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Serena Williams is being addressed as ‘Mrs’ at Wimbledon, raising new questions about tradition

The Wimbledon tennis tournament has been around since 1877, and it first allowed women to compete in 1884. Such an old and prestigious tournament is steeped in tradition — even traditions that have outlived their usefulness. An article in the New York Times reveals that at Wimbledon, female competitors are still defined by their marital status, regardless of whether they’ve taken their spouse’s name.

Meet Mrs. Serena Williams

About a year ago, Serena Williams married Alexis Ohanian, but hasn’t publicly taken his last name. But at Wimbledon, the chair umpires address her as “Mrs. Williams” to reflect her marital status, even though she told the Times she isn’t sure what she wants to be called yet. Unmarried women are addressed as “Miss,” and Wimbledon hasn’t adopted the neutral term “Ms,” which allows women to be addressed formally without being defined by their marital status.

Not surprisingly, the male competitors have no such issues. Men, regardless of whether they’re married, are always addressed and listed by their last name only. And it doesn’t end there — the Wimbledon Compendium lists male-female marriages of all women who have reached the semifinals or finals, but doesn’t do the same for men. (The Compendium also doesn’t list same sex marriages.)

This tradition erases married female winners

Referring to Serena Williams as “Mrs. Williams” is actually a step in the right direction. In the past, married female winners were listed on the All England Club’s board of champions by their husband’s name — even if they weren’t publicly using his name. Chris Evert won in Wimbledon in 1974 and 1976, before she was married, and is listed as “Miss. C.M. Evert.” But when she won in 1981, after marrying John Lloyd, she was listed as “Mrs. J.M. Lloyd.” It looks like an entirely different person won Wimbledon instead of Chris Evert.


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