If you didn’t catch “Battle of the Sexes” in the theater this past fall, then definitely make it a Netflix-and-chill night and watch it On Demand! Even if you don’t follow sports, let alone tennis, we guarantee you’ll find the story of tennis great Billie Jean King super inspiring as a woman or girl.
So, What’s the Movie About?
*FAIR WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!*
The movie leads up to the famous 1973 match between female tennis great Billie Jean King (played AWESOMELY by Emma Stone) and former men’s champion Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carrell, whose resemblance is uncanny). While the match, as you’ll see, is watch-worthy, it’s the story that leads up to the momentous event that is the source of pride for female athletes and women everywhere.
Since the tender age of 12, Ms. King was determined to make the sport of tennis fair for women. For decades, men dominated the sport in the States. However, as more and more female athletes emerged, many like King since childhood, women began to rise in rank and popularity. But things still weren’t fair for female tennis players.
First, the issue of equal pay. You think this is a hot issue today, during the seventies, women had to prove themselves ten times harder!
The movie opens with King and World Tennis magazine founder Gladys Heldman’s confronting Jack Kramer, the head of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) about the stark discrepancy between the women and men’s purses for an upcoming tour – to the tune of 1/8 the men’s prize money.
His reasoning: “The men are just more exciting to watch.”
So, King and Heldman round up all of the female tennis players from the tour to start the Women’s Tennis Association and their own tour. This promptly kicks the ladies out of the USLTA. They struggle for a bit until they find a sponsor in Virginia Slims!
The second issue? Who’s better at tennis: men or women. This is where the story reaches epic proportions.
Facing a gambling addiction that threatens his marriage, fifty-five-year-old Riggs decides to make the ultimate bet. He seeks to challenge the best female tennis player at a match to prove men are better than women at the sport.
At first, King declines Riggs’ invitation. The renowned Margaret Court plays against Riggs instead. She loses, which incenses King. Not because Court loses but because of the bravado with which Riggs has approached the match from the beginning and riles up men everywhere to take up his “cause”. Think as chauvinist as a chauvinist can be, and that’s how Riggs’ campaign played out.
King trains like a true athlete while Riggs lays back and soaks up the publicity leading up to the match.
The movie brings such an intensity to the final showdown that it’s as fun to watch the actual game as it is to see what is actually playing out between the players and even the audience.
Ninety million people tune in to watch the match, more than the Super Bowl commands! King finally emerges victorious, leaving Riggs to admit the defeat, though graciously and Kramer to probably wish he had never disrespected the female of the sport.
A Win for Women Everywhere
King’s win wasn’t just a one-time deal. It was a real turning point for a movement that continues today. Her victory finally recognized that women deserve equal respect for what they bring to the sport and, on a bigger scale, what they bring to the world.
It’s what our movement at UGauGrrl is all about! Every woman and girl has a special gift that she brings to the world, no matter how big or small. She just needs to tap into it, empowering herself and other women and girls to find their inner muses and to share their special gifts with the world, too. King used her gift with a tennis racquet.
We owe so much to King for her relentless efforts. She proved that women don’t want what men have; they just want recognition for what they already own. This idea still rings true today as women continue to strive for equal pay, equal footing, equal voices and stand by each other.
Oh, and by the way, you can still catch her and her charming commentary on the Tennis Channel, by the way!
To Billie Jean King, we say…UGauGrrl!