Why Every Woman Should Be Thanking Serena Williams
It seems every week a new controversy is lighting up social media, dimming its predecessor’s. This time it’s Serena Williams who regained the spotlight after falling to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open final Sunday. But the controversy is not in the loss per say, although Williams’ heated dispute with the umpire over a point penalty did alter the course of the game. The loss the 23 Grand Slam champ was handed pales in comparison to the win that she took for women everywhere.
The gist: Williams called out umpire Carlos Ramos for being sexist after he slapped her with violations during Sunday’s match, including a point penalty for smashing her racket, and a game penalty after Williams called Ramos a thief for “stealing a point” from her. “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," Williams said. The U.S. open also fined Williams a total of $17,000 for the violations.
Social media has since been lighting up in support of Williams. Among them, Billie Jean King, a tennis legend and equal rights advocate tweeted: "When a woman is emotional, she's "hysterical" and she's penalized for it. When a man does the same, he's "outspoken" & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
In a world where, let’s be real, men – especially white men – still have the upper hand in sport, the workplace and elsewhere, the dialogue Williams has sparked is paramount. As a mixed Latina woman who works in a predominantly white male-dominated environment, I can’t tell you how many times I have been labeled as “difficult,” or “confrontational,” for more appropriately challenging status quo than my white male counterparts. But when similar sentiments come from my male white counterparts, dressed in vulgar, profane and crude language, it’s laughed off and accepted, not once questioned or deemed inappropriate in the least. Yet, it’s me that is always labeled as the “angry,” “feisty Latina.”
Superstar women like Serena Williams down to working-class women like myself are dealing with these hostile environments every single day. And every single day women are forced to turn a blind eye for fear of being labeled “emotional,” “confrontational,” or “difficult.” Because God forbid we have something to say about the current climate of sexism that most are too uncomfortable to call out. When did the unacceptable become acceptable? And why are women labeled anything but heroes for calling out substandard behavior?
I too, like King, want to publicly thank Serena Williams for taking a stand for women whose cries of sexism might otherwise not be heard. I was actually beginning to think that this whole throwing around of the “black card” or “minority card” was getting old because it seemed as if everyone was beginning to deem almost every situation as racist. Someone looks at you funny and is labeled a racist. But now I see it’s not due to overuse but rather a movement of brave individuals that decided to boldly take a stance on a critical issue that people have been too suppressed to stand up to, paving the way for others to do the same. Now is the time for women to follow suit. Because Serena Williams is giving women the courage to stand up to sexism everywhere. Serena certainly isn’t the first, but neither will she be the last.