No Body’s Business
Are you FUCKING kidding me? Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player of a generation and quite arguably the greatest athlete we have seen in a generation– not Derek Jeter, not Lebron James, not Sidney Crosby, not Tom Brady, and certainly not Tiger Woods. Serena Williams has been ranked number one in the world six times, won twenty one major tennis championships over her career, and been a shining example of what someone can do when training, discipline, and skill come together in one person. There is no doubt in my mind that by the end of her career she will have won more major championships than anyone in tennis history–especially considering she already has seven more than Roger Federer, the current holder of that title on the men’s side of tennis.
As Serena Williams won her twenty first major title this morning at Wimbledon the focus wasn’t on her dominating performance throughout the entire tournament where she only dropped one set and absolutely embarrassed Maria Sharapova, last year’s champion. We are talking about her body, instead. Yep, the media–mainstream and social–reduced this outstanding woman and athlete to her looks. Again. I’ll stopped being surprised by this one day I swear. So, let’s talk about Ms. Williams’ body for a moment. According to Wikipedia she stands five feet nine inches tall, above average for most women but not for elite athletes, and weighs 150 pounds (and since she is an elite athlete that probably sits at about 92% lean mass which for an athlete in an endurance sport is peak physical conditioning). But according to media she’s mannish, a brute, unfeminine.
At the moment of her victory, sexist and racist messages flooded into the internet. Serena Williams was the number one trending topic in North America but unless I wanted to see a 50/50 split of support to shit talkers I needed go under more options and select “News.” Even then, there was discussion about her looks and her body. There is no doubt that her body is an important part of her game; without that peak conditioning she wouldn’t have the endurance to play for two or three hours in 85 degree weather, or handle rallies that go on for minute-trust me that is intense activity. Let us also not forget that Serena’s body was trying to kill her four years ago. Blood clots in her lungs threatened not just her career but her life, but two surgeries later she is back at number one in the world and winning tournaments everywhere she goes.
But we are talking about her looks.
Now let’s talk about about another body, Maria Sharapova’s. An excellent tennis player to be sure, Sharapova has been ranked world number one and currently ranks fourth. She hasn’t beaten Serena for seventeen consecutive matches–her last grand slam title was the 2014 French Open in which Williams didn’t participate–yet she makes more money than Serena. Not in prize money, but endorsements. Double the amount, in fact, at 22 million to Williams’ 11 million. Serena, however, took home 11 million in prize money to Sharapova’s 2.4 million. This, according to Forbes, and thus showing that the best player in tennis isn’t “marketable” because beauty standards ,not skill in women’s sport, determine whether or not you can be used to sell a camera, a Porsche, makeup, or haute couture. You need to be as comfortable on a high-fashion runway as on your field of play. Clearly we are no longer a sexist society that only values a woman based on her appearance and not how well she can perform at whatever her chosen profession is.
Wait. That is exactly what we are.
The only thing that quiets my angry rants is that, no matter what anyone says, you can’t take away the proud and beautiful smile of the champion that is Serena Williams and that when she’s questioned about these things she has absolutely no fucks to give.
Note: Edited to include link to Forbes article on player endorsement earnings.