By: Vanessa Forbes-Pateman
So, whether you were male or female, Serena was everything from Wakanda when she walked out on the clay wearing that black cat suit, looking like a fierce tennis warrior. She was every woman, SHE is every woman, SHE is the GOAT. I dare you to contradict me; we can do sixty paces with light sabers (Grey Jedi reference) on the skybridge…but I prefer an RPG like Assassin’s Creed BlackFlag, I’m into pirates right now.
I know every single woman and some men were like damnnn Nike, Sis is for real for real Wakanda!!! When I saw her, ladies, I was like “man that suit is akin to me getting my cat eyeliner drawn on right” (as an artist I struggle with that. why can’t I draw with an eyeliner pencil in a perfect arch, when I can capture the correct lighting behind a subject just right for a moody halo effect?) I could tell you how to score love or about the rules concerning set and serves, but no, today I fittin’ talk about the power of umpires. Why are we still policing women’s’ clothing? Why are we still policing their bodies? Glass slippers and glass ceilings.
Ok, basically, tennis is just a bigger version of ping-pong. Think Forrest Gump and the Olympics scene. It’s either played on grass or clay. The game is called from the chairs above the net. This one is a rant ladies, so grab a glass and proceed to say umm-hmm, cause you know I’m right. The Williams sisters have been on the professional tennis circuit since 1980 for Venus and 1981 for Serena. To put this in numerical perspective, the US Open on ESPN tv rating went up 20% over the three days of play compared to 2017. Why do you think that was? According to ESPN.com “The highest-rated telecast so far was Wednesday night’s six-hour, 15-minute block that featured Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and others and lasted until 1:15 AM ET. It peaked with a 1.3 rating from 8:30-9:15 PM ET.”
The controversy surrounding the last US Open leaves me sad as a tennis fan. From the white washing of Naomi Osaka to the way Serena has been berated and tried (and yes, those umps tried it, at one point saying they would boycott Serena’s play to the Mark Knight cartoon of her). The cartoon of her was the most horrible portrayal of strong black women I’ve seen in a while. It negates all that she has accomplished and straight up says women, especially black women, aren’t allowed to complain. It is the latest in a series of never-ending caricatures that are harmful to black women and women in general. Throw the whole cartoon in the trash. Osaka has beaten Williams twice, she earned that victory, but it was so over-shadowed by what was done to Serena, that I cannot fathom as a winner, who prepared and played my heart out, how I would feel, especially as I beat the women who made it ok for me to advance in the sport as a black woman. As to the whitewashing of Osaka, she had to continually remind the reporters of her Haitian heritage, and low and behold, Wikipedia erased it completely upon her win. Well what a time to be alive. Back to the umps and Serena, several male pro players came out in support of her and said they have done and said worse. She got mad and broke her racket and asked for an apology; why shouldn’t she? She’s been drug-tested more than any other player since her return from maternity leave. I think she deserves a melt down or two! What are they trying to find? The bigger issue here is what they are whole-heartedly saying “there’s no way you could be this good after just having a baby!” “There’s no way you can be this strong as a woman” and finally “there’s no way a black woman can do this.” For me, that’s the narrative: equal parts glass ceiling and glass slipper. If you’re mad argue with me…my husband constantly trolls me on Facebook and I grew up with brothers, I got this. We can have a battle it out at the Halloween Block Party, I play a mean game of Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens. I hear we may even have access to a Cone of Shame for Exploding Kittens; that’ll make it even more humiliating.
Serena basically told the French Open, “I see you one cat suit and raise you one black tutu since you fittin to check my clothing,” without saying a word. GOAT, she’s just the GOAT, pure glass slipper approach. Lest we forget frenchy Suzanne Lenglen who shocked in her knee length tennis dress in 1910. Coincidentally, Stade Roland Garros, the stadium where Serena wore her suit during the French Open, has a court named after Lenglen (theconversation.com). Ex-pro Ann White who infamously wore the full white body suit at Wimbledon in 1985 rushed to Serena’s defense, calling out the Patriarchy for what it was doing. Come on, Serena actually has a doctor’s note. While doing what a woman does naturally, giving birth to her baby girl, she developed life threatening blood clots. The cat suit was specially made to assist her with these issues. However, the president of the French Tennis association decided to throw the whole glass ceiling at Williams instead of taking it as a teachable moment to address how she’s back at almost tiptop form after bringing a whole mini-human into this world. Williams however, has chosen to be gracious and open up about her medical battles and even post-partum depression and being a working mother and missing important milestones in her baby’s growth and development. The GOAT chose to encourage the average mother and say hey, I, tennis pro me, I get it; and I encourage you all to understand that. Williams wrote “Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom” (thecut.com). The ig post was so relatable and human and normal, it was shared openly with her 9.9 million followers and has been liked more than 1 million times.
Back to Mark Knight and every other person that has trashed Williams by calling her a manly woman: y’all’s just jelly. Serena is a beast, her serve can maim you, and in spite of all the insults hurled at her, that chick is a powerhouse. She been great, fallen, been defeated and randomly drug tested and “yet still she rises”. Our genetics play a major role in determining our body type, The Williams sisters are a prime example of how different they can be. Venus is an ectomorph and Serena is a mesomorph. Even with the exact same training regimen, their body types and shapes are different. If she was a man, or blonde-haired and blue-eyed, we would not be having these convos and this wouldn’t even be a thing. I believe her genetic make-up might be the reason why the patriarchy questions her performance ability by randomly drug testing her so much. Smh, equal parts glass ceiling and glass slipper. Throw the whole patriarchy in the trash, let her live. Eventually, she’ll be eclipsed by a more pleasing body type, and the patriarchy can get comfortable again, but Serena will always be the GOAT. Her Nike endorsements are mega. She’s Olympia’s mom and she and her sister Venus made tennis an attainable goal for little brown girls from the inner cities and through-out the world…attainable for Haitian-Japanese girls like Osaka. She’s what we mean when we say #BlackGirlMagic!!! Ok rant over, I hope I put this controversy in a context that we can all have conversations over, because who doesn’t love tennis? Hey guys just so you know…Riverside Park is a public tennis establishment located at 3418 5th Ave, Moline, IL 61265. There are 8 public tennis courts at this tennis facility. The tennis courts are not lighted. They have 3 active tennis friends presently listed at Riverside Park. You can call this tennis location at 309-736-5714. Join me in this space next week where I’ll focus on some other sport or controversy. Yeah I saw that Brady threw his 500th touchdown…ugh!