Battle of the Sexes 2016

“In many ways, this contest represents the ultimate Battle of the Sexes: “he said/she said” on steroids…”

October 11, 2016

By Lisa Lynn

On September 20, 1973, a television audience estimated at over 90 million people worldwide watched as Billy Jean King, a top female tennis player and women’s rights activist who fought for equal pay for women — a crazy idea at the time, and widely resisted by modern society — beat Bobby Riggs in a best-of-five-sets tennis match that was ultimately part of a three-match series, notable in that the matches were each between a male and a female player (the third was between Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova in September, 1992.) The series was launched after Riggs, who had at one time been the number one ranking male player in the world, claimed many years after his 1951 retirement that the female tennis game was inferior and that, even at his then-current age of 55, he could still beat any of the top female players.

Turns out, those were fightin’ words.

In the first match of the series, in March of 1973, which featured Riggs playing Margaret Court, the world’s top-ranked female tennis player at the time, Riggs easily prevailed and landed on the cover of both Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine. He had initially challenged King for this match, and she had declined.

The victory over Court only fueled his ego further.

After beating Court, Riggs was quite vocal about his prowess in the press, taunting all women tennis players. King took the opportunity to further women’s standing in the equality issue and accepted a lucrative deal for the match, which took place in Houston, Texas. It was a big publicity event, attracting wide media attention and significant activity in the gambling world.

King knew she had to beat Riggs, as his bravado, arrogance and cocky attitude were ripe for a woman to publicly prove that women can do anything a man can do, and do it well. During the match, although she faltered at first and it looked like she may lose, she was deeply committed to serving women’s rights by plowing through and beating Riggs. She later spoke of her fear during the match that her losing would set women’s issues back 50 years, and she did not want to let women down.

She outwitted her hubristic opponent, using his own defense strategy against him, wearing him out by keeping him running all over the court. Always the showman, Riggs had been employing his usual comedic affectations and unyielding (and, as it turned out, premature) confidence for ‘his public,’ until finally, King succeeded in beating one of the world’s top male tennis players and making a bold and historic case for women’s equality.

Naturally, after the match, critics made excuses for Riggs, and tried to downplay King’s victory- some even claiming that he threw the match to win bets he’d made against himself. (Riggs eventually took a lie-detector test to prove otherwise.) Tellingly, however, Riggs went into seclusion for months after the match, depressed and embarrassed, according to his son, and felt he had made a terrible mistake by appearing in the spectacle. He eventually wanted a rematch, but King again refused. In the long run, they became good friends, often participating together in public spoofing of their famous Battle of the Sexes.

If this scenario is beginning to sound familiar, it’s because — 43 years later — I believe we are witnessing a replay of this public spectacle of male vs. female in our presidential contest, plain and simple. Make no mistake: despite the myriad accusations of wrongdoing, the lies, the proof of culpability, the hordes of surrogates puffing their candidates’ egos and attempting to further their own careers, the focus on issues ranging from nukes to trade agreements, and from race relations to terrorism, this election is clearly and flatly about a woman potentially becoming the commander in chief of the most powerful country in the world.

Here’s the big difference: both King and Riggs had earned the right to step into that arena, or onto the clay, as it were. In our election situation, only one of the contestants has earned that right, and she has earned it the hard way.

Riggs had been a global star in men’s tennis in the 1940s and continued to work in promoting the game after he retired. He knew how to promote himself and the game, and he knew how to win. Same with King: she was a top-seeded competitor in women’s tennis, her career total of 39 grand slams is legendary, and she was a crucial force in securing legitimacy for women in tennis, founding the Women’s Tennis Association, World Team Tennis (with former husband Larry King), and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

In this political contest, however, there is a vast difference in the experience, qualifications and fitness of the two competitors. While Trump has had success in entertainment and business — the latter, a disputed notion after starting off with millions in funding from his father, four bankruptcies, countless lawsuits, failed casinos and losing nearly a billion dollars in one year alone — Mrs. Clinton’s resume dwarfs any collection of accomplishments Trump’s team could assemble, specifically as these histories relate to the ominous and complex task of leading the most powerful nation on the planet, a job for which only one person — out of over 350,000,000 people — can be qualified, judged, vetted and selected by our democratic society.

Here’s a list of Mrs. Clinton’s achievements:

