Alize Cornet & Serena Williams Highlight Sexism in Tennis


A few months ago, Serena Williams wore a black catsuit to her French Open match. It was super fly, form-fitting and so much cooler than most tennis outfits. It caught the eye of quite a few folks on social media and her outfit soon went viral. When asked about her stylish ensemble, she actually said it was to help her with her blood clots which had become a pretty consistent issue for her after the birth or her daughter Olympia. So the fact that she looked super cool was actually just a side note, and not the real reason for her to rock such an a-typical (for tennis) outfit.

Yesterday, Alize Cornet came back from a heat break during the U.S. Open, noticed her shirt was on backwards and turned away from the camera to switch it to face the correct direction, only to be immediately penalized for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” The same day, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli declared that catsuits like Serena’s would be banned moving forward.  What do these incidents have in common? The blatant policing of both black and female bodies for absolutely no real reason.

Cornet was wearing a modest sports bra when she changed her shirt around and showed barely any skin. And if she did, who are the umpires to judge, on the very same day that Djokovic and Federer sat on the sidelines for extended periods of time half-naked without any shirts at all for long periods of time. It was almost 100 degrees yesterday in New York City where the U.S. Open is held and humidity was up around 80%. In other words, it was a hellish and difficult day to play tennis outside.

In a world where male athletes can beat their wives and girlfriends, commit murder, hurl racist and homophobic epithets without consequence, how is it fair in any way that female athletes cannot even change their shirts or wear form-fitting gear without eliciting the consternation of umpires and businessmen alike.

“I think we sometimes went too far,” Giudicelli said. “The combination of Serena this year, for example, it will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.” The statements left many scratching their heads as not many people felt Serena Williams outfit, which looked awesomely like a superhero ensemble, was “disrespectful.”

 

At least the USTA seemed to realize the fault of the umpire who docked Cornet, releasing a statement that read:

“All players can change their shirts while sitting in the player chair. This is not considered a code violation. We regret that a code violation was assessed to Miss Cornet yesterday. We have clarified the policy to ensure this will not happen moving forward. Fortunately, she was only assessed a warning with no further penalty or fine. Female players, if they choose, may also change their shirts in a more private location close to the court, when available.”

The problem here isn’t only the isolated instances of criticism but more the double standards in place that allow society to feel like a free critique of any woman body or wardrobe choice is warranted or acceptable. These are elite athletes, with Serena Williams arguably going down in history as one of the best athletes the world has ever seen, male or female. Yet there are complete strangers who feel it is their right to tell her what she can and cannot wear, or who feel offended when she makes choices they do not agree with. It’s been happening to Williams since she first burst onto the tennis court with her sister Venus in her braided and beaded hair and it has continued through this year with the catsuit controversy.

It is our job to continue to call out these double standards and let folks know that it is in no one’s right to criticize a woman’s choices, and it’s William’s job to continue her dominance, unbothered, and in a tutu!

 

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