Apparently the Doha pressers weren't all hotness and eye makeup. The top ladies also kept it on the serious, talking about women's rights:
Jankovic's fellow competitor Serena Williams, the US Open champion, was careful to qualify her comments so that they did not appear like criticisms of a single country. "I have not been able to meet many women here, and I can't sit here and comment on exactly the hardships of the female that happens in Qatar," the younger Williams sister said. "I've heard some things I should say, rather, of females that happens in the Middle East. "But seeing what our country is going through right now - having an opportunity to have a female as a vice president (Republican Sarah Palin), and obviously myself having always been a supporter of the betterment of women in general, I would like to just continue to see it grow around the globe. Where would we be without women?"
Serena's elder sister Venus Williams, the Wimbledon champion, has been a strong supporter of equal prize money for women at the Grand Slam tournament in London, which last year became the last of the four majors to change to equal pay with men. Venus has also been a frequent advocate of women's rights.
But she was cautious about promoting them in the Middle East, even though this week's event is the biggest tennis tournament ever held in the region, and the first time the women's year-end championships has had equal money with the men's (4.5 million US dollars). "You know, I'm not exactly sure that we're here to change perceptions," said Venus. "I think every country has their way of doing things. I don't think it's really our job to come here and tell everyone how to do things and to change mindsets. "But we are here to play great tennis and to be a good role model and as women to be entertainment. Anything else might be a little bit beyond our reach and influence," she said, employing some of the diplomatic skill honed through having been the leader of the UNESCO and WTA join campaign for gender equality in sport.
A very nice and diplomatic answer from Venus. Qatar is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East. It was the first Arab country to grant women the right to vote and women gained senior leadership roles in government. It's not as liberal as UAE or Bahrain, but sometimes it takes baby steps, and I hope that increased Western involvement will spur on more cultural change. We'll see.