Tennis star Serena Williams has endured people questioning her femininity and shaming her body throughout her career. This week, on ABC's "Good Morning America," she had a response for those people.
Serena Williams is, by far, the #1 female tennis player in the world and absolutely an all-time great. This is not debatable.
Despite this, Williams can't seem to escape petty gossip and criticism.
In a world where the first question asked of accomplished actresses on the red carpet is "Who are you wearing?" it's not surprising that Serena's feats of greatness on the court often get swept under the rug so we can talk about whether she looks good in a dress. But it sure is disappointing.
When GMA's Robin Roberts asked her about her critics, Williams had this to say:
"It's me, and I love me. I learned to love me. I've been like this my whole life, and I embrace me. I love how I look. I love that I'm a full woman and I'm strong and I'm powerful and I'm beautiful at the same time. There's nothing wrong with that. "
— Serena Williams
For good measure, she added:
"I don't have time to be brought down. I have too many things to do. I have Grand Slams to win. I have people to inspire, and that's what I'm here for."
And that fast, Williams and Roberts turned to another topic.
Guess you could say Williams' haters just got "served."
It's so admirable that Williams has been able to tune out the noise. Some of her peers haven't.
The New York Times ran a story this summer about top female tennis players struggling to maintain their feminine image — how training for speed, strength, and endurance can sometimes be at odds with sculpting the so-called "ideal" physique for a woman.
It's ridiculous that any athlete would have to feel conflicted about whether to be good at their job or "beautiful." Certain members of the sports media certainly don't help when they reduce female athletes to a number on the hotness scale.
ESPN's Darren Rovell recently put his foot in his mouth on Twitter when he tried to justify why it's easier to market Maria Sharapova (who is white, blonde, and routinely shows up on those “hottest athlete" lists) than Williams (who is a much better and more accomplished tennis player). According to Rovell, that sort of thinking doesn't necessarily indicate an underlying problem.
Sure it does, Darren. It's one thing to discuss an athlete's physique ( "Did Lebron James lose weight?") and another to assign them value based on whether people think they're physically attractive.
Until that changes, we definitely have a problem.
By the way, while we're discussing this, Serena is gearing up to defend her U.S. Open title, which could potentially be her fourth consecutive major win as a singles player. It would also make her only the fourth woman in history to complete a Grand Slam (sweeping all four majors in the same year), not to mention the first African-American woman to do it ... ever.
She's making history. And she doesn't give a damn what we think of how she looks doing it.
You can watch the full interview below: