Serena Williams Beats Everyone On The Court, But Just Can’t Win With White People And Black Men » VSB

Featured, Race & Politics, Sports

Serena Williams Beats Everyone On The Court, But Just Can’t Win With White People And Black Men

I want to say that the first time that I heard Serena Williams called a man was middle school. I can’t say that with absolute certainty as middle school is generally universally awful and grades six through eight are a haze of mob mentality and chocolate milk but nonetheless, it wasn’t until my teen years that I truly understood that people held a great amount of resentment for Serena Williams. Her muscular frame defied the expectations or demands of femininity at the time, even amongst Black male communities, who yes, liked their women thick, but only if the thick was “soft” looking like Esther Baxter. Somehow, Serena’s fit frame threatened that clear demarcation between strength and beauty that is supposed to exist between genders. Almost two decades later, there are plenty of men and women across racial lines who still possess this opinion: a perfunctory search of “Serena” and “ugly” or “Serena” and “man” will generate a terrifying number of results.

This obsession with minimizing and masculinizing Serena isn’t just limited to a beauty standard, however. After being overshadowed by her big sister Venus earlier in her career, Serena burst onto the scene with two huge tools in her arsenal — a strong baseline forehand and a dominant serve. Which were not only impressive for their speed — at around 129 mph Serena has the 3rd fastest recorded serve in women’s open era history — but her consistent ability to crack 115 mph with precision in ball placement. While women’s tennis had already been trending towards a more power-era sport with competitors such as Monica Seles disrupting the status quo, Serena’s serve set a new standard, requiring her competitors to train towards consistently returning speeds that were more commonly seen in men’s tennis. With the new benchmark being set and Serena’s serve taking her through a dominant run in the early aughts, the never-ending question started to rear its ugly head amongst professional tennis critics: could Serena be strong enough to compete with men? Does her physique provide her an unfair advantage over women?

The answer to both of these is obviously no (unless you count mixed doubles, which is a whole other ball game). However, the fact that this discussion has loomed so large over her career through a layered combination of misogyny and racism is what makes it so especially insulting that the same discussion is used to invalidate her legendary accomplishments. Evidenced most recently by John McEnroe, who stated that he couldn’t call her the best tennis player ever without a gender qualifier “if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be, like, 700 in the world.”

While it’s largely irrelevant, it should be noted that it’s unlikely that she would be ranked as low as 700. Regardless, what John and others like him refuse to understand about removing the qualifier is that it has nothing to do with whether or not Serena can compete at a high level with men. Serena Jameka Williams from Compton, California is one of, if not the best tennis player of all time because of her dominance and rebranding of the sport in spite of an elitist community that resisted accepting her as one of their own. She went from being ostracized as a villain the United States Tennis Association to being the face of it, selling out arenas in record time in a sport that was declining in attendance. Her and her sister are singlehandedly responsible in the resurgence of tennis interest in this country, both from viewership to actual participation of young Black women in the amateur circuit at a young age. And she did it all while wearing a cat suit, crip walking, and appearing in Beyonce videos.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate just how overscrutinized Serena’s rise to the top was. The conversations around her frame have continued well into the latter phase of career. In 2015, the New York Times bifurcated her “large biceps and mold-breaking muscular frame” with that of her competitors, who “chose not to” pursue the same frame because they “want to be a woman” or don’t want to “feel unfeminine.” In 2009, sentient pile of black mold Jason Whitlock infamously associated Serena’s then-struggles to return to the top with her size, claiming that if Serena could just focus on becoming leaner, she would become the greatest ever – which is quite the criticism from someone who can only claim to be singlehandedly the greatest in keeping the pork pie hat industry alive. And now, in 2017, the same frame that has somehow robbed her of her claim to femininity, that was consistently and unfoundedly associated with aggression and a brutishness that is unbecoming of a female tennis star, is being evaluated as unfit to stand in a man’s apparently dutiful place in history. This is after 23 Grand Slams across multiple generations of tennis peers, after being inaccurately reduced to a passing fad by both her contemporaries, and after redefining the entire approach to women’s tennis in such an unprecedented manner that a tennis star the likes of Maria Sharapova – who actually has been suspended for taking banned substances, as opposed to Serena, despite near-constant accusations to the contrary – can be reduced to near-insignificance. Roger Federer can’t make that same claim, much less McEnroe.