  • First ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley Colleg
  • President of the Wellesley Young Republicans
  • Intern at the House Republican Conference
  • Distinguished graduate of Yale Law School
  • Editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action
  • Appointed to Senator Walter Mondale’s Subcommittee on Migratory Labor.
  • Co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • Staff attorney for Children’s Defense Fund
  • Faculty member in the School of Law at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  • Former Director of the Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic.
  • First female chair of the Legal Services Corporation
  • First female partner at Rose Law Firm.
  • Former civil litigation attorney.
  • Former Law Professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
  • twice listed by The National Law Journal as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America
  • Former First Lady of Arkansas.
  • Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983
  • Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession
  • twice named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America
  • created Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth
  • led a task force that reformed Arkansas’s education system
  • Board of directors of Wal-Mart and several other corporations
  • Instrumental in passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses
  • Successfully sought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the National Institutes of Health
  • Worked to investigate reports of an illness that affected veterans of the Gulf War (now recognized as Gulf War Syndrome)
  • Helped create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice
  • Initiated and shepherded the Adoption and Safe Families Act
  • First FLOTUS in US History to hold a postgraduate degree
  • Traveled to 79 countries during time as FLOTUS
  • Helped create Vital Voices, an international initiative to promote the participation of women in the political processes of their countries.
  • Served on five Senate committees:
  • -Committee on Budget (2001–2002)
  • -Committee on Armed Services (2003–2009)
  • -Committee on Environment and Public Works (2001–2009)
  • -Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (2001–2009)
  • -Special Committee on Aging.
  • Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Instrumental in securing $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center site’s redevelopment
  • Leading role in investigating the health issues faced by 9/11 first responders.
  • In the aftermath of September 11th, she worked closely with her senior Senate counterpart from New York, Sen. Charles Schumer, on securing $21.4 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment.
  • Middle East ceasefire. In November 2012, Secretary of State Clinton brokered a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
  • Introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act, intended to protect children from inappropriate content found in video games.
  • First ex-FLOTUS in US History to be elected to the United States Senate (and re-elected)
  • Two-term New York Senator
  • Former US Secretary of State
  • GRAMMY Award Winner

This contest is clearly about a woman becoming president of the United States. No one — no man, no woman — has EVER been as prepared, or as qualified, to do this job as Hillary Clinton. As a woman, she had to be far more prepared and qualified to even get close the the room where the Powerful White Men assembled to decide who could play with them.

Meanwhile, her opponent has found success in this arena by whipping up anger through racism and anti-government rallies, and by simply refraining from actually punching someone in the face or grabbing a woman’s genitals on-camera. The bar is extremely low for Trump.

I have been saying for a long time now that it had to be someone like Trump who could supply the enormous amount of energy (read: hot air) required to catapult this country past this one remaining hurdle. We crossed a boundary eight years ago by electing our first African American president. This one — electing our first woman president — has been a long time coming, and Hillary Clinton has been aiming for it for a very long time.

There is no surprise that even after the hard work of many brave women like Billie Jean King, even with all the progress our society has made in improving equality for women, a Battle of the Sexes like this has caused sexism and misogyny to erupt over the landscape, bringing the ugliness of back-rooms and board rooms, barrooms and bedrooms to light and illuminating elements like rape culture, bullying, disrespect of women’s accomplishments and the denigration of the power of female intelligence.

Trump’s arrogance, childishness, lack of control, impetuousness and rudeness have brought forth an element in our population that is ripe for conflict: the old white boys’ club, which all of us women know so well, from our own assault experiences to our challenges in the business world and getting a seat at the table, to our seeking of fairness in every industry and institution — education and science, tech and the arts — is dying a very loud, bloviating, gasping, angry death through the determined efforts of a candidate who has disrespected every segment of our society except white men, and who seems to have steam oozing out of his ears, his eyes, his whatever — in an effort to beat The Woman at all costs. He has humiliated himself, his wife and his family by his behavior, and has destroyed the party that got him this close to the highest office in the country by turning his back on even them when they didn’t follow his whims and support his insufferable behavior.

It has been said many times that women must work twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as smart, backwards, in heels, in order to make 72% of what men make, and receive half the credit, if any. Hillary’s resume, her decades of diligent work for children, for the poor, for women, for health care, for our communities, has been built by one thing: her determination to serve. She has believed that our country is already great, and has worked to make it even greater..

Like in the case of Jimmy Carter, I believe that history will look back on Mrs. Clinton’s presidency as one of service, long after she’s finished her term(s.) I also believe that, when the dust settles on November 9th, her defeated opponent will claim that the election is rigged. Indeed, he and his people have already begun to do so, just as they have claimed that the debates have been rigged, the press is slanted, and that he has already been the “victim” of a “smear campaign.”

The presidential election of 2016 has been riddled with more conflict than any in modern history, largely due to the immediate access we all have to communication and information through these little ubiquitous screens — everyone has a camera and a microphone, and they all function 24/7.

In many ways, this contest represents the ultimate Battle of the Sexes: “he said/she said” on steroids, with the vast population chiming in on one of the most far-reaching cases of male/female bickering to ever face the country, only in this case, the squabbling covers a broad range of topics, but none so controversial and visceral as the most recent one: sexual assault. Trump trumped himself with his response to the revelation of his lewd and demeaning “banter” with Billy Bush: “it’s just words.”

You could almost hear the guns cocking across the land, with millions of women aiming their own stories of experiencing assault right at his oddly-coiffed head. Canadian author Kelly Oxford tweeted an invitation to her followers just hours after the tape was released to share their stories. Within a couple of days, she had received over 27 million responses, with each telling a less-than 140 character version of the poster’s personal knowledge of what sexual assault feels like.

It doesn’t feel like “just words,”believe me.

Much has changed since 1973, but one thing is certain: this presidential contest will forever be studied and storied as the ultimate Battle of the Sexes. No matter what the opposition has thrown at her, Mrs. Clinton has prevailed, and has done so with grace. On November 8th, we will all be able to say, “Game. Set. Match.”

Lisa Lynn ~ musician, author, speaker, wellness-seeker, beauty-lover