With all of the recent hype regarding Serena Williams outburst of anger during the finals of the United States Open, I would like to examine the way her comments were received in the media, and how these comments might fueled by gender and racial stereotypes.
Coming off a pulmonary embolism that may have ended her life, Serena Williams was playing better then expected and primed for a US Open victory. However when things were not going her way in the final match, and had a disagreement with the Chair Umpire, she lost her temper. Her rant which did not include any swear words or violence has gotten a great amount of publicity, and has earned her some very harsh criticism. The words used to describe this outburst seemed to have racial undertones to them, words such as “menacing” and “threatening.” Throughout the entire dialogue between Serena and the head chair, there is no violent movements or motions made by Serena, in fact almost the entire dialogue takes place while Serena is in her chair.
So why would writers and the media convey this rant as a violent affair? Racial stereotypes about black women being outspoken, loud, aggressive, and intimidating have been around for a long time. Not to mention Serena Williams is a very strong and powerful women, in her personality and body type. Could this have something to do with the way that this outburst was perceived by the media?
Serena Williams is a professional athlete, and a great one at that. Her resume boasts 27 Grand Slam titles, 9th most of all time, the number one ranking in the world on 5 separate occasions as well as 2 Olympic gold medals. It is fair to say that she is one of the best female tennis players to ever live. Most professional athletes would be described as competitive, so when things are not going your way, they are most likely frustrated. The game of tennis has had a history of angry outbursts by its competitors. The emotional outbursts in tennis are frequent, as they are in every single professional sport. The NFL, NBA and MLB deal with fights, trash talking, and outbursts of rage on a weekly basis. Last week, Charles Woodson, a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers, was fined 10,000 dollars for throwing a punch at another player. Serena Williams showed no intentions of violence, but was described as menacing. When a football player gets into a scuffle, and says a few choice words, his competitive spirit displays his courage, and willingness to stand up for his team. But when Serena Williams loses her cool, she is viewed as an immature child, who lost her cool and should be punished for her actions. Why do we hold male and female athletes to a different standard when it comes to sports? Why cant women athletes show their competitive spirit without being judged and called names? The answer is, gender roles and stereotypes play a big role in the professional sports world.