 Greatness has to do with more than athletic ability – Andy Roddick, with a serve of 150 mph is on no one’s greatest list (except for maybe one of “greatest finessers of multimillion endorsement deals while barely winning shit” with Anna Kournikova). Greatness is about impact, and the uncontested fact remains that in the last 25 years, Serena Williams has impacted the sport more than any of her peers, male or female. Serena can have her baby tomorrow and never pick up a racket again while exchanging cutesy Reddits with her fiancé on playdates with the Carter-Knowles twins and that significance of her multi-decade trajectory will remain an indelible constant. There’s no arbitrary ranking that McEnroe can make that will ever take that away, no matter how often he uses the gender qualifier to minimize it.

Shamira Ibrahim

Shamira is a twentysomething New Yorker who likes all things Dipset. You can join her in waxing poetically about chicken, Cam'ron, and gentrification (gotta have some balance) under the influence of varying amounts of brown liquor at her semi-monthly blog, shamspam.tumblr.com

  • PDL….HE still working on me

    None of us are winning with white people sooo, she’s not alone there.

    • cyanic

      The white gaze should never make or break us. We’re not suppose to succeed despite on the systematic obstacles in place to ensure our failure.

      • PDL….HE still working on me

        Not winning with white people does Not mean losing. White people don’t register on my scale of success.

        My success and blessings all come from God.

  • Val

    Hiya, Sham. Great post and I’m always here for Anna Kournikova shade. She’s what’s known in football as a bust.

    • God Shammgod

      Hey boo! Thanks <3, I wish I could be in the commenting streets more but I do lurk on occasion.

      Anna Kournikova took that Cannon promo money, got with Enrique Iglesias and was never seen again. Finessed everyone and never went further than the quarters. Good Lord.

    • D-Nice

      Kournikova was very good ( I think she made it to No. 8 in the world), but just couldn’t make that last jump to elite status. She just didn’t have that extra dimension and drive. Good singles career before curtailed by injuries and a great doubles career, but the attention she got because her looks far outweighed her accomplishments. Then again, I’m not stupid enough to believe that getting attention, sponsorships, endorsements is based solely on athletic talent, especially for women.

  • Junegirl627

    Serena Superfan Here. This is what I said in another conversation on here (with edits and spelling corrections lol)

    Not only is it factually inaccurate to say that Serena is not one of the greatest Athletes (no gender moniker) ever it’s misogynistic. Let me break this down for you real quick when you take Serena’s body of work and level of achievement in her sport which is women’s tennis and you compare it to the body of work of all the all-time greats in their sports. She surpasses most if not all men and women.

    Serena has a career win percentage of 85% – if she was a basketball team that team would win 70 games every season for 20 years to equal what she has done, She would be the 96 bulls or the Golden State Warriors in 2015 every year since 1997

    The Most # of Major titles 23, The Yankees have 27 overall is the only sports person or franchise I can think of that comes close to her achievement.

    She is the 2nd oldest player on tour and oldest number player in the history of Tennis to win a major tournament

    She has the most consecutive weeks as the #1 player in the world – 186 weeks – that’s like Tom Brady & the Patriots Being the #1 team in the AFC east and the league every week of every season for 11 1/2 years

    She is the most decorated and most successful Tennis Olympian in History (She’s the Michael Phelps of Tennis.

    If you compare her body of work to Roger Federer and Pete sampras and Andre Agassi and Jordan and Lebron and Kobe and Brady and Gabrielle Reese, and Gabby Douglas, and Simone biles and phelps and Christy yamaguchi and Jeter and rivera and David Beckham and Tiger woods and themniggas who bowl. If you put their championships, wins, gold medals, dominance, stamina, longevity, and intangibles to Serena these other athletes don’t hold up against examination.

    • Johanne Sterling

      I mean girl. You laid out the equation and the answer. Which is Serena+Air=Greatness That Surpasses All

    • StillSuga

      Now these are receipts

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      Serena fan here too. Yeah, this conversation was with me and kinda belied to point although it does a good job of explicitly noting her greatest. Never did I say she isn’t the greatest tennis player of all time or one of the greatest athletes. I also noted that making a comparison between her and any male player is silly and wrong, regardless of that fact that she would likely beat by many pro male players who aren’t on her level. The point is, there shouldn’t be any inherent detraction from her greatness by calling her the best female tennis player of all time. They have separate fields from the mens sport. Now, if we want to make a argument that accolades and dominance are more important than any other factor, then we can start talking about the ‘best tennis player’. I would similarly call Roderick the best mens tennis player of all time.

