Serena Williams Penalized for Showing Rage at U.S. Open

Rules written for a sport that, until Williams and her sister came along, was dominated by white players, a sport in which white men have violated those rules in frequently spectacular fashion and rarely faced the kind of repercussions that Williams — and Osaka — did on Saturday night.

…Because in making the coaching call, in the midst of a match she was playing against a newcomer who looked likely to beat her fair and square, the umpire insinuated that Serena was herself not playing fair and square. That made her livid. And one thing black women are never allowed to be without consequence is livid.

…A male umpire prodded Serena Williams to anger and then punished her for expressing it. …She was punished for showing emotion, for defiance, for being the player she has always been — driven, passionate, proud, and fully human.

…Connors’s contemporary, John McEnroe, famously shattered a thousand rackets and uttered a thousand expletives at umpires. His anger was his calling card, a trademark.

…If they do permit themselves to rage, even if that rage pales in comparison to the rage of their male peers, their white predecessors, that they will face reprimand. Women are made to understand, all the time, how their reasonable expression of vexation might cost them the game. Women’s challenge to male authority, and especially black women’s challenge to authority, is automatically understood as a threat, a form of defiance that must be quashed. 

As Sally Jenkins put it about Ramos, writing in the Washington Post on Saturday night, “He couldn’t take it. He wasn’t going to let a woman talk to him that way. A man, sure. Ramos has put up with worse from a man.” Recalling that just last year, Rafael Nadal had told off Ramos without it costing him a match, Jenkins went on, “But he wasn’t going to take it from a woman pointing a finger at him and speaking in a tone of aggression.”

…The point isn’t about the catsuit or the shirt or the broken racket or even the U.S. Open title. It’s about the ways in which women’s — and especially nonwhite women’s — dress and bodies and behavior and expression and tone are still deemed unruly if they do not conform to the limited view of femininity established by men, especially if that unruliness suggests a direct threat to male authority.

…Take the diminution and injustice and don’t get mad about it; if you get mad, you will get punished for it, and then you will be expected to fix it, to make sure everyone is comfortable again.

Serena Williams Penalized for Showing Rage at U.S. Open



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