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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Mad black woman


Respectability politics cost Serena Williams at U.S. Open

At tennis, beating your sister who’s also the very best and playing while pregnant and still maintaining your title as the best, is difficult to say the least. 

Now imagine being the very best at tennis, a white-washed elitist sport, as a black woman. Imagine being Serena Williams.

Last month during the French Open, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) banned Williams from wearing her black cat suit, as they claimed to be enforcing a more strict dress code for tournaments.

Williams wears the black compression bodysuit to promote blood circulation and prevent blood clots after the birth of her daughter, which almost cost Williams her life. She suffered many health complications, including a pulmonary embolism, a ruptured C-section wound and a large abdominal hematoma.

Williams is lucky to be alive and attributes this to her fame and the power it held in allowing her to receive the proper medical care that is not always afforded to black women.

The FFT president claimed, “one must respect the game and the place” in response to the ban; yet, where is the respect for Serena Williams?

The FFT’s ban is a blatant expression of misogynoir aimed to police Williams’ black body. The FFT singled Williams out, only finding issue with her attire, specifically.

What Williams wears as she plays in her first Grand Slam appearance since the birth of her daughter a year ago should not concern the FFT, especially because her outfit was not inappropriate.

As a black woman in a white-dominated sport/space, Williams already stands out. The cat suit only made her stand out more.

The following day, Williams sported an all-white ensemble, complete with a flouncy white tutu and an all-black outfit accompanied with a black tutu just days later.

Although Serena Williams is undeniably the greatest, she is too often treated as mediocre, as if she hasn’t made a name for herself as a tennis champion.

On Sept. 8, during the final match of the U.S. Open, Serena Williams was cheated of a game which could have cemented her 24th Grand Slam win.

During her final match against Naomi Osaka, the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, charged Williams with three code violations: receiving coaching (a Grand Slam rule violation), a docked point for smashing her racket and another docked point for “verbal abuse” which ended up costing Williams the game and $17,000 in fines.

Osaka was crowned as the first Haitian-Japanese woman in history to win a Grand Slam. Osaka’s historic win, however, was overshadowed by a sexist call that made her feel as if she didn’t rightfully earn it.

Regardless of the technicalities of Ramos’ calls, it’s obvious that his rulings were sexist.

Men are allowed to express anger and exasperation without penalty or the stereotype for their valid emotions. Williams refuted the allegations of cheating, rightfully so, as she has lost before and clearly does not need to cheat to win.

Additionally, Williams’ frustration at the situation resulted in her expressing her emotions, which were viewed as abuse by Ramos. Despite the technicalities of Ramos’ calls, his decision to charge Williams with multiple code violations is not new to her, as she is often criticized for expressing emotions that don’t sit well with the elitist tennis community.

Her frustration with the match, or with the sport that continues to treat its female players vastly different than the male, is valid.

I am equally as irritated by the obstacles Williams has had to face and the treatment she has endured simply for being the best.

Her frustration with a sport that continues to treat her as “other,” despite being the best, is valid.

The events of this weekend’s U.S. Open has again sparked debates about double standards within tennis and even a racist cartoon depicting Williams as a large, angry black baby throwing a temper tantrum and Osaka as a blonde white woman.

The cartoon is another glaring indication of how some people perceived Williams’ behavior during the game and how, as a black woman, any expression of emotion is automatically assumed to be undeserving of anger.

I am tired of Serena Williams having to bear the brunt of the tennis world’s disdain for her black body, for her success and for her unwavering determination to continue to fight for women’s rights.

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