      • Junegirl627

        Hey Che,

        I hope you didn’t think I reposted my response to you as a “get at you” type thing. I don’t do that. I just didn’t see the point in retyping what I had already wrote. With that said, since you chose to keep the debate going im just gonna go ahead and gift you this kill shot (wink). I always understood your point. I don’t think you understood my point.

        When people compare Serena to men of the sport they always make the wrong senario to base the comparison. What you should do is ask what if a “Man” achieved everything that Serena has would that “MAN” be considered the greatest athlete that ever lived? Not can Serena do everything a man can do? Because just like Roger Federer could never win the Australian Open while 8 weeks pregnant Serena can’t……. well Serena can’t do alot of things…. i think.

        What the question should be if Serena was “Shawn” and won 23 champions, 4 Gold medals, etc. etc. etc. would you consider “Shawn” the greatest player ever and arguable the best athlete ever? If the answer to that question is yes then you denying Serena only because she is a woman which is completely sexist your whole argument Fugazi.

        • who are you kidding

          Federer couldn’t win the Australian Open while pregnant? Well I hope not considering that’s biologically impossible.

          • Junegirl627

            do who are you kidding we have troll June time? Let me know so I can know my next move

            • who are you kidding

              Just having some fun at your comment.

              Anyway, your hypothetical is referring to accomplishments. Serena’s accomplishments are incredible but they don’t mean she would be able to beat men. One could argue that her resume is as good or better than any player on either tour ever, but that’s a different topic. The men and women play on different tours and it’s not because they play different games. It’s because the women wouldn’t be able to compete. Nobody is gloating over this, it’s just the way it is.

              • Junegirl627

                You totally missed my point. Here it is… again….. simplified. If there was a man in Tennis (now or ever) with the same body of work, wins, records and accomplishments (there isn’t) would he be considered the greatest of all time? If your answer is yes, then you are denying her the acclaim she deserves because she is a woman.

                Lastly, the only reason why she would lose to many (not all not a lot) of the men on tour is because men are naturally faster and stronger. That is the ONLY advantage they have because Serena can play the game better. Serena has mastered more shots, has better touch, and her ball placement/aim is better. And let us not forget about her serve that even Rafa Nadal said he wish he could serve like that.

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          Of course, I just wanted to clarify cause I think you are still misunderstanding me or at the very least responding to things I didn’t say. But in any case, your kill shot is a glancing blow at best JuneG (;), because:

          1. The baseline of my argument in the first place was that making the comparison (between a mens tennis player and woman’s tennis player) is wack and wrong from jump. Of course Federer could never win the Austalian Open while 8 weeks pregnant, for biological reasons. Whether he could do so, if he was a she (with the same lever of training, genetics and talent comparable to what is has a man) is pure speculation. Similarly, Federer does things that Serena can’t or wouldn’t do consistently as a player (like play five set matches and return 160mph serves consistently). In any case, I don’t call Federer the greatest (tennis) athlete, I call him the greatest MENS tennis player, just like I’d call Serena the greatest WOMENS tennis player.

          2. Talking about sexism in this context is necessary, but avoids the bottom-line, which is that the sports are separated by gender for a reason. Serena is no doubt the greatest tennis athlete, greatest tennis champion of all time across all gender lines. But if for some reason people want to talk about who is the ‘best tennis player’ across all genders (which is a poor starting place) we are gonna have a different discussion. In any sport that is going to have a score and have such large aspects of winning a matched based on the strength and endurance of the competitors, the male athletes will likely have an advantage. This is why the strongest person in the world happens to be the strongest man in the world, or why the fastest person in the world is also the fastest man in the world.

          I think the issue here is that I’m differentiating between ‘greatest athlete’ in the sport (which is serena to me) and ‘best tennis player’ in the sport (which is a silly and unnecessary comparison to make in a professional sport which is segregated by gender). Noting that Serena could like be beat by many professional male tennis players doesn’t nothing to detract from her GOAT status in my mind.

          • Junegirl627

            No one hits 160mph serves consistently. Nadals average serve is 110 just like Serena.

      • Junegirl627

        BTW I love Roddick and I think he is an all time great but you gotta beat the best to be the best and he has Sharapova stats against Federer. Therefore you claim that he is the best ever is denied.

