Serena Williams Isn't Fighting a Sexism Problem, She's Fighting a Serena Williams Problem

Serena Williams reacts after missing a shot against Naomi Osaka, of Japan, during the women's final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Serena Williams lost her mind as well as her match on Saturday.

By now, it’s highly likely that you’ve heard the story of how Williams broke the rules during her tennis match against Naomi Osaka, was penalized, and as a result, threw something of a temper tantrum that consisted of accusing umpire Carlos Ramos and the tennis federation of sexism, and breaking her racket.


If you’d like the whole story, please read my colleague Alex Parker’s excellent rundown of the events, as I won’t be going into the full details here. Instead, I want to focus on Williams claims that the sport of tennis is apparently dominated by that old villain, the patriarchy and his dastardly sexism.

From what I’ve read so far, Ramos is one of the best umpires the federation. His calls were not personal, and he followed the rules to the letter as he first gave Williams a warning for her first violation, a point penalty for the second violation, and a game point for the third. I realize that in the heat of the moment people can lose their tempers, and there was a lot of heat surrounding Williams. However, Williams cost herself the game by taking it personally and resorting to berating Ramos as a person in return.

One bad turn went into another, and Williams was driving the car with her foot firmly on the gas.

If Williams is to blame anyone for her loss to Osaka, it’s Williams, not Ramos, and definitely not sexism. Her coach actually should shoulder a lot of the blame, but I see absolutely no one blaming him, and he actually confessed to breaking the rules.

Yet Williams wants this to be about sexism, not her entitled attitude. Are there instances of unfairness in Tennis? From what I can read, the answer is “yes it does happen from time to time,” and this should change. It should change with a better enforcement of the rules for everyone, and not just letting women get away with breaking them in the name of fairness, which is what Williams was pushing for all intents and purposes.


Which brings me to my question. What rights do women not have that men do?

Men don’t have the right to break rules without repercussion. John McEnroe was getting penalized for his nasty behavior in 1981. Jeff Tarango was banned from Wimbledon for abusing an umpire in 1995. Now Williams lost a match because of her penalizations for her abusive behavior. She’s joining a club filled with men who have suffered as she did for similar behavior.

The “rights” Williams is fighting for seem to be the ability to be free from the same rules men have to follow in order to be equal with them. That’s not equality, that’s asking for special treatment.

Yet we’re being lead to believe that Williams is bravely standing up against an unfair system of men that punishes women unjustly. While there are a few ridiculous calls out there made against women in the past (Alizé Cornet’s code violation for fixing her shirt while men are known to go topless on the court being a glaring one) what Williams did was childish, abusive, and just plain mean. Not only did it paint an innocent man doing his job as a villain, her attitude stole a moment of pure glory away from another woman who even looked up to her.

And it’s not as if Williams hasn’t been down this road before. In 2009, Williams lost a match after having a point deducted after she abused an umpire, and that umpire was a female. This entire debacle isn’t a story of Williams facing sexism, it’s a story of Williams lack of control over her temper.


Williams should own that her loss was a result of her bad decisions instead of hiding behind a narrative. She should do this, not only for the sake of everyone involved but for anyone who considers her someone to emulate. She should tell her fans that are following in her footsteps that this is an example of what not to do instead of creating strawmen out of real men.






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