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By Annie Leibovitz 0817VF COVER.jpg

Serena Williams Vs. The World

By Brian Richards | Social Media | June 29, 2017 |

By Brian Richards | Social Media | June 29, 2017 |

Serena Williams is quite possibly the greatest athlete ever. Full stop. Not the greatest female athlete. Not the greatest Black athlete. The greatest athlete ever. If you need to debate someone about this, then go debate your mother who is still mad at you for ranking Chris Pine above Chris Evans (And she can always turn to Kristy if she needs someone to back her up).

Not too long ago, I wrote a slightly profanity-laden post for Pajiba about how successful Black women like Serena as well as Beyoncé aren’t permitted to live their lives however they choose without having to deal with criticisms that aren’t applied to equally successful (and not equally successful) women who aren’t Black. I wrote about how people clearly didn’t get the memo that Serena, Beyoncé, and any other Black woman can and do live their lives however the fuck they want, and that the criticisms of others will not stop them from doing so. And much like Lauryn Hill at her very own concert where people are waiting for her to finally arrive on stage already, and do her damn job that they all paid tickets for, that memo still hasn’t appeared, and is nowhere to be found.

Earlier this week, retired tennis player/legend/old man who regularly yells at clouds John McEnroe was being interviewed by Lulu Garcia-Navarro of NPR while promoting his newest book You Cannot Be Serious, and pretty much stated that if Serena had spent her career playing against male tennis players instead of female tennis players, she wouldn’t have achieved the greatness that she has:

Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.

McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.

Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?

McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?

Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?

McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.

Garcia-Navarro: You think so?

McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ‘cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.

Upon learning about this, Serena responded to McEnroe’s remarks on Twitter:

Which was just Serena’s polite but firm way of saying:


Soon after that, Vanity Fair released photos from their upcoming issue in which Serena Williams (interviewed by journalist/Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger and photographed by the legendary Annie Leibowitz) is naked, pregnant, and looking like she walked right off the sands of Themyscira in order to take these photographs.




You would think that everyone would stand back, shut up, and enjoy the sight of Serena Williams looking gorgeous and radiant as she prepares to become a mother and have her life changed forever. And unfortunately, you would be wrong. Because when it comes to people sharing their unwanted opinions and criticisms on what Black women say and do, and how they say and do it, that particular train is never late.

From The Washington Post:

…it would have been fine to skip this strange celebrity ritual, this complicated stew of personal indulgence, brand tending and sociopolitical me-too-ism. Yes, pregnancy is beautiful and powerful and worthy of celebration. You are womanly. You are phenomenal. God bless. But it has become virtually impossible for a celebrity to go through a pregnancy without getting naked for the cameras, her fans and — presumably — herself.

A woman who does not live her life on the public stage might hire a photographer to memorialize these special nine months and then tuck those images into a family photo album, frame them for display at her home. But to place those photos on the cover of a major magazine or insert them into an Instagram feed that reaches 100 million fans suggests not only that one’s pregnancy is of interest to the public but that it is also meaningful in some uniquely grand and sweeping way.

Most likely, however, it is not.

…This is not the first time that Williams has displayed her extraordinary physique. She did so memorably in 2009 for one of ESPN’s body issues. Back then, she was an athlete showing off her professional instrument. This Vanity Fair cover is about voyeurism. It reminds us that life’s milestones are not real until they are publicly validated. It’s yet another way in which celebrities pony up a piece of themselves to the public, making it that much more difficult to create boundaries in the future. Does anyone still actually want boundaries? Perhaps not.

