LAUSANNE — His tears made the whole word cry, and won't be forgotten anytime soon.
After Roger Federer won his record 20th Grand Slam tournament Sunday, in Melbourne, the tennis champion broke down. And we are not talking about a single tear, shed and immediately brushed away, as an English Lord might show. No, the tennis champion let loose a river of tears, a torrent that told the story of his joy, liberation of tension, and amazement at his own feat. The Swiss athlete cried like a little boy. Or, a more touchy comparison in today's context, Federer cried like a woman — unafraid of showing her emotions.
A man who cries is beautiful, in the same way that righting a wrong is beautiful. It's a clear, limpid response to decades of absurd patriarchy, where from the moment they're born, boys are destined to muscular stoicism, while girls are expected to demonstrate a certain sense of fragility. For the past 60 years, feminists and educated members of society have worked hard to fight this cliché. With varied results, as education, whether consciously or not, still encourages young boys to misbehave and young girls to obey.
We must continue to combat this pattern, imposed by culture rather than by nature — the muscular superiority of a man is not all there is to it — and show that strengths and weaknesses are equally shared between each sex. At the Australian Open final on Sunday, Federer was not merely letting his emotions flow. He was literally smashing the idea that a man who cries is a failure.
Of course, there are different kinds of tears. If Federer had lost this final, or had been beaten earlier in the tournament by, say, Rafael Nadal, he might have cried too, but his tears certainly would have been of a different flavor. We would have sympathized, of course — although in moderation, for we tend not to forgive our heroes easily.
With his remarkably traditional lifestyle, Federer is not what you could call an accomplished feminist. Still, there are two things that speak to his femininity: On one hand, he is definitely not built like a wrestler. In fact, he is relatively small and thin in comparison to other players on the circuit. On the other hand, when he returned to the competition after recovering from an injury, the Swiss champion decided to take it easy, to play as he pleased while taking time to spend with his family.
Such a balance between work and home — often considered a feminine quality — has paid off. With 20 Grand Slam trophies on his shelf, and a career that has (for the most part) been spared by injury, Federer has triumphed again by listening to his feminine side.
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