We are only into day three of the Serena Williams analyses, so if you’ve already grown tired of this topic then you’re in for a bumpy ride.
On Saturday, over in New York, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka managed to beat a tennis great in straight sets, but that was far from the day’s main talking point.
Front and centre was the showdown that Serena Williams had with umpire Carlos Ramos, culminating in Serena being docked a point, and then a full game.
We have already covered a video of each of the three incidents, so we’re not going to rehash that.
From the hundreds of different takes on the matter, Martina Navratilova’s effort for the New York Times is amongst the most widely shared.
Titled “What Serena Got Wrong”, it’s a pretty measured approach to what has become an issue divided largely along racial and gender lines.
Here are some of her more salient passages:
Serena Williams has part of it right. There is a huge double standard for women when it comes to how bad behavior [sic] is punished — and not just in tennis.
But in her protests against an umpire during the United States Open final on Saturday, she also got part of it wrong. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of “If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.” Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?
…She and Mr. Ramos were, in effect, talking past each other. She was insisting that she doesn’t cheat — completely believable, but besides the point — while he was making a call over which he, at that point, had little discretion.
…It’s difficult to know, and debatable, whether Ms. Williams could have gotten away with calling the umpire a thief if she were a male player. But to focus on that, I think, is missing the point. If, in fact, the guys are treated with a different measuring stick for the same transgressions, this needs to be thoroughly examined and must be fixed. But we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with…
We do need to take a hard look at our sport, without any rose-colored glasses, and root out any inconsistencies and prejudices that might be there. Tennis is a very democratic sport, and we need to make sure it stays that way.
But it is also on individual players to conduct themselves with respect for the sport we love so dearly. Because we all look so forward to the next time Ms. Williams and Ms. Osaka play each other; hopefully the drama will come from their magnificent shots and their fierce competitiveness — two athletes showing us how it is done, inspiring us all in the process.
To summarise, Serena has a right to be angry about the double standards in play, but she could have gone about airing her grievances in a different way.
People will push back and say that Martina cannot put herself in the shoes of a woman of colour, but that’s a story for another day.
One thing that most people with a sense of decency agree on is that Mark Knight, an Australian ‘editorial cartoonist’, has really missed the mark with his depiction of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.
This was his effort for the Herald Sun:
We shouldn’t need an explanation of why this is a shameful effort, but we’ll give you one anyway, via Vox:
Whether or not you think Williams’s behavior [sic] during the match warranted the penalties that eventually cost her the game, Knight’s depiction of Williams is a jarring reminder of insidious, racist tropes that undercut black women in America. And Williams has repeatedly been a target of those tropes — despite the fact that she’s one of the most prominent, successful athletes in the world, regardless of gender — throughout her storied career.
(For contrast, it’s worth noting how Osaka, who is Japanese and Haitian, is depicted in the cartoon as lithe, expressionless, and, as some have observed, seemingly whitewashed.)
Knight’s cartoon is a literal illustration of the way society is quick to degrade women — and black women in particular — when they don’t fall in line with the ways women are “supposed” to act. Not only is Williams depicted as a petulant toddler for having spoken up about what she felt was a sexist call, but also as a hulking, animal-like brute.
Hey, remember when fellow tennis professional Caroline Wozniacki stuffed her outfit with towels during an exhibition match?
She has one single Grand Slam to her name, so I guess that settles that.
For what it’s worth, the International Tennis Federation has released a statement defending the actions of umpire Ramos:
As for Naomi Osaka? Well, she’s soaking up that winning feeling:
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