GQ Magazine has named Serena Williams as its Woman of the Year, as recognition for her achievement in returning to the top of her sport following the birth of her child in September 2017.
It is a curious choice and one that has provoked something of a backlash in the United States, given that the last time many people will have seen her on a tennis court during the US Open Final when she was caught up in a furious row with court umpire Carlos Ramos that she her docked a game for various transgressions.
Now Williams has argued in an interview with the magazine that she is the victim of sexist attitudes, a stance argued by some of her leading defenders, like Billie-Jean King.
More than that she is alleging discrimination because of the colour of her skin saying “there’s papers that show it, how black women are treated as if they’re angry, as opposed to white women, white men, black men. It is bottom of the bottom of the totem pole”.
She also agreed with a tweet from Alabama senator Deborah Barnes during the controversial Brett Kavanaugh nomination process that “it’s funny how a black female tennis player is held to a higher standard to keep her emotions in check than a Supreme Court nominee”.
A point to wonder here if this is just self-serving designed to portray Williams as a victim. Especially since it is tough for a multi-millionaire to try and identify her situation with other black working women.
It is also easy to forget that Naomi Osaka, the woman on the other side of the net that evening in Flushing Meadows, and whose triumph was marred by Williams’ behaviour, is not Caucasian herself, but comes of a mixed race background, with a Japanese mother and a father who hails from Haiti.
Incidentally it was an Asian lineswoman whom she targeted during her 2009 US Open semi-final and threatened to ram a tennis ball down her “(expletive) throat.”
There has also been an incident with another chair umpire, Eva Asderaki, who can attest from the 2011 US Open final. The American told her, “If you see me walking down the hall, look the other way.You’re out of control. Totally out of control. You’re a hater and you’re just unattractive inside”.
Incidentally the number of such incidents associated with Serena don’t hold a candle to anything like that which has happened with any of the top women’s player in contemporary times, whether it’s Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, or any of the other top players on the WTA Tour. Nor will you find Sloane Stephens acting that way.
Which is why, after the Naomi Osaka incident it comes as a surprise that Williams was chosen as the Woman of the Year by the GQ Magazine.