The first of three chest-puffing tennis matches that became one of the main veins leading to the heart of second-wave feminism began on this day in 1973, coincidentally on Mother’s Day. Dubbed the Battle of the Sexes, 55-year-old 1930s thoroughbred Bobby Riggs spearheaded the playful misogyny, egging on the world’s best women’s tennis champs of the era.
30-year-old Australian Margaret Court was the first to take his challenge. Though Court couldn’t see the bigger equality picture beyond the cash purse — $10,000 — future Battle of the Sexes contender Billie Jean King, who would be the first to defeat Riggs, knew the stakes in a time of bra-burning, maternity and credit liability workforce wars. King’s match was even more theatrical, too, Riggs entering the nationally televised match on a rickshaw supported by a gaggle of scantily-clad models, King on a Cleopatra beefcake chair ride.
Both playful and contentious, so goes another chapter in the book of man vs. woman, which calls for one of the best lyric battles of all time, Irving Berlin‘s 1946 classic “lesson in long-distance spitting,” “Anything You Can Do,” from Broadway’s Annie Get Your Gun, performed here by Howard Keel and Betty Hutton for the 1950 silver screen adaptation. Here’s looking at you, gender equality:
Howard Keel: I can drink my liquor faster than a flicker
Betty Hutton: I can do it quicker and get even sicker
Keel: I can open any safe
Hutton: Without being caught?
Hutton: That’s what I thought, you crook