Charging The Net: Social Activism in Women's Professional Tennis
Andrews, David L.
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This dissertation is an analysis of social activism within women’s professional tennis. In the 46 years since the women known as the Original 9 began protesting against the pay inequality between men’s and women’s tennis, subsequent cohorts of women have brought different issues and concerns to women’s tennis, expanding its scope and efforts. Using qualitative research, including interviews with former players and press conference participation at tournaments to access current players, this study shows the lineage of social activism within women’s tennis and the issues, expressions, risks and effects of each cohort. Intersectionality theoretically frames this study, and analyses of performativity appears regularly. Each generational cohort is a chapter of this study. The Original 9 of the Movement Cohort fought for equal prize money. The Bridge Cohort, the era of Evert and Navratilova, continued the Movement Cohort’s push for equal prize money; however, they also ushered in identity politics (including gender, sexuality, and nationality, but with the notable exception of race). The Professional Cohort, the current era, followed the Bridge Cohort and is characterized by its focus on corporatization and mass-marketing. As such, there is a focus among the players on individualism which can seem like a lack of social activism is occurring. However, race, neglected during the Bridge Cohort, emerged during the Professional Cohort. The individualism of this cohort made space for Blackness to show unapologetically, though, within certain constraints. Finally, a few players are working on social justice issues in society at large, as well as trying to institute change within women’s tennis. These players make up the Post-Professional Cohort (or, as Pam Shriver from the Bridge Cohort calls them, “Bridge Throwbacks”). This study shows the evolution of social activism within women’s tennis, as it reflects larger social change. Though bound together as one unified body, the social activism engaged in by each generation focused on different issues, making each generational cohort distinct from the whole of women’s professional tennis.