You’re a tennis reporter covering the Australian Open. Right in front of you, a 19-year-old beats 14th-ranked Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals, putting her within two wins of her first Grand Slam title. Now you get to interview her. What should you ask?
Maybe you ask her how she feels about going farther than Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova. Maybe you ask her why she seems to have Ivanovic’s number, given that she also beat the former world number one at Wimbledon last year. Or how it feels to be a 19-year-old in the semifinals of her first Australian Open. Maybe you lean on your knowledge of tennis history and ask her if she knows that she’s the first Canadian woman ever to reach the Aussie semis and the first to reach any Grand Slam semifinal since 1984. You’ve got plenty of options, most of them involving tennis, which is logical, because that is the sport she’s playing — and playing quite well.
Instead of sticking to those questions, you — intrepid tennis observer that you are — ask 19-year-old Eugenie Bouchard, the story of the 2014 Australian Open thus far, who she would date if she could date any man out there. Then, when an embarrassed Bouchard answers, “Justin Bieber” (she’s Canadian, after all), you ask her to send a personal message to the Biebs, just in case he’s watching (via SB Nation):
Many will be outraged by this, which you seem to realize when you make it clear that “they asked me to say this,” but your logic is impeccable. You’re Samantha Smith, a woman who used to play professional tennis and who now commentates on the game for a living. So you know better than anyone else that there’s no reason to ask serious questions about wonderful athletic achievements here, because as a woman, Eugenie Bouchard is not a serious athlete capable of answering serious questions about wonderful athletic achievements. It’s better off to find out who she’d like to date, a topic her wandering teenage mind was certainly contemplating throughout the Australian Open quarterfinals. When they criticize you, remind them that this is tennis, and there’s never been any sexism here.
Of course, you’d never ask this sort of question of Rafael Nadal or anyone else in the men’s draw, especially not on the court after a big win. Those guys, they’re serious tennis players. They can talk all day about backhands and forehands and long rallies and artful volleys, about how special it is to be deep in another Aussie Open draw, about what it would mean to win a Grand Slam title. About serious tennis topics. But Eugenie Bouchard? She’s just a woman. No need to care what she thinks.