Anna Wintour. ABC video image
She didn’t sound all that sure of herself, actually. But she stuck to her script and when the clapping finally started she looked out from under her heavy fringe with a grateful little smile. I’m talking about Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, using a keynote speech at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne to rehearse a well-worn criticism of Aussie tennis legend Margaret Court.
Wintour thinks that the Margaret Court Arena, a major tennis venue in the city dedicated in 2003, should be renamed, because its namesake has spoken publicly against same-sex marriage — something that is now recognised in law in Australia.
Why the organisers of the Open’s “Inspirational Series” had to bring a British-American fashion editor all the way from New York – or wherever the Vogue headquarters is located – just to say what Martina Navratilova and various Australians have said publicly before her, is a mystery. Are they just sick of listening to their own voices?
And what’s inspirational about it? Getting involved in another nation’s internal squabbles is not particularly edifying. But I was forgetting; same-sex marriage is not a quarrel any more; it’s dogma, and heresy to speak of it with anything other than reverence.
Wintour did very well in that respect. When Australia passed its same-sex marriage law in 2017, she said, “the world sang in celebration” with it. I can’t remember hearing that, but hyperbole is the rule for this subject.
“It is inconsistent for the sport for Margaret Court’s name to be on a stadium that does so much to bring all people together across their differences,” she continued. “This much is clear I think to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game.”
But how many people who go to a tennis match care about differences other than those staring them in the face, above all, differences of skill, energy and style? Why drag sexual preferences and what anyone thinks about same-sex marriage or any other social issue into it?
And if we must be reminded of these issues, is tennis not big enough to get “across” — and get over — the different ideas of an old champ who, during a time of fierce public debate expressed her Biblical Christian views openly? That is the “spirit” of tennis, or any sport that hasn’t been ruined by identity politics. How can sport bring joy if people are always bringing up extraneous issues?
Wintour: “Intolerance has no place in tennis.” Exactly. “What we love is watching these remarkable men and women exceed themselves while being themselves in many different forms.” Once again, how many tennis fans care about “forms” they don’t actually see? Its sporting form they are interested in, not the nature of someone’s sexuality.
“Margaret Court was a champion on the court, but a meeting point for players of all nations, preferences, and backgrounds should celebrate someone who was a champion off the court as well.”
Like whom? It would have to be someone who will not go out of fashion within a decade, as Margaret Court did. Tough, in these days of rapidly changing mores and show trials.
What makes an off-court champion anyway? Someone who spouts politically correct sentiments in order to burnish her celebrity credentials? Or a woman who speaks out on an important issue because her conscience impels her to do so, even though she knows she will be attacked for it (though perhaps not anticipating just how bad the attacks would be).
Margaret Court is a staunch Christian and the pastor of a fundamentalist church in Perth. She believes, as many religious people do, that same-sex marriage and parenting, transgenderism and perhaps a few other aspects of the new sexuality contradict the Biblical messages about sex and marriage. She has said so bluntly, but without expressions of disgust or hatred.
She has told the media this week that she has “nothing against homosexual people” and that she has “them” (at least one) in her regular congregation. “They’ve been doing the flowers in the church for 14 years and they’re my biggest fans.” However, she maintains her right to “have my say as a minister of the Gospel.” Dragging up stuff from the past and calling for the arena to be renamed is a form of bullying, she says, “another example of freedom of religion being under threat.”
And she is right. It’s not fair. It’s not freedom. It’s not tennis. It might be fashion, but to my mind Anna Wintour did not sound very comfortable with her virtue-signalling at the expense of another woman. She is no doubt a very good fashion editor. I think should stick to her knitting.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.