I’ve read a lot of the commentary following Serena Williams’ meltdown on Arthur Ashe court in the finals of the US Open. The opinions I respected the least were the ones that began with a variant of “I don’t normally follow tennis but…” All of those opinions favored Serena, using heavy doses of whataboutism to basically argue that if men can get away with bad behavior, women should too.
It reminded me of the way so many (white) women bent and twisted themselves out of shape to white-wash Asia Argento’s back story in order to elevate her to (undeserved) leadership of the #MeToo movement. Never mind that Tarana Burke started this movement way back in 2006. It was incredible to me the way (white) women wrapped themselves in layers of denial and delusion to accept Ms. Argento’s illegitimate leadership.
Something similar is being done with the events on Arthur Ashe court so that Serena Williams can be recast as a feminist and activist hero. This was not about a woman losing gracelessly under pressure – no, it was a feminist issue!
Serena herself got the process started right there on Arthur Ashe court as she self-righteously pronounced that, as a MOTHER setting an example for her DAUGHTER, she would rather lose than cheat. Mere minutes later her coach publicly admitted cheating. I’ve seen the video of his hand movements. Venus, seated by his side, is also captured looking down at his moving hands.
In the subsequent press interview, Serena then went full feminist: “I’ve seen other men call umpires several other things...for me to say thief and for him to take a game, it made me feel that like was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said thief. For me, it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women.”
What makes these self-serving comments beyond ludicrous is the FACT that Serena had clearly seen Mouratoglou’s hand signals because right there on the court she told the umpire that she thought her coach had simply been giving her the thumbs-up. As if Carlos Ramos is an idiot. As if we are all idiots. As if she herself is an idiot who suddenly, conveniently, forgot the rules of tennis when she broke that racket in a fit of rage after losing her serve to Osaka, costing herself a point penalty.
A player under less pressure may have been able to pull back at that point, realizing as she must have that the next penalty would be a game. Because there is no question that Serena Williams knows the rules of tennis. But there is also no question that she has been under an exorbitant amount of pressure to achieve 24.
Not long after giving birth to the first daughter ever, Serena decided to return to tennis. Her husband reportedly paid for four massive billboards to be erected outside of Palm Springs to declare his wife’s return – alongside the inescapable fact of her greatness. It was a big to-do, and I worried less about the narcissistic display and more about the pressure being placed upon Serena to perform at GOAT level so soon after giving birth.
That pressure has remained unrelenting for the past year. And it is not only coming from billboards. It came also from playing in front of a partisan and raucous home crowd willing her to win. Pressure also came from Serena’s own intrinsic desires to be the best, the most dominant, the GOAT of women’s tennis. But might there also have been another source? (Part 1 of 2)