Why Making It About Serena Williams & Naomi Osaka Is Misogyny

Day 257 of 365 Days of Being 

I was shocked at the heavy criticism Serena Williams received, athletes shouting, swearing, smashing equipment is the tip of the sporting iceberg. Violence on court, violence off court. Athletes doping, coaches sexual assaulting, there's chaos all around, so Serena William's outburst is a small matter in the larger scheme of things. I don't condone any of this, I am however interested in whether Serena Williams is indeed viewed fairly for her behaviour, was it an accumulation of previous sexist and racist attitudes that caused the outburst? 

I played sports competitively from 9 years old to college, I have witnessed my opponents smash a racket or two, some people snot adrenaline, tempers flare, stomping, cursing, hitting the net. That's for regional and country wide competitions, no where near as big as the US Open. I have never done it myself, I do observe it often enough to know that a competitive spirit includes some fire, sometimes a lot of fire! You want to win of course! Even during casual matches when no trophies or prize money is involved, I have seen lousy sportsmanship, so I can only say it's more common than most people think. Whether we like it or not, it exist, it's common. This is common in other sports too, anything who watches games know this. 

William's career has been surrounded by racism and sexism. Watch the video below. In spite of it, she has risen above, her legacy tells all. 23 Grand Slam titles (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016; U.S. Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Serena claimed her fourth overall Olympic gold medal by teaming with sister Venus to defeat Czech Republic stars Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in women's doubles.

June 2017 Forbes magazine put Serena Williams' net worth at $27 million. Her career $84 million in prize winnings is almost $50 million more than any other women’s tennis player. She also has over a dozen endorsements including Intel, Tempur-Pedic, Nike, Beats By Dre, Gatorade and JP Morgan Chase.

I felt injustice for Serena Williams when she was banned from wearing her catsuit at the French Open. The Associated Press reports that she’ll be banned from wearing a similar outfit thanks to a new dress code. Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the French Tennis Federation, told Tennis magazine her catsuit was specifically a problem. “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place,” he said. “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far.” 

It’s the latest example of Williams being singled out and shamed for her outfitsand, by extension, her body. Williams' suit was more than a fashion moment, though. It had potentially live-saving functionality. As a full-body compression garment, it was made to help with blood clots, a health issue she’s dealt with frequently in the past. At one point, a pulmonary embolism in her lung left her on the sidelines for a year. “They told me I had several blood clots in both lungs,” she said in 2011. “A lot of people die from that.” And when she was giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, last year, she had a pulmonary embolism, and her knowledge of her history with blood clots helped her advocate for herself when doctors and nurses ignored her.

The New York Times came under fire for publishing an article by contributing writer Ben Rothenberg titled, "Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image with Ambition." The article seemingly criticized Serena’s physique in comparison to the non-black women on the WTA Tour who make it a point to not mirror her frame, regardless of whether it could bring more success on the court. “Williams has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to,” wrote Rothenberg.  While trying to discuss how female players struggle with body image and weight training, through the views of the athletes themselves, the article set off a firestorm on social media.

John McEnroe, a seven-times Grand Slam singles winner, said on ESPN, “I’ve said far worse, she’s right about the guys being held to a different standard, there’s no question.” “I think there is a gender bias at issue here. I think Serena brought something up that needs to be discussed more," says former tennis star Patrick McEnroe, brother to John McEnroe, was known for his own outbursts on the court. 

Much of the backlash I heard about was that she took away from Naomi Osaka, she didn't curse and swear at Naomi, she hushed the crowd when they booed. But then I never did hear anyone talk about how other sports stars took away from other people, no matter how bad their behaviour was, so Serena was definitely singled out. This is familiar to me because I can't tell you how many times men pit woman against woman to create infighting or how many times women do that as well. It's a misdirect so the focus is off holding the right person accountable, women take responsibility that isn't theirs. Responsibility that often becomes impossible standards and self-loathing when those standards aren't met.  

It is between Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos. The reason why the focus is on Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka is because misogynistic attitudes infiltrate both men and women in the patriarchy. It's unconsciously picked up via our daily lives, traditional media and social media, it's embedded deep within our psyches.  We take on the responsibility for a profoundly sick society when we're all victims of systemic oppression. Unless we make a conscious effort to set it down, it will block our spiritual progress. Shedding social programming reveals our authentic selves and subsequently our highest selves. 

Both my male and female friends pulled the poor Naomi Osaka card plus I saw many other people on social media do it as well. While I think they did genuinely feel for a crying Naomi, I did too. The way they perceived the situation was different from mine, revealing hidden misogynistic attitudes. 

