| Racialicious wrote:|
Serena Williams Is Not A Costume
By Guest Contributor Jessica Luther, cross-posted from Speaker’s Corner in the ATX (scATX)
Lots of news outlets are reporting on Caroline Wozniacki stuffing her top and skirt with
towels at a match this past weekend against Maria Sharapova. She did
this in order to enhance her chest and butt so that she could imitate or
impersonate Serena Williams. She did it supposedly as a joke.
In case there is someone out there who has never seen a picture of Serena Williams:
Serena Williams turned pro in 1995 in a predominantly white sport
(though that is changing, thanks in large part to the barriers broken
down by the Williams sisters), her not-white body has endured an endless
amount of scrutiny. I didn’t seriously start following tennis until
about seven or eight years ago, though I had watched Wimbledon
religiously for years beforehand. I am not as familiar with what she
must have gone through in the first years–even decade–of her career. But
I will never forget watching the 2007 Australian Open.
hadn’t won a Grand Slam since the 2005 Australian Open, and she had
been absent from the professional circuit for so long before the
Australian Open that she went in unseeded. When she won that year, she
became the first unseeded player since 1978 to win the title. Of the
seven matches she played in the tournament, six were against seeded players. The thing that I remember most
clearly, though, was the constant commentary in every single match she
played about how not physically fit she was and about how fat she had
become–always with the conclusion that she couldn’t possibly win.
it turned out that she was physically fit enough and she was, by far,
the best women’s tennis player at that tournament. I was so angry for
Serena and so tired of that commentary. That will forever stand out for
me as a prime example of the extreme level of focus on Serena’s body and
the negative commentary that accompanies it no matter how well Serena
is playing. She literally couldn’t play well enough for the commentary
In her first match after that Australian Open, this happened in Miami:
Serena Williams was subjected to racist heckling by a male spectator at the Sony Ericsson Open, and was told to “hit the ball into the net like any negro would.”
Here are some more examples from over the years of criticism against Serena’s body and/or her actions:
That’s just a quick Google search.
Wozniacki decided to “impersonate” Serena by adding towels to her
breasts and butt, she wasn’t doing so inside of a vacuum where all of
this hatred doesn’t exist.
How Yahoo! Sports wrote up the incident:
Dane lost the match 6-2 7-6, and didn’t seem to be taking things too
seriously as she padded the, er, top and bottom of her outfit to give
herself a curvier look.
The likeness to Serena, you’ll surely agree, is uncanny.
impersonations are usually the preserve of Novak Djokovic – the madcap
Serb has taken off big rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, as well as
women’s stars Williams and Sharapova.
comparison of what Wozniacki did with Djokovic’s impersonations of
Nadal, Federer, and Sharapova (I’ll return to his impersonation of
Williams in a moment) is flawed. Tennis players are famous for
repetition. They do the same things over and over again before every
single serve. Sharapova pushes her hair behind her ears, Nadal picks his
butt (yes, I’m serious). When Djokovic copies these things, he is
mimicking their actions. We can have a whole other discussion about
whether that kind of mimicry is funny or mean. But that is fundamentally
different than altering your body in order to “impersonate” someone,
especially when the body you are mimicking has been the target of
vitriol and judgment for years and even more so when you are white and
much of that vitriol and judgment of the person’s body that you are
mimicking has been racist.
Williams’ body is not a costume for another tennis player, especially a
white tennis player, to put on and use for laughs when they feel like
Wozniacki had chosen instead to paint her face black in order to
impersonate Williams, would we be questioning if this type of display is
racist?And Wozniacki has done this before (Nov 2011):
find it interesting that news is blowing up over Caroline Wozniacki
doing this but not Roddick or Djokovic, both of whom are much higher
profile players in the US. Funny that.
is nothing hilarious about this. There is no joke here unless you think
black women’s bodies are jokes. Plenty of people over the years have
let Serena Williams know that that is exactly what they think of her
body. That she has to endure that from people in her own sport, Roddick
who is a close friend of hers, too, is terrible.
kind of thing always make me ask the same question: If Serena Williams,
a 15-time tennis grand slam singles champion, a 13-time grand slam
doubles champion, and the reigning gold medalist in women’s singles and
doubles, cannot get the respect she deserves within her sport because
her body does not match the other women’s whom alongside she plays (and
repeatedly beats, especially Wozniacki), who can?
Before anyone says something about how Wozniacki and Serena are
supposedly good friends, I want to go on record and say that making fun
publicly of your friend’s body is a terrible thing for a friend to do.
And friends do terrible things to each other all the time so the idea
that because they are friends, Wozniacki or Roddick or Djokovic have
some sort of magic pass to be offensive seems silly to me.
this post is not written to defend Serena or to speak for her. She’s a
public figure who holds her own just fine and certainly doesn’t need the
likes of me sticking up for her. It’s possible she is just fine with
these gags and even herself finds them funny. If she does, she and I
disagree about the humor in this. I wrote this post because I personally
am uncomfortable with tennis players using Serena’s body as a costume.
That is all. I don’t need anyone else’s permission, including the person
being mocked, for me to find this offensive.Jessica is a historian and freelance writer. You can find her all over the internet.