Serena Williams wins Wimbledon, Why are We Only Talking about Her Body?

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Serena Williams wins Wimbledon Title, Why are We Only Talking about Her Body?

Serena Williams is widely regarded as the best female tennis player of all time. But her career has been followed by severe racism and sexism that taps into stereotypes about black women.

This past weekend, Serena Williams proved that she isn’t just the greatest tennis player of all time, but perhaps “America’s greatest athlete.” In a BET commentary its reported the 33-year old won her sixth Wimbledon title, her twenty-first singles Grand Slam win and she also completed the coveted “Serena Slam,” winning the past four Grand slams (US Open, Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon).

It’s clear: Serena is the GOAT and the BET commentary reveals that yet, hours before her historic win, the esteemed New York Times published a problematic and tone deaf article titled “Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image With Ambition.” While from first glance it sounds like it could be an affirming piece encouraging the diversity of bodies in the tennis game — sadly it was quite the opposite.

Vox makes a great point: It’s true: Williams is black, she’s very muscular, and she’s a skilled player. But breathless commentators sometimes talk about these qualities in a way that buys into what sociologist Delia Douglas, in an article on the Williams sisters published in 2004 by theSociology of Sport Online, called “the essentialist logic of racial difference, which has long sought to mark the black body as inherently different from other bodies.” The result is that Williams’s athleticism is attributed to her ethnicity.  Complimentary commentary about Williams’s athleticism is often grounded in stereotypes about black people (animalistic and aggressive) and black women specifically (masculine, unattractive, and overly sexual at once).

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