It looks like GQ just found themselves in some serious shit. On Monday, the magazine announced its annual Men of the year honorees which included everyone from Michael B. Jordan, Jonah Hill, Henry Golding along with one woman of the year—Serena Williams. This should be great news, right? Well, it is only GQ messed up and messed up bad by having the cover that features Williams read “Introducing the 2018 “Woman” of The Year.” Seriously, what in the world were they thinking with that?
Since the magazine’s issue release, the cover has since sparked outrage especially by folks on Twitter for a number of reasons. For starters, Williams has been very open before about some of the cruel criticism she has received for being a black woman with a muscular and athletic body—despite being one of the BEST and most powerful athletes in the world.
I can’t believe no one at GQ thought perhaps with misogynistic and violent trans insults that Serena (and Venus) have dealt with for the last almost 20 years, to not put woman in quotation marks. Editorial rooms are a fucking disaster, all over this country. I’m offended for her pic.twitter.com/97yaP18etC
— a princess diana stan account (@seabethree) November 12, 2018
Last year she wrote an open letter on Reddit to her mom shortly after giving birth to her first child and daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. In the letter she not only thanked her mother for always “displaying strength and class” when Williams was facing body shame from haters but she also details some of the harsh comments that have been made about her body since she was 15-years-old.
“I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong,” she wrote. “It has been said that I use drugs ( No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage). It has been said I don’t belong in women’s sports—that I belong in men’s—because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it).”
A research manager for the magazine named Mick Rouse took to Twitter to “explain” the decision behind the quotations and honestly—it’s not good enough. He claims that the only reason why quotations were added is because it was hand-written and designed by Virgil Abloh who is known for styling everything in quotation marks. Regardless, this is why context is so important. Considering what Williams’ has had to endure in regards to her constantly questioned femininity the smart thing to do would have been to leave quotations out of this.
Because it was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena's US Open apparel that he designed)
— Mick Rouse (@mickrouse) November 12, 2018
If GQ had done their homework, they would have known how harmful putting woman in quotations for a Serena Williams cover is especially when she has been called everything from a man to a trans woman in the past. This woman has been consistently ridiculed for her appearance and for her black body. Putting woman in quotes was like suggesting she’s not really a woman at all. GQ has put other women on the cover of their issues before. Last year, they put Gal Gadot as their “Wonder Woman of the Year.” Did they put quotes around the word woman for Gadot? Nope. See the problem here?
Black female bodies have been policed for centuries and Williams has been a prime example of that. In August, her black catsuit was banned from future French opens. It was a full bodysuit that showed absolutely no skin and yet the French Tennis Federation president Bernard Guidicelli felt that it didn’t“respect the game or the place.” The reality is that that bodysuit on a thin, less muscular white female athlete like Maria Sharapova wouldn’t have ever been banned. It would have been a non-issue. The fact that it was on William’s full-figured, muscular and curvaceous black body is what made folks find it “offensive, and “indecent,” words that have been used to describe black female bodies for centuries.
Don’t even get me started on how Williams was treated at the US Open this year and accused of cheating and publicly attacked for having a “meltdown” when we all know damn well that if a white male athlete would have displayed the same behavior on the court it would have been NBD.
Whether they meant to or not, GQ deeply disrespected Williams by putting woman in quotes on the cover of their issue. They played into the cruel body shaming this woman has had to endure pretty much since the beginning of her career and at this point of the game this kind of shit is hands down unacceptable. Williams hasn’t put out a statement about this cover yet but one thing for sure—GQ needs to do better than this. In fact, when it comes to black female bodies—everyone needs to do better. It’s 2018 and it’s about time we stop treating black female bodies like they are anything less than magical because they are—period.