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Serena Williams wrote a powerful open letter to girls and women everywhere.

Why is Williams a great "female athlete," yet you never hear LeBron James referred to as a great "male athlete"?

One of the greatest athletes of all-time, superstar Serena Williams gets it done on and off the court.

In addition to being a 22-time Grand Slam singles champion, the tennis legend has pushed back against body-shamers, shut down rude reporters, spoken out against police violence, and just recently teamed up with her sister, Venus, to open a center for gun violence victims in their hometown of Compton.

But that's not all she's done lately.


Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

In an open letter addressed to "incredible women who strive for excellence," Williams shared some real talk about the real effects of gender bias.

Appearing in Porter Magazine's "Incredible Women of 2016" issue (and reprinted at The Guardian), Williams talks about what it's like being one of the most hugely successful women in the world and the struggle and frustration that goes along with it.

Opening with a line about her childhood dream of becoming the greatest tennis player in the world, Williams went on to say how thankful she is to have a family that was there for her to support that goal.

"People call me one of the 'world’s greatest female athletes,'" she writes. "Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged."

Too often, women and girls are limited by society and even by loved ones. We can work to change that.

Speaking in Lima, Peru, earlier this month, President Obama opened up about some of the unnecessary roadblocks women and girls face in the world.

"The leaders and the men in every country need to understand that the countries that are most successful are going to be the countries that give opportunities to girls and women, and not just boys and men," he told the audience during a question-and-answer session.

Changing the culture of limitations will take action in government, in business, in education, and yes, in parenting.

Over the years, numerous studies have shown that when it comes to self-esteem, there's a major difference between boys and girls. When it comes to asking why this is the case, there are a number of theories, many of which center around culture and upbringing.

As both Obama and Williams suggest, removing the roadblocks women face in the professional world means setting girls up for success from the start. Girls need to know that they can be anything they want — astronaut, scientist, engineer, president, or even the greatest tennis player in the world.

The world needs role models and strong women who follow big dreams.

"As we know, women have to break down many barriers on the road to success," Williams writes. "One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw."

For the sake of future generations, we must set aside this notion that being a woman is a bad thing and that men are the default. That's why it's important that we see people like Williams, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, and Michelle Obama as not only some of the greatest and most successful women, but as some of the most successful people of our time as well.

The end goal, of course, must be to eliminate the unique hardships women and girls face for no reason other than their gender.

Discrimination exists in America. That's just reality. The existence of successful women isn't proof that sexism is over, just as the existence of successful people of color isn't proof that racism is over. These elements exist in society, whether they're on the basis of gender, religion, race, or a number of other factors.

One step forward, as Williams suggests, is using what others view as weakness as fuel and motivation. Until the world no longer looks at women and people of color as "lesser" because of who they are, it's important that we acknowledge just how extraordinary women like Williams are.

Education

12 books that people say are life-changing reads

Some books have the power to change how we see ourselves, the world, and each other.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Books are powerful.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Out of all human inventions, books might just be the greatest. That may be a bold statement in the face of computers, the internet and the international space station, but none of those things would be possible without books. The written recording of human knowledge has allowed our advancements in learning to be passed on through generations, not to mention the capturing of human creativity in the form of longform storytelling.

Books have the power to change our lives on a fundamental level, shift our thinking, influence our beliefs, put us in touch with our feelings and help us understand ourselves and one another better.

That's why we asked Upworthy's audience to share a book that changed their life. Thousands of responses later, we have a list of inspiring reads that rose to the top.

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Joy

Bus driver comes to the rescue for boy who coudn't afford outfit for school's Pajamas Day

“It hurt me so bad…I wanted him to have a good day. No child should have to miss out on something as small as pajama day.”

Representative Image from Canva

One thoughtful act can completely turn someone's day around.

On the morning just before Valentine’s Day, school bus driver Larry Farrish Jr. noticed something amiss with Levi, one of his first grade passengers, on route to Engelhard Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

On any other day, the boy would greet Farrish with a smile and a wave. But today, nothing. Levi sat down by himself, eyes downcast, no shining grin to be seen. Farrish knew something was up, and decided to inquire.

With a “face full of tears,” as described on the JCPS website, Levi told Farrish that today was “Pajama Day” at school, but he didn’t have any pajamas to wear for the special occasion.
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Joy

Terrified, emaciated dog comes to life as volunteer sits with him for human connection

He tries making himself so small in the kennel until he realizes he's safe.

Terrified dog transforms after human sits with him.

There's something about dogs that makes people just want to cuddle them. They have some of the sweetest faces with big curious eyes that make them almost look cartoonish at times. But not all dogs get humans that want to snuggle up with them on cold nights; some dogs are neglected or abandoned. That's where animal shelters come in, and they work diligently to take care of any medical needs and find these animals loving homes.

Volunteers are essential to animal shelters running effectively to fill in the gaps employees may not have time for. Rocky Kanaka has been volunteering to sit with dogs to provide comfort. Recently he uploaded a video of an extremely emaciated Vizsla mix that was doing his best to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the kennel.

Kanaka immediately wanted to help him adjust so he would feel comfortable enough to eat and eventually get adopted. The dog appeared scared of his new location and had actually rubbed his nose raw from anxiety, but everything changed when Kanaka came along.

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via Imgur

Memories of testing like this gets people fired up.

It doesn't take much to cause everyone on the internet to go a little crazy, so it's not completely surprising that an incorrect answer on a child's math test is the latest event to get people fired up.

The test in question asked kids to solve "5 x 3" using repeated addition. Under this method, the correct answer is "5 groups of 3," not "3 groups of 5." The question is typical of Common Core but has many questioning this type of standardized testing and how it affects learning.

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Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

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Joy

There are over 30 years between these amazing before-and-after photos.

"It's important for me for my photography to make people smile."

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Before and after photos separated by 30 years.


Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.

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