Disturbing story on the front page of The New York Times’ July 1 edition about the stalkers whom female tennis players face, among them a guy after No. 3-ranked Simona Halep – I see no reason to give him publicity here by naming him – who became increasingly hostile after seeing a rumor that she was to marry.
It was interesting to read the accompanying comments, which as usual were all over the place, with some pointing out that male players also have crazy fans, that these women are better protected than the average woman, etc.
I think it’s scary that you can be trying to earn your livelihood in an open arena and a face in the crowd can be plotting to harm you. Or send a threatening note to your hotel room.
And while male celebrities have had their share of female crazies – and Roger Federer was recently approached on court at the French Open by a youth seeking a selfie – this is an area in which women have a greater vulnerability.
For one thing, they lack not only the physical power men have, they still lack the sociopolitical power as well. The same issue of The Times carried a review of a controversial Royal Opera House production of Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell” that features an implied gang rape with full-frontal female nudity.
“This production includes a scene which puts the spotlight on the brutal reality of women being abused during wartime, and sexual violence being a tragic fact of war,” Royal Opera director Kasper Holten said in a statement.
But when does depiction become exploitation? Is this part of the misogyny that one poster noted in the stalking of Simona Halep? How would Holten like it if the figure at the center of the gang rape were male instead of female? (One of the reasons I write about men is to allow women to address a number of issues without feeling threatened by them.)
In my novel “Water Music,” the first in my series “The Games Men Play,” I write of an Iraqi-American tennis prodigy, Alí Iskandar, who is brought to America under false pretenses and then abused by the “guardian” who promised to help his family and develop his talent. I never depict the abuse, only its effects on him.
Later, Alí experiences an act of violence on-court that I based on the stabbing of Monica Seles in a 1993 match by a fan of opponent Steffi Graf. Seles was never the same player after that. Halep is said to be struggling.
You cannot allow anyone to rob you of your peace of mind. But by the same token, society has a responsibility to protect people from what President Theodore Roosevelt called “the lunatic fringe.” Stalkers are recidivists who need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It’s time world governments served for that match.