Fear the tutu

September 14, 2018

“I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.” This past weekend in the finals of the U.S. Open, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams lost to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka. She would be a junior in college. Since coming back to professional tennis after maternity leave, Williams has met nothing but relentless backlash.

But why the backlash? Williams is not the only top player that has children; Roger Federer has two sets of twins! But since Williams is a woman, it automatically makes her vulnerable to sexism, which is extremely heightened in sports.

Since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, over a year ago, Williams has been very open about the complications of her birth and pregnancy. As an African American woman, Williams faced a lot of challenges to bring her daughter into this world.

At the French Open, Williams’ first Grand Slam appearance since giving birth, she wore a “Wakanda-inspired” black catsuit with a red stripe to help her prevent blood clots following her pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her daughter. Williams dedicated the catsuit to “all the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy and had to come back and try to be fierce,” according to the Huffington Post. It made her feel like a superhero. And she should, coming back to such a demanding sport, while further inspiring her daughter. This catsuit was similar to the all-white one worn by Anne White at Wimbledon in 1985.

Following the completion of the tournament, the French Tennis Federation President, Bernard Giudicelli, put a ban to Williams’ outfit, citing that players needed to respect the game and place. However, this outfit is in no way disrespecting the game.

Out of all the Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon maintains the strictest rules, with their all-white dress code. Why should a woman not be able to wear a catsuit to play a match? Women should not be scrutinized about the seriousness of their tennis game by the clothes they wear.

I still remember it was a big deal a few years ago when Victoria Azarenka wore shorts for the first time on tour. Why are shorts such a big deal? Do men feel as if they are missing out on getting a glimpse of a woman’s spandex when they go to serve or hit a shot? Women should have the freedom to wear whatever they choose. And if women are being so heavily restricted, why not place the same restrictions on men?

Rafael Nadal often wears sleeveless shirts during matches. Should he be penalized?

Even though Williams called no hard feelings toward Giudicelli, her outfit at the U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam of the year, spoke louder than words. Dressed in a $500 tutu designed by Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh, Williams fought to the finals of the Grand Slam before losing to Osaka.

As she played, every shot made her dress fluff up, making her look like a ballerina. While everyone believed this would be the biggest news surrounding Williams during the open, it was not even close.

Saturday, Sept. 8, the women’s final. Serena Williams versus Naomi Osaka. Regardless of the outcome of the match, both women would be making history. If Williams won, she would tie Margaret Court with 24 titles, the most Grand Slam wins in the Open Era. If Osaka won, she would become the first Japanese player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam title.

According to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), coaches are not allowed to coach their players during matches, even though they all do. Williams was hit with a warning when the umpire, Carlos Ramos, suspected her coach of coaching. Soon after, Williams was hit with another penalty for smashing her racquet, leading to a penalty point. However, unaware of her previous violation, Williams called Ramos a thief for the second penalty, which resulted in a game penalty.

Osaka was too good for Williams at the end and won the match. However, as many reporters stated, the match will not be remembered for Osaka’s victory over the tennis legend but the highlights of sexism deeply rooted within the sport.

The main issue I have with Ramos is the issue of his method of umpiring. Ramos is believed to be one of the top umpires in the ITF, and instead of controlling the match, he was the one who escalated the match, leading to controversy that everyone in the tennis world is speaking about.

Men’s tennis is much more lenient in relation to women’s in this regard. Men are allowed to be much more open with their outrage than women, with little to no consequence unless the outrage is astronomical. So why aren’t women afforded this luxury as well?

Williams’ anger could have been handled differently, but her sportsmanship during the trophy ceremony demonstrates her leadership, where she focused the attention on Osaka, who was caught in the middle of a controversy.

Even amidst all the discussion following the match, women should be treated equally as men; gender equality is not something that should be taken lightly. Women deserve to receive the same treatment as men. So fear the tutu—it’s coming for you.

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