Controversy at the U.S. Open: Serena Williams
By Morgan Skinner '19
I am by no means an avid tennis fan, but I am a Serena Williams fan. As a dominant force in the realm of women’s tennis, Williams is practically unstoppable—sometimes almost inhuman. However, her pregnancy with her first child in late 2017 challenged her, as her C-section caused a series of small blood clots to form in her lungs. In response, Nike designed an all-black catsuit developed to prevent clotting in preparation for Williams’ return to the court at the French Open. But Bernard Giuidicelli, the French Federation of Tennis president, has banned the catsuit, saying that it is disrespectful to the game would “no longer be accepted.” A suit specifically designed to prevent blood clots is no longer accepted?
Mere months after the conflict over her outfit, Williams has also found herself a victim of sexism once again. Her violation-free record of 23 Grand Slam victories was disrupted in her pursuit of another title in late August. Battling Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open Finals, Williams was given three different violations from umpire Carlos Ramos. The first was a warning for a coaching violation, the second for breaking her racket (out of frustration), and the third for calling Ramos a “thief” after he took the game from her. While Williams was arguably wrong for her response to the violations, she was certainly mild in comparison to many men angered over a call or a loss. Some male players have resorted to not only breaking their rackets, but breaking them over their heads while using even harsher language. Yet despite Williams’ loss, she refused to belittle and take away from Osaka’s moment—her first U.S. Open win.
Some commentators called her remarks a “temper tantrum,” blending sexism and racism in their critique of her. A cartoonist from the Australian newspaper The Herald Sun released an image presenting Williams as a Jim Crow-esque being, alluding to a time in the early 1900’s when racial segregation was socially acceptable. And while Williams is portrayed as a baby, who is even given a binky, Osaka is depicted as a white woman, despite the fact that she’s biracial—Japanese and Haitian.
If anything, these events have further revealed the double standards for men and women in sports and have amplified the notion that women have to carry themselves differently in order to maintain any sense of respect. I send the sincerest respect and apologies to Serena Williams for the ridicule and now discrimination she has endured, despite proving herself worthy again time after time.