Madrid Events Fight Sexism Complaints

Female athletes receive smaller cake, a congratulatory food processor
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2023 7:15 PM CDT
Madrid Events Fight Sexism Complaints
Ivana Zagorac, right and her twin sister, Sladjana Zagorac, celebrate after Ivana won an amateur women's running race Sunday in Madrid.   (Carlos Lujan/Europa Press via AP)

Organizers of sporting events in Spain are playing defense after facing allegations of sexism. Most of the attention focused on complaints about men and women being treated unequally at the Madrid Open, but a women's race held Sunday—Mother's Day in Spain—also had to backtrack. The issues included:

  • Birthday cakes: This year's men's and women's singles champions at the Madrid Open happen to have the same birthday, and they were presented, separately, with festive, decorated cakes. Fans and players couldn't help noticing the difference. Carlos Alcaraz received "a huge two-tier cake with sparklers on the tray around it and a tennis ball and a '20' on top," per Eurosport. Aryna Sabalenka was given a single-layer, standard-issue cake without a topper. "That doesn’t look right," tweeted another player, Bianca Andreescu, alongside photos.
  • The defense: "I'm surprised by this reaction after this gesture," said tournament director Feliciano Lopez. He pointed out that Alcarez had just won his semifinal on Center Court and was playing in his home country. Another male player, Holger Rune, had received a cake similar to Sabalenka's on his birthday the week before. "I hope Rune wasn’t also upset by his treatment," Lopez tweeted.
  • The prize appliance: In recognition of her victory, the winner of a 7-kilometer women's race Sunday in Madrid was presented with a brand-new food processor. Ivana Zagorac of Serbia had defeated 32,000 runners, per the Guardian. Ángela Rodríguez, the nation's secretary of state for equality, called attention to the prizes, which included 0% fat products for others. "If you win: housewife and if not at least you'll lose weight," Rodríguez tweeted.
  • The defense: "We apologize but we consider this a product with no sexist character and ideal for any athlete who wants to improve their nutritional habits," read a statement issued Monday by the Carrera de la Mujer. "We regret if any woman felt offended."
  • The speeches gap: The finalists in the men's singles, women's singles, and men's doubles were invited to address the crowds after their Madrid Open matches, as is customary. But the participants in the women's doubles final on Sunday, per USA Today, in which Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad-Maia defeated Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, were not. Gauff noted the snub in a tweet later in which she thanked the fans for their support but made no mention of the organizers. In her speech after losing the singles final, Iga Swiatek referred to the scheduling of women's matches—a recurring complaint at the tournament. She noted that her semifinal ended after 1am.
  • The defense: None presented so far. The tournament pays equal prize money to male and female winners.
  • Ball crew uniforms: When men were playing on the main court in Madrid, the match had an all-female ball crew wearing short skirts and crop tops. At the same time, crews on the outer courts included boys and girls wearing less revealing uniforms. TV viewers were among those who pointed out the situation, per USA Today. The Open has faced similar criticism in the past, from fans and players, after using models—including men—on the crews.
  • The defense: None offered, but when the men's final began Sunday, the female ball crew was wearing three-quarter-length skirts.
(More Madrid stories.)

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