        • franco

          All respect to you and Che but not sure why Roddick is even mentioned. He is not an all time great. Not in terms of an All-time great player in men’s tennis history AND I don’t think he even cracks the top 5 greatest American men’s tennis players of all time. He’d be lucky to get in the top 10. That’s just America. He definitely doesn’t touch the global list of all time great mens tennis players.

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          Mistyped..I meant Federer.

    • Looking4Treble

      D&mn. In the VSB e-courtroom, that’s a closing argument for that azz. Caso cerrado.

    • NonyaB?

      As Detective JuneGirl has so eloquently laid out the facts QE(muthaf’in)D, The People’s Bureau declares the case closed. Remedial math, logic and English classes are recommended for any dissenting åsses who still can’t compute this truth. *Bangs gavel, strolls off to TGIF*

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/73f756b78ac5f1a945fb63c2c31c8be8bbcf45f4e240565cc405a6e0c8293f93.gif

      • Junegirl627

        I need to meet you just so I can give you one of those “from the soul” “Auntie that gives the good gifts” type hugs!!! lol !!!

        • NonyaB?

          Yasss! If I’m ever around NY/DC/MD area or if you visit Canuckia!

          • Junegirl627

            Canada!!! thats sooooo farrrrrr…… rrrrrrrrrr….RRRRRRRRR.
            Sway :'(

            • NonyaB?

              LOL. Ma’am, we’re right next door. So, if I was still in Europe/Asia/Africa, then you’d probably say that’s a space-long journey? *Cackles*

      • kingpinenut

        I hear music when I see this gif

      • franco

        I might need some help cos I don’t think I ever fell in love with a gif like I do with this one. I want to drop down on one knee and make her my wife. I want to get at that behind and have some groceries. I just want to pull up a chair and a cigar and puff while I watch that lady gif walk around and do basic stuff as I appreciate the beauty, majesty, sexiness, greatness….shit, I gotta remind myself this is a gif not a real person. Good lawd!

    • DL

      I’m a serial lurker here on VSB, but I had to log in to up vote your comment! I’m not even a tennis fan at all and have probably never watched Serena or Venus play five times altogether. However, your reasoned and well thought out analysis just blew me away so I had to up vote and give you your props! Now if I could just get my students to do their homework the way you do yours lol

      • Junegirl627

        thanks you I appreciate your words. You gave me something to smile big about before I leave work for the weekend. Now Stop lurking and start commenting.

      • Blueberry01

        Welcome, DL!

    • Mochasister

      Serena could have flown to he moon and back and they still would find fault with her. That’s all right. White validation is not needed to affirm her badness. Anybody with some sense can see that she’s a bad maamajamma.

    • Yahmo Bethere

      Bookmarked for future deployment.

  • DeeWilli_85

    Black men are the worst! Please smother us first chance you get. We hate all successful Black women – the sight of them makes us run scared. Again, smother! Please now!

    • miss t-lee
      • Tam

        I am sure the pup will be an exception

        • miss t-lee

          Will he?

          • Tam

            Uh huh. I am a romantic I want to see love prevail. * goes into hiding*

            • MsSula

              I am with you Tam!

              #NoPupLeftBehind #MissTeeShouldLetHerCougarFlow #IssaLoveStory

        • cedriclathan

          Pup won’t even show up when he says he will.

          • Tam

            We gotta work with him. He needs positive role models and mentors.

            • cedriclathan

              I tried. I got stood up.

              • Tam

                Give the pup one more chance.

                • cedriclathan

                  I even put gas in my car. My daughter will tell, my tank is always empty.

                  • Tam

                    Oh dear. Pup did wrong. He gots ta pay!

      • DeeWilli_85

        But isn’t her fiance the co-founder of Reddit? How they doing Black folk? (Can someone get Leslie Jones on the horn)

  • Soul Glo Model

    I guess.

    • cyanic

      I know your actual hair isn’t as juicy as the wig the actor is wearing. But do you wish your crop top on top was wavy and curly as forgot their names?

      • Soul Glo Model

        Nah. I’m just a huge Coming to America fan.

        I actually have the pseudo- twist fro hawk for my summer look.

        I want to post pics but i’m learning to humble myself.

  • Janelle Doe

    Wypipo and BM who don’t see her greatness can take all the seats wherever they can find them

  • Kas
    • Tam

      So we seeing Zo before the night is out or nah?