If Taylor Swift were to suddenly announce her pregnancy, would she also be the subject of opinion pieces stating that we don’t need to see any more celebrities on magazine covers showing off their naked and pregnant bodies to the world? Or would she be the subject of articles stating how much she has clearly grown and matured before our very eyes ever since she first appeared on the country music scene, and write with pride and admiration about how far she has come in who she is and how she represents herself, and how she represents the many women who look up to her? It’s highly unlikely that we’re going to start demanding that female celebrities stop appearing in photoshoots in which they appear to be barely clothed or not clothed at all, and yet there’s something about seeing a woman basking in her pregnancy for the world to see that makes people wince and go, “I think pregnancy is great and beautiful, buuuuuuuuuut…” Or at the very least there’s something about Serena basking in her pregnancy that makes some people reach that breaking point (or pretend to reach that breaking point so that we have a reason to click on the content of their newspapers) in seeing such imagery and say that enough is enough.

Here’s a list of the many things that Serena Williams has done and accomplished in her career, and also the list of things that Serena has had to put up with and be judged for, as a result of what she has done and accomplished in her career:

- Won 23 Grand Slam titles

- Won 4 Olympic gold medals

- 7-time Wimbledon singles champion (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)

- 6-time US Open singles champion (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)

- 7-time Australian Open singles champion (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017)

- 3-time French Open singles champion (2002, 2013, 2015)

- 6-time Wimbledon doubles champion (2000, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2016)

- 4-time Australian Open doubles champion (2001, 2003, 2009, 2010)

- 2-time US Open doubles champion (1999, 2009)

- 2-time French Open doubles champion (1999, 2010)

- playing tennis at the Australian Open while two months pregnant

- winning against her opponent at the Australian Open while two months pregnant

- appeared in the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated

- getting engaged to Alexis Ohanian, who co-created Reddit

- getting engaged to a White man instead of one of her Black ex-boyfriends (Common, Drake, or any other Black man she may have dated or crossed paths with)

- being pregnant by a White man instead of being pregnant by Common, Drake, or any other Black man, and causing many of those same trolls and assholes to feel betrayed and ignored. Despite the fact that Serena was never under any obligation whatsoever to give her attention or her affection to only Black men or any Black man, for that matter.

- for supposedly looking like a man, for not looking feminine enough, and for having the kind of body that many people judged Gal Gadot for not having when she was cast to play Wonder Woman. Bear in mind that the men judging Serena for her physique are also the same men who feel betrayed because Serena chose not to exchange vows and share her life with another Black man.

It’s no secret (not to most Black people, anyway) that Black women are always expected to be twice as good and work twice as hard in order to get half of what everyone else gets. I’ve already gone into detail as to why tennis players who have gone up against Serena and lost (repeatedly and badly) have been rewarded with more magazine covers and lucrative sponsorship deals than Serena herself.

So I’ll just use this GIF to sum up all of the reasons as to why that is:


No matter how many times this is shouted from the mountaintops only to fall on deaf ears, Black women will continue to do their thing and live their lives, and do it incredibly well. And they’ll continue to do this without listening or answering to men who have made their reputations and careers (and who continue to do so) by spouting ridiculous bullshit at a loud volume so that all eyes are on them. Men who refer to Black women like Serena Williams as men/gorillas/Negro bed-wenches (yes, that last term is very real, and no, you don’t want to know of or acknowledge the men who gladly use that term on a regular basis) out of one side of their mouths, while using the other side of those very same mouths to complain and wonder aloud why they don’t want to show loyalty and be the queens that Black men deserve to have.

So let me end this in a way that many a fuckboy will hopefully understand upon reading this.

If you’re a fuckboy, and you go out of your way to show how much of a fuckboy you really and truly are, know this:

Black women don’t want you. Black women don’t want your attention. Black women don’t want your opinions on anything they say or do. Black women don’t want your opinions on what they wear or how they wear it. Black women don’t need or want your approval. Black women certainly don’t want your pathetic and Ashy Larry-looking excuse of a dick anywhere near them. Black women want absolutely nothing to do with you, or what you think you can offer them. And the fact that you fuckboys know this, and that Black women make this unmistakably clear to you whenever you decide to express contempt and disrespect towards them…it just makes you mad.

So stay mad. Because Black women aren’t going to give you any reasons whatsoever to feel otherwise.


Image sources (in order of posting): Annie Leibowitz, Vanity Fair