Eugenie Bouchard, a Canadian women’s tennis player ranked #8 in the world, laid an impressive beating on her opponent in the Australian Open this week, 6–0, 6–3. But the news coming out of the match wasn’t focused so much on her game as on the on-court interview afterward.
The Australian interviewer, speaking with Bouchard in front of the entire stadium, began to comment on her outfit, a bright pink skirt and corresponding pink top. He then requested that she give the crowd a twirl to show off the ensemble. She obliged with a girlish grin and some sheepishness, the crowd applauded, and she went on to commend Serena Williams’s outfit above her own.
The media has since erupted with accusations of sexism. “Twirlgate” (not so catchy, I guess) reached the front pages of ESPN and Yahoo. The aforementioned Serena’s response to the incident: “I wouldn’t ask Rafa [Nadal] or Roger [Federer] to twirl.”
Therein lies the problem. When Roger Federer was a little boy, he didn’t run into the living room, call for his parents’ attention, and twirl his outfit in front of them (he wasn’t wearing something twirlable to begin with).
But Serena did. Eugenie did. They were little girls, who were made to display the beauty they were given and to have that beauty honored. My daughters are perpetual twirlers, even to the extent that they are searching out the most twirlable skirts and dresses. They come to me unashamed. They giggle, they twirl, their smiles radiate with my delight. Only a bad father would stop their twirling to reprimand their self-misogyny.
So this raises the question: When Eugenie Bouchard grew up (she’s 20 now), did she grow from girl to man? Or at least, Did she grow up and lose the inherent desire in girls that makes twirling okay? My answer to each is an emphatic no. I have two reasons.
The first reason is evidential. Why are Eugenie and Serena wearing the outfits in the first place? Are they not intentionally demonstrating their feminine beauty to the world? Even in the realm of professional sports, where muscle and traditionally masculine qualities are on display, the ladies are distinctly seeking to be ladies. The diversity and intentionality of the on-court outfits of the Women’s Tennis Association are more striking than their racquets. I would argue that they are living in a perpetual twirl and that they should. Eugenie Bouchard is inviting the world to see her beauty, to see the feminine glory of God. And in a godly world, there would be a strong, bold, and tenderhearted man who would honor her and delight in her as her father did, as her heavenly Father does.
This gets into the second reason, which is biblical. Isaiah 62 is a clear demonstration of the biblical paradigm for femininity. Israel, the unfaithful bride of the Lord, is mourning the loss of his delight. But he makes a wondrous promise in this chapter:
The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:2–5)
The way that a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, in all her multi-layered beauty, is the way that God rejoices over his people. The dynamic of women displaying their beauty for others to rejoice over is endorsed by God. Eugenie applauded Serena’s outfit. The audience applauded Eugenie’s. And perhaps God applauded, too, as this girl he created in his image acted like a girl.
Because God’s beauty is in his creation, we dishonor him and his creation when we conceal that beauty, and we dishonor him and his creation when we exploit it. Even in our hyper-sexualized society, there is a way to purely recognize beauty and to honor it. We appreciate what it is about God’s wondrous design that makes women, not men, twirl.