Romania's Sorana Cirstea celebrates a point against Poland's Magdalena Frech in the Women's Singles Round of 16 match on centre court on day four of the Rothesay Classic Birmingham at Edgbaston Priory Club. Picture date: Thursday June 22, 2023. | Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

Sorana Cirstea, the Romanian tennis player who has made it to the third round in her 16th Wimbledon, shared an Instagram story filled with anti-LGBTQ tropes that help to narrow down who to root for – and who to root against – in this year’s tournament.

On Sunday, Cirstea — who will play Beatriz Haddad Maia in the third round of Wimbledon — cemented her role as a heel on the women’s tour by sharing a story on Instagram with the slogans: “Make men masculine again. Make women feminine again. Make children innocent again.”

The sheer banality of her call to return to a rigid gender binary aside, the endorsement of the “make children innocent again” dogwhistle is just a trendier packaging of the same age-old bigotry that labels the LGBTQ+ community, and particularly trans people, as somehow “grooming” children by simply existing.

Cirstea’s embrace of this reactionary ideology is not only part and parcel of the broader and much more dangerous issue of transphobia in sport and how it manifests today, but a completely self-hating contradiction of the ways in which the mere existence of professional women’s sports is a transgression of the traditional binaries of masculinity and femininity.

Just a hundred years ago in the 1920s, as Dr. Brenda Elsey and Dr. Joshua Nadel point out in their book Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America, sport was only considered acceptable for women insofar as it was tied to a superficial ideal of health and beauty.

Radio programs and magazines encouraged women to follow exercise routines in the home rather than in sports clubs, sending the message that women’s sweat, exertion, and competition were a shameful public spectacle. Furthermore, they underscored that women needed to prioritize their domestic obligations rather than their personal fulfillment.

Even as women began encroaching more and more into traditionally male-dominated sports in the 20th century, the policing of gender continued to draw narrow parameters in defining how a woman may compete without infringing on the culturally subjective gender norms of her time and place.

“It’s stemming from this particular notion that sports itself is a masculine space, and that women are trespassers on this field of men,” historian Dr. Amira Rose Davis explained on her podcast.

“Historically, that has come into play in different ways. One, as a business prospective, where value in women’s sports has been this kind of spectacle of, ‘Come see the unbelievable, come see the feminine meet the masculine.’ The reason that had to be played up is because who would want to just see women as athletes? No. It’s about the fact that we’re supposedly merging these two things that don’t go together.

This is why their uniforms for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — A League of Their Own — were skirts. It was like, ‘“Look, come look. We have women playing baseball, but they’re still women because they’re wearing skirts.” Or the idea of tennis skirts. And there used to be tennis dresses to make sure the women still projected femininity.

“This all is part and parcel of the fact that what is worth seeing in women as athletes is their bodies being ‘feminine’ and still performing this inherently ‘masculine’ thing.”

Whether playing in skirts or not, we still see the ways in which historical ideas of so-called femininity continue to be propagated and define what is considered appropriate for women athletes, particularly when factoring in the white, Western associations of the term.

Of the countless examples of this, few in women’s tennis have been more blatant than the ways in which Serena Williams was criticized throughout her career for the aesthetics of her body and the way she dresses on the court. After one such example of this in 2018 when her catsuit was banned at the French Open, Vox’s Nadra Nittle pointed out that Williams wasn’t the first player to sport a catsuit: That honor belonged to Anne White back in 1985.

“Seventeen years later, when Serena Williams wore a short catsuit to the 2002 US Open, she received a significantly different response. Unlike White, she wasn’t praised as an enviable example of femininity in the suit but instead was slut-shamed, body-shamed, and generally demeaned.”

Of course, none of this social context matters to Cirstea. And none of the ways in which her own internalized misogyny should matter to anyone else, up until the point when she begins to use her platform as a professional athlete to call for a reactionary set of standards that she does not even have the integrity to apply to her own life.

Indeed, one of the more mystifying contradictions of the women’s side of the movement to “retvrn” to traditional values is how wannabe tradwives eschew the feminine virtue of silence altogether with their loudly opinionated online presences.

If she truly believes in embracing traditional femininity, I’m in complete support of her in that endeavor and will be holding my breath for her coming announcement of retiring from tennis to spend the rest of her days barefoot and pregnant in her home in Romania.

Log off and live your truth, just don’t force your lifestyle on the rest of us.