Not since the sexist introduction the male-only Gentleman's Club has there been such an outrageous gender double standard as the plans to curb grunting in women's tennis. The International Tennis Federation and the Women's Tennis Association are drawing up plans to put a stop to the female grunter because of 'complaints by fans and players.'
Last week Sabine Lisicki accused opponent Bojana Jovanovski of grunting so loudly it gave her an advantage in their Wimbledon match. World number one Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are also common culprits in these 'complaints'.
I've found that many bar-stool social commentators on the annoyance of the female grunt are men. Ha, the audacity! The male species complaining about the vociferous nature of women? That's like Bob Diamond complaining about interest rates or Jimmy Carr complaining about the tax system.
Anyone who finds female grunting remotely offensive clearly does not keep up their gym routine. The grunting, panting and overall aural outbursts of sonant strain from the free weights area is a right old cacophony.
From cheap basement muscle gyms of my student days with the aroma of pungent feet to my current spa-like riverside club, the grunting barely varies. But for a few middle-class accented mid-vowels and a softer delivery on some of alveolar flaps, a toff grunt is just as offensive as any exercising male's groaning, snorting and heavy breathing.
I've never heard anyone complain about weight-lifting discord, but believe me, as cardio goes out of fashion and we turn to kettle bells and building core strength, gym grunting is a ticking time bomb social taboo. It's gonna be right up there with burping, farting, spitting, picking noses and talking with your mouth full.
Actually, a vociferous, sweating, male bench-presser is even more offensive than any of the above. That's because his sonorific similarities to sex is unmistakable and he darn well knows it. I can't help thinking that men who make no attempt to reign in their workout caterwauling do so because on some misogynist level they know that the sexual association will make the women in the room feel uncomfortable. It's the equivalent of scratching balls whilst walking down the street to greet a woman and then offering your hand - they know it's offensive but they do it anyway because it stamps a wonton masculinity to his presence.
Like a dog peeing on a post, the male gym grunter is filling marking his bench with audible pheromones.
Being a five-times-a-week gym-goer for about 12 years, I've filtered out any uncomfortable carnal connections and instead taken to entertaining myself between bicep curls by personality typing the grunters:
Firstly, there are the ones who use open front unrounded vowel sounds (like as in aaaaahhhhhh): Probably lack self-control and shout to get attention.
Secondly, there are the ones who resort to fricatives so they barely even need to open their mouths. (like as in a sssssssssssss or ttttthhhhhhhhh): Probably repressed and harbour anger.
Thirdly, there are those that articulate glottal stops, producing a short but repeated obtrusion of air (kind of like ugh, ugh, ugh like a desperate unsympathetic lover): Lack patience and do terribly with the opposite sex.
And finally there are the growlers. Grrrrrrr, go their throats as they try to lift two 20kg dumbbells. Grrrrr again! Then they drop it after a pathetic three reps and let out the most almighty sigh, letting the entire gym floor know how hard that was: They think they are irresistible. Grrrrr, come get me, I am a tiger.
To impose vociferous restraint on female tennis players is no less than gender engineering - the sort we'd expect to find in the eighteenth century. Men are intrusively more vocal than women on every level. They huff and they puff and they sigh and they click fingers. And need I say anything about snoring? The statistics weren't available when I researched but I bet you 90% of purchasers of earplugs are women who share bed space with men. To add insult to insomnia, the foam ones fall out and the silicone ones get stuck in our hair. And they collect dust if you leave them out on the side table. Yuk, you say? Yes isn't it just.
It is also yuk when some nationalities of men click at attractive women in the street, like we are a horse. It is yuk when men in some other cultures clear their throat and spit in the street - the phelgmmier the sound the better. In some cultures they burp to show appreciation of food. In all these noisy protocols it is always the male voice which reverberates the strongest. The dense, deep, rasping, throaty tones send sound waves booming across large spaces. The idea that few female tennis players letting off a little baying on the courts has caused such a ruckus is quite hilarious. I had a good cackling hoot about that.
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