on "how to turn Clare Balding straight". The BBC apologised for that, and it apologised last on Saturday for Inverdale's "insensitive" comments.

Bartoli herself responded brilliantly, saying: "I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes."

I think the BBC still have to make amends, to send a powerful message to us listeners. Inverdale should not broadcast today on the Wimbledon men's final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. For the thousands of little girls out there who dream of winning Wimbledon, they should give the job to Balding instead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker