Women shouldn’t have to defend themselves over the shape of their bodies just because they work in the public eye, and yet that’s exactly what sports commentator and former World No. 4 holder Jelena Dokic has had to do.
Dokic has spent the last two weeks courtside at the Australian Open, where she is working as a commentator. Unfortunately her incredibly successful career transition into commentary is being distracted by the noise of strangers on the internet, who feel the need to comment on her body.
“The body shaming and fat shaming over the last 24 hours has been insane,” Dokic wrote on Instagram this week. “It’s disgusting. People should be so ashamed.”
In the same Instagram post, Dokic chose to share some of the comments that she has been receiving from these online trolls.
The confronting series of screenshots are incredibly difficult to read — and not just because they are needlessly callous and cruel— but because they also reveal that there’s still a deeply rooted expectation of what a woman’s body should be.
When a woman is publicly disparaged for not meeting this expectation, it certainly makes you reassess just how body positive our society really is.
And in Dokic’s case, it’s not only that her body doesn’t meet these stranger’s expectations of it but the fact that it once did—because how dare her body change?
“The most common comment being ‘what happened to her, she is so big?” Dokic continued in her post. “I will tell you what happened. I am finding a way and surviving and fighting. And it really doesn’t matter what I am doing and what happened because size shouldn’t matter. Kindness and being a good person matters which those of you that abuse me and others, are clearly not.”
Dokic’s post was met with words of support from her followers. Among them was Paralympic gold medallist Carol Cook, who wrote: “Jelena you need to not cover their names. They need to not be able to hide behind a screen. Let’s name and shame them. You are amazing for standing up to them and we are all so proud of you!”
Renowned tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou also sent a message of support, writing: “You are doing a great job Jelena. Don’t even read those comments and don’t give them any importance. You will always find unhappy, envious, negative people on social media. All they do all day long is post horrible things on people which tells a lot about their own insecurities. The majority loves you, admires you and the amazing job you are doing.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Dokic has had to endure body shaming online.
In 2021, Dokic faced a similar barrage of cruel messages targeting her body while working as a commentator at the Australian Open. The same thing happened in 2022. Shockingly, Dokic is now enduring this online bullying for the third year in a row.
The former tennis player has already pleaded for people to stop commenting on her body and to simply let her do her job — multiple times. Dokic has addressed the body shaming in numerous Instagram posts over the last few years and yet, nothing has changed.
But this year, Dokic didn’t stop at hitting back at the trolls on social media—she also penned an article about her experience with body shaming for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“No matter how hard I try to work on my commentary, my interviews, my reporting on tennis, for many trolls my weight disqualifies me from having an opinion—I should simply stop eating and be a free target for their dark and evil abuse,” Dokic wrote.
“How can we make people accountable for this behaviour with the authorities, and force the social media platforms to put better measures in place to stamp out this activity?”
Because Dokic shouldn’t have to keep dealing with online body shaming—and nor should any other woman in the public-eye, who happens to inhabit a body that doesn’t fit the mould that society has assigned it.
It certainly places a whole lot more importance on the fact the new Australian Of The Year is body positivity activist, Taryn Brumfitt.
Brumfitt voiced her support for Dokic on The Project this week, saying: “Bullying is never okay and I think we need to call it out. I think we are getting better in this country at doing that… know how it feels to be trolled and how it feels to have those naysayers but if we keep leading with light and love there‘s nothing more powerful than that.”
And while Dokic shouldn’t be forced to defend her body to strangers on the internet, she’s also made it very clear that she’s not just going to just sit back and take the abuse.
And for that—she has our utmost respect.