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In Defense of Scream Queens

It's been 40 years since Title IX became a legal marker for equality for females in sports. It's also been that long since Wimbledon stopped insisting on using women's married names on the scoreboard for "Ladies' Singles" matches.

So why does the Women's Tennis Association want to turn the clock back and enforce one of the most absurd, sexist regulations to hit professional women's sports in decades?

Tired of the grunts and shrieks that permeate some matches, the WTA wants to silence female tennis players by bringing out the kind of "grunt-o-meters" the English tabloids have employed on Moan-ica Seles, Maria Shriek-apova and other Scream Queens.

Apparently it isn't very ladylike to grunt. Next thing you know they're going to start requiring us to be silent while giving birth, too.

As the mom of two daughters, I've tried for the past 13 years to convince them that they should work hard and play hard. Don't worry about what other people think. Go for it. Be yourself. Now I'm supposed to tell them to shove a sock in it?

The really sad thing about this is that the charge to blunt the grunt is being led by women. The unofficial champion of the anti-shrieking lobby, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, complains that grunting is cheating because it disguises the sound of the ball hitting the racquet so opponents can't gauge the power, spin and depth of an incoming shot. (Maybe Navratilova is still smarting from Seles and her famous grunt beating her at the French Open in 1990.)

The WTA says they're pursuing it mainly because the noise is bothering fans.

So let me get this straight: We've got male athletes allegedly doping up and using steroids while college football coaches are diddling little boys in locker room showers, and the biggest worry we have in women's sports right now is that female tennis players aren't being demure and soft-spoken enough?

Anybody who has ever exerted herself knows that whenever you use your entire body to summon up your strength, it's likely that all that air and energy passing through your lungs is going to result in some noise. Football players do it when they hit each other. Weightlifters do it when they shove a bar of weights over their head. Even some of the best men's tennis players (Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal) have been known to croak and gurgle. I don't see anybody trying to mute them.

I've been to the Sony Ericsson and I've heard Sharapova's orgasmic howls reverberate around Key Biscayne. Sure, it's a little disconcerting. But I seriously doubt that's how she gained her No. 1 world ranking. (And the noise didn't seem to stop Germany's Sabine Lisicki, who took Sharapova down in Wimbledon's fourth round Monday.)

In theory, loud grunters already can be penalized under a "hindrance rule." But the WTA wants to stifle the screams early by issuing handheld decibel counters to umpires in junior and lower-level competition to make sure the habit doesn't become ingrained in the next generation.

When we start seeing "Mrs." on the scoreboard again then we know we're in trouble.