In the words of feminist artist Jenny Holzer, abuse of power comes at no surprise. But that doesn’t make it any less infuriating when it happens — especially on an international level during a sports game. This past week at the US Open, Serena Williams — arguably the most renowned sportswoman of our time — faced blatant misogyny during her Grand Slam showdown with Japan’s Naomi Osaka. The match ended with Williams in tears, and has since caused an uproar from fans, fellow tennis players, and the internet at large.
“Osaka’s win came as Williams was given a game penalty and multiple code violations by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Williams was initially penalized for what Ramos deemed to be a coaching violation when her longtime coach Patrick Mouratoglou made a motion from the player’s box,” reported Mic.
Williams was subsequently penalized for a burst of frustration, after already being docked a point. She tried to explain to Ramos that she doesn’t have any secret code with her coach, “I know that you don’t know that and I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.”
Congratulations to Naomi for playing your very best today! What happened to @serenawilliams will resonate with women everywhere—especially women of color: too often, when we speak up, we are penalized. Serena, today you gave us just one more reason to admire you as the very best!
— Juliana Stratton (@RepStratton5) September 8, 2018
Two gender-related points about #USOpen:
(1) Serena Williams is right that male and female players are judged differently. That’s why only women get warnings for shirt changes.
(2) Naomi Osaka apologized to the crowd, even though she had absolutely nothing to apologize for.
— Simon Hedlin (@simonhedlin) September 8, 2018
The double standard of how women in sports are treated versus their male counterparts is exemplified by this umpire and only amplified by the racism Williams also faces as a Black woman. A daft cartoonist with Australian publication The Harold Sun created a piece so blatantly displaying misogynoir towards Williams and Osaka that it has only increased the uproar about the US Open incident. Watching these events unfold has been a painful reminder that when women rise to a position of power, men still find ways to push us down and demonize us as “hysterical” and punish us for using our voice. Additional news came out that Williams is being charged a whopping $17,000 for the “penalties” she faced at this weekend’s game.
“When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it,” tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted. “When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
We couldn’t agree with King more. There should be an echo chamber of voices surrounding Serena right now — uplifting her for the bravery it took to stand up not only for herself, but for women everywhere.