Bitter rivals. Beloved friends. Survivors.
July 2, 2023 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Chris Evert. Martina Navratilova. Deep friendship. Compassionate understanding. Absolute support. Two remarkably talented competitive women create and maintain a spectacular friendship which at 50 years it is still there, deeper by the year. WaPo long read. Archive link.
posted by dancestoblue (22 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Navratilova is still listed as a leader of an anti-trans organisation and should not be given a platform in MetaFilter. -- loup

What a great pair of people. Glad they are giving cancer the finger.

These two were women's tennis for many, many years. And they were both so good.

l have seen Martina on TV things recently, but not Chris. Glad they are still with us.
posted by Windopaene at 9:11 PM on July 2, 2023 [3 favorites]

this is just a magnificent piece of reporting and writing, about two tremendous people who seem even greater together, and by a writer (Sally Jenkins, usually awesome) who clearly had both their trust and a deep understanding of their careers. yet another great sports story that's not really about sports that has turned up on the Blue this past week.

Gift link to the story on the Post site. (I've been sharing this left and right.)
posted by martin q blank at 9:20 PM on July 2, 2023 [9 favorites]

"Friendship is arguably the most wholly voluntary relationship. It reflects a mutual decision to keep pasting something back together, no matter how far it gets pulled apart, even when there is no obligatory reason, no justice-of-the-peace vow or chromosomal tie."

A magical paragraph in an excellent article.
posted by birdsquared at 10:46 PM on July 2, 2023 [13 favorites]

My comment was deleted, but I'll post again, having read a bit more about the subject. Both Evert and Navratilova are opposed to trans women's inclusion in women's sports, so I think a swooning, soft-focus interview with them that doesn't even mention this controversy even once, is akin to the "Here are some Trump voters, they're just regular folks" profiles in the NYT we all got so tired of a few years back.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:26 PM on July 2, 2023 [29 favorites]

The comment about the absence of any reference to the subjects' position on trans athletes gave me pause, because I've read Jenkins' work for many years. So I went to the Post website and went through the topics of the last five years' of her work. I couldn't find anything that focused on the issue.

I did see a ton of work where Jenkins has been a ferocious advocate for women in sports, from the USWNT in soccer to the US Olympics women's gymnasts, and where she was a merciless critic of athletes, coaches and owners who assault, harass or otherwise prey on women. She also has taken some contrarian positions in her work, which sometimes calls her feminism into question. (I stumbled over this research paper on her work, which is interesting.)

My one consistent issue with her work (speaking as a former reporter) comes down to access journalism. It's a cycle -- by working hard and writing accurately for major publications, you gain a level of access to your subjects that other reporters don't have. That gives you better stories -- but it also tends to erode your impartiality. Note her defense of Lance Armstrong, after years of writing stories and a book about him before the revelations.

That goes directly to this story. From her years of writing about their triumphs -- appropriately, I'd say -- Jenkins has extraordinary access to Evert and Navratilova, and in this story is rewarded with extraordinary honesty and openness. She once again tells a laudatory story (to be fair, with a lot of unflattering moments). She pulled some punches, or didn't throw them at all, to be sure. But again, I'd say it's appropriate. As a writer you have to make choices. She chose to show how two women could be athletes as dedicated, skilled and relentless as any man, who went from friendship to rivalry to bitterness and back again, and supported each other as their lives intertwined yet again but in a horrible way. I'm inclined to give her a pass on the pulled punches in order to tell that story, even as I hope she someday uses her access to return to them on the issue of trans athletes. I can understand and accept why others might disagree.
posted by martin q blank at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

I mean, "someday" sounds good, I guess. After all, trans women will still be around.
posted by tigrrrlily at 7:30 AM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

It's really worth watching the highlights/matches mentioned in the article. Such virtuosity.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 7:33 AM on July 3, 2023

Including trans women in women's sports is very controversial. Condemning all who oppose it is not helpful.

Counterpoint: condemning everyone who opposes treating trans women as women is good, actually
posted by an octopus IRL at 7:35 AM on July 3, 2023 [14 favorites]

Joakim Ziegler’s comment was indeed helpful to me, as I wasn’t aware that Evert and Navratilova were bigots, so now I have that information and I can choose not to read the article because wow, gross.
posted by chococat at 7:36 AM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

The photo in the article, by Marvin Joseph, is exceptional. It's not typical to see old women looking like themselves, looking good and being acceptable.
posted by theora55 at 7:38 AM on July 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

I too didn't know about their anti-trans viewpoints. So take backs on my "great pair of people" comment. Ugh.
posted by Windopaene at 7:39 AM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

There are a lot of verbs available to speakers of English. There are a lot of ways to fight hate. When I think about the fights that love and acceptance has won... it hasn't been by giving in to the (understandable) desire to label those on the other side as less than. Unfortunately, it involves a lot of work and exhausting, intelligent reaching out. Nobody should be required to do that work, but the energy needed to rage both at those who hate and those who aren't hating back at them enough doesn't leave enough energy just to live life well and, by doing so, to shut the other side up by showing how amazing and beautiful variety can be.
posted by amtho at 7:40 AM on July 3, 2023

Including trans women in women's sports is very controversial. Condemning all who oppose it is not helpful.