      • *spreads salt, lime, and lamb’s blood separately around the threshold. *

        • Blueberry01

          Yes, #OldTestamentSacrifice..lol.

    • Val

      There’s already one full Hotep here and one 1/16th Hotep here. Lol They came quick.

      • cyanic

        Are saying my trans antagonism and defense of the word female makes me 1/16th of a Hotep?

        • Val

          Hit dog? Lol Nope, I was not talking about you.

          • cyanic

            But you’re still watching me through your avatar.

      • Tam
      • grownandsexy2

        The hotep hive is in the house

    • mr. steal your costco samples

      one drop of hotep + too too much

    • siante

      Haha! Where do ya’ll find these??

      • Kas

        FB

  • TheUnsungStoryteller

    Growing up, my peers used to say that I looked like a man. Yes, as a kid.

    Growing up, my Cross Country teammates used to say that I had “manly arms” – I’ve always had very toned, defined arms.

    Growing up, I aspired to be like Venus and Serena. Especially since my family members personally nicknamed me Venus because I look just like her.

    Growing up, as I used to watch my sisters hit it on the court, I picked up the great game of tennis and grunted my way through…well, I only played #1 and #2 Doubles. Lol…

    My point is, Venus and Serena have been such integral figures in this Black girl’s life. So, anything and everything that naysayers say about them is null and void.

    • Val

      *eHUG*

    • God Shammgod

      This is super touching.

    • Mary

      Well, ain’t nothing wrong you you or the Williams sisters; y’all are baaaad, so just keep on keeping on!!

      • TheUnsungStoryteller

        Ayyyyeeee!!!! Thanks!!!

        • Idaliamphillips


          my neighbor’s mother-in-law makes $82 every hour at home, she has been out of work for 9 months and last month her pay-check was $16421 just working on the internet a few hours every day. ? check
          ???http://www.GoogleFinancialCashJobs314MarketAdd/Home/Wage….
          ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::av24..

    • MsSula

      That’s what’s up!

      I am trying to get these arms to be “manly” and these thighs to Serena up! Shidd!!

      • TheUnsungStoryteller

        RIGHT!!!

    • Junegirl627

      Like the old hood saying goes “if they ain’t hating, you aint doing it right!”

      I hope with time and age you realized that this is how people try to keep little black girls from reaching their true potential. I’m a year older than Venus and I loved tennis before they came on the scene but they got me to pick up a racket. I’m glad you didn’t let their negativeass comments keep you from being your best you.

      • TheUnsungStoryteller

        Yesssss!!!!!! And all of the negative talk (ahem, their insecurity!!!) made me stronger.

    • Blueberry01

      Shoutout to strong, Black beautiful athletic women. #MistyCopeland #LisaLeslie #CandaceParker #SkylarDiggins #SimoneBiles #SimoneManuel #AllysonFelix

      …who else?

    • woody

      I understand what you are saying but let me ask you this,how do you think it affects Serena when her soon
      to be husband’s website REDDIT has become the new home for some of the most vile racists on earth.
      And it appears that it’s been going on for a few years which means he knows about it but for some reason
      has allowed to get even worse.Do you think for the sake of his soon to be wife he should put a stop to it?
      i know i’m off topic but i just didn’t know Reddit was that bad and i’m just thinking about Serena.

    • Yahmo Bethere

      I started playing tennis at 12. I’ve played off and on since then. I remember them in Ebony. I will literally fight someone who talks smack about them.

      I am not a thug.

      • TheUnsungStoryteller

        Girrrrrlllll!!!

      • Celia John

        Then stop “fighting” and leave that for the men. Forget body shape and muscles. The #1 thing that makes a woman look less feminine is always talking about fighting someone. Outside of self-defense, that attitude makes a woman look more masculine than anything else. Women should hear themselves saying it and know what a turnoff that is to most people. There is no sexiness, softness, sugar or spice in a woman bragging about fighting someone. That’said “thug talk”. Leave that to men.

    • Ernestine Easter

      EXACTLY.
      REALLY NOT UNDERSTANDING THE POINT HERE.

  • mr. steal your costco samples

    Serena the best non-LeBron athlete in the world.

    period. respect the queen.

  • Soul Glo Model
    • miss t-lee

      My vote would be “Is That Your Chick?”

More Like This