Before the news broke about how Naomi Osaka felt about it, there was this assumption that she was crying because of Serena, so Serena overshadowed her win. When Serena has a long history so of course by the nature of her history, she has more wins, more fans and more publicity. Naomi Osaka as brilliant as she is, is new to the game compared to Serena. So her win versus 23 Grand Slam titles, come on, some reasonable overshadowing because of the history is a sure thing. 

I find this assumption is misogynistic towards Naomi Osaka too, this assumption she's a fragile weak woman, either intimidated by Serena's argument or she was crying because Serena bullied her somehow. Serena herself fought off sexist and racist bullying.

Naomi is a pro athlete, of course she can stand against an argument and keep her cool. SHE WON! How can she be intimidated if she won? How about all the other players who witness their opponent's argument with umpires and line judges then won! No one think less of them, a win is a win. They didn't go, so poor thing. THIS takes away from Naomi Osaka's win, she won, she's a capable competitor, she deserves her win fully. I would argue that she kept her cool so her win was even more impressive. I'm excited to see more from her, she's a rising star worthy of watching. 

OK perhaps it's people assuming that Naomi's tears at the podium was because she was afraid or sad. This is also misogynistic, this assumption instead of hearing from her. I waited to hear from her, it's her, she's a champion, she has a right to her own voice, let her speak for herself. Misogynists often put words in the mouths of woman, assume that what they think is right or accurate, when nothing is further from the truth. Governing our speech and silencing our voices. 

Osaka insisted her view of her hero had not been tarnished. “I’m always going to remember the Serena that I love. It doesn’t change anything for me,” she said. “She was really nice to me, like, at the net and on the podium. I don’t really see what would change.”

“I felt like she played really well,” Williams said. “Like I said, she made a lot of shots. She was so focused. Whenever I had a breakpoint, she came up with some great serve. Honestly, there’s a lot I can learn from her from this match.”

This is another thing, a woman is expected to carry the emotional labour, often unpaid emotional labour of everyone, Serena for herself, for Naomi and even the crowd. When I explained to a friend how Serena hushed the crowd, ask what more could she have done? There was no reply because there was nothing else. Then it was Serena is a role model so she screwed up, therefore she must be punished heavily. 

She was the runner-up, mind you. She deserved to enjoy her time at the podium as well, hold herself together when her dream of the 24th Grand Slam title was lost, accept the lost graciously which she did. You can only say the crowd ruined the moment for them both, the ceremony was for both of them. I have also never met a perfect person, in sports or otherwise. It's so easy to erase her with one outburst, forget all her achievements and contributions, instead of being empathetic about her humanness, that she was wrong, she's still the GOAT. She is allowed to lose it like many male tennis players and not be penalised more harshly than them. 

BBC tennis presenter Sue Barker said: "The umpire was following the rules by the book but Serena has a point." Barker, a former world number three and 1976 French Open champion, added that "tennis was the loser" from Saturday's events.

Williams' fine for the code violations, imposed by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), will be deducted from the $1.85 million the American won as the runner-up.

"I've sat courtside watching the men ranting at umpires and they haven't been given a violation," Barker said.

"The fact that it was to be a game violation then robbed the crowd of what potentially could've been a third set."

My point is that it isn't about Naomi versus Serena, it's overall about sexism, racism in Tennis. It's about Serena and Carlos Ramos, did he make a bad call or was it justified? Making it about Naomi versus Serena is missing the point, making it about the assumed "friction" between them is already underestimating these two amazing powerful women, so much misogyny is showing. It's disturbing and disillusioning, this idea that Serena, the GOAT - Greatest Of All Time, is still so undermined and undervalued. While some still don't think misogyny exist. 

Williams isn't the only tennis player to find herself at the center of a gender-focused controversy. French tennis player Alize Cornet received a code violation a few weeks ago for briefly taking off her shirt on the court. During a 10-minute break from the blistering heat at Flushing Meadows, Cornet rushed off-court to change her shirt. When she returned, she realized that she was wearing it the wrong way and fixed her top.
In a statement, the US Open said it regretted the way Cornet was treated. The organization added that all players are allowed to change their shirts while sitting in their chairs while female players have the option to change shirts in "a more private location close to the court, when available."
John Isner changed his shirt 11 times throughout his three-plus hour match against Juan Martin del Potro. A day later, Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic sat shirtless for several minutes while his opponent, John Millman of Australia, stepped away to change his shirt during a quarterfinals match. Neither of them was penalized.

So what are the chances that sexism and racism doesn't exist in Tennis? Zero. What are the chances misogyny ain't real in society? Zero. 

Love, light and peace. 


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