I've flagged this and should probably not have responded above so feel free to delete my response and this if that comment gets removed but I think that "hey this is a fawning profile of transphobes" is relevant information and there's probably an interesting conversation to be had about how we reconcile achievements from athletes who mean a lot to people with their horrible beliefs, and whether and how we can recognize and even celebrate accomplishments from women who've broken barriers but are in other ways problematic, or even how we frame articles like this with or without acknowledging those views, but "Including trans women in women's sports is very controversial" is really not an acceptable response or a good conversation. I'm probably too angry and trans to comment further in this thread but it's be great if we could find a way to talk about this and acknowledge their transphobia without being transphobic ourselves.
posted by an octopus IRL at 7:45 AM on July 3, 2023 [16 favorites]

are you seriously saying that trans women should just live life well and that will make the transphobes go away i mean i can't even
posted by tigrrrlily at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2023 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth, and if you can stomach giving the NY Post a click, Evert explained her position on trans athletes and women's sports in this story. It's based on her experience playing Renee Richards while Evert was top-ranked in the late 1970s. I'm not endorsing the position but it seems to be more than just antipathy toward trans people.
posted by martin q blank at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Not accepting trans women as women with full rights is "antipathy towards trans people".

I'm sorry that the hell that most trans women so far have been subjected to as children has sometimes made some of us tougher-than-average opponents. But elite sports is full of women who are tougher-than-average opponents due to a myriad of causes, and the only reason this should exclude us from women's competition is if it makes us somehow not-quite-women.

Please also note that transphobes are working on making sure that more trans women have to go through more of the same "training" for decades to come.
posted by tigrrrlily at 8:17 AM on July 3, 2023 [4 favorites]

I'm not endorsing the position but it seems to be more than just antipathy toward trans people.

Nah, it's the same warmed over bullshit we've debunked elsewhere, not to mention that it uses the classic "my foe is both too powerful and much weaker" framing (in the piece, Evert argues that Richards was both old/out of shape and more physically capable, which are mutually exclusive positions.) So no, it's garden variety transphobia.

Including trans women in women's sports is very controversial. Condemning all who oppose it is not helpful.

So, exactly how long should transgender women expect to be treated as second class women? Because that's what this statement is arguing for. The only reason that trans women in sports is "controversial" is because bigots complain, and bigotry should always be condemned.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:31 AM on July 3, 2023 [6 favorites]

Thanks. I accept that I haven't lived this and haven't followed the arguments enough to be able to decode them. I'm more familiar the reactions a (non-athlete) trans colleague in journalism has experienced for two decades -- simple and vile and .. well, can't clarify more without feeling nauseated. Evert's response, on the surface, sounds different but may be just window-dressing of the same old. My apologies.
posted by martin q blank at 9:20 AM on July 3, 2023

Mod note: A few comments and its replies deleted. Giving context in the thread about the comments both Evert and Navratilova have made in the past is OK, but let's please avoid turning the conversation into a discussion about that and focus on the subject of the FFP instead.

Also, as mentioned in the Content Policy: "cursing is fine on the site, but cursing at someone else is not okay."
posted by loup (staff) at 9:28 AM on July 3, 2023 [4 favorites]

You can reduce just about any bigotry to "statements X has made in the past".

Also, I wish I could have favorited that instance of cursing a thousand times.
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:29 AM on July 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

"statements [they] have made in the past"? Navratilova is still listed as a leader of an anti-trans organisation (archived).
"focus on the subject of the FPP"? She literally is the subject. Her being an anti-trans activist isn't "context", it's the reason why this FPP needs to be deleted. Frankly I'm dismayed and angry that it's already survived two (?) mod visits on this website.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 11:17 AM on July 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Navratilova is still listed as a leader of an anti-trans organisation .
Thank you for providing further context. We, as mods, rely on the feedback of the community to make better decisions. After further discussion, we have decided to delete this post.
posted by loup (staff) at 12:01 PM on July 3, 2023 [5 favorites]

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