I don’t like sports. Mostly, I find it pointless and time-consuming. There’s no storyline. Just people running around endlessly.
But – recently I’ve come to adore Serena Williams. Of the myriad sports out there, tennis is one that I can sometimes bring myself to watch. And since following the story of Serena Williams, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with this brilliant, skillful, amazing woman.
I’m interested in Serena firstly because she is awesome, but secondly because there’s really a storyline.
White America and the media around the world tend to cast her as a “powerhouse” and “forceful” etc. When she wins, it is supposedly because of her brute strength. When someone else (probably a blonde waif) wins, it is due to finesse and skill and grace. The undertones of racism are not always so subtle though.
Maria Sharapova, far inferior in rankings and awesomeness, carries more money muscle than Serena. She gets bigger endorsements, bigger deals and is worth more dollars than Serena.
The amazing article in the New York Times, The Meaning of Serena, captures the difficulty of dealing with being the best while also dealing with constant micro-aggressions and outright racism. Black people have to perform at 150% to be recognised, and even then, black excellence must “behave” and appear proper. She cannot be outraged when the umpire makes some questionable decisions against her, people cannot deal with the full range of human emotions when it is contained in a black body. Some people even credit the use of digital review (basically a third umpire) due to the numerous bad calls made against Serena. It seems that a computer is needed to side-step the racism against her. And yet, she still wins. And wins and wins.
She doesn’t hide who she is, she won’t be who people expect her to be. She won’t shut up when people attack her, and rightly so. She gets into the most white of white Wimbledons and emerges victorious. The usually polite and stiff upper lip Wimbledon watchers made so much noise during one of Serena’s matches that she had to ask the ref for silence, after which she was booed.
Americans watching the US Open support players from other countries over Serena, an American! How pathetic.
It irks me that people call her hypermasculine and joke about the “Williams brothers”. Imperial constructs of beauty as white, blonde and thin are so narrow, not allowing for any deviation from this quite boring, beige idea of beauty.
I hope to see Serena continue in her awesomeness. What a cool lady.