Women took a hit on Saturday night at the U.S. Open, contrary to the media narrative surrounding the Serena Williams spectacle, in which the tennis star blamed sexism for her poor performance and hysterical outbursts.
Williams blamed gender bias after umpire Carlos Ramos docked the athlete for illegally receiving coaching from the sidelines (which was later admitted to by Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou), smashing her racket, and “verbal abuse.” During the match and in a post-match press conference, Williams accused the professional tennis community of sexism and claimed martyrdom for her role in advancing “women’s equality.”
“There’s men out here who do a lot worse. But because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re gonna take this away from me? That is not right,” Williams lashed out during the match after receiving a game penalty. In the following presser, Williams, clearly still emotional, claimed she was a “strong woman” who was “fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality” and again outright accused Ramos of sexism.
“He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’ For me it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women,” she said, adding, “I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that want to express themselves, and want to be a strong woman. They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today.”
This is outrageous stuff from Williams. Her cries of sexism are not a display of female empowerment from a “strong woman,” nor are they praiseworthy; they’re a display of weakness. Williams was being outplayed by 20-year-old Naomi Osaka; her frustration got the best of her and she took the easy way out by rolling out the fallback sexism excuse for her poor play and emotional outbursts.
First of all, it should be noted that Ramos, who’s now been smeared as a sexist by Williams, followed protocol. There is no evidence that his actions were biased because of Williams’ gender. Although it’s common knowledge that basically all coaches signal and coach from the sidelines, Mouratoglou was caught in the act and thus Williams was hit with a violation. It doesn’t matter if Williams never saw or acknowledged the signal, as she claims, nor does it matter if you like the rule or not. And instead of moving past the violation, Williams let her intensified emotions win, busting her racket and calling Ramos a “thief.” You don’t have to agree with Ramos’ calls, but his doled-out penalties are completely within tennis rules.
And Williams has shown this weakness before. Take for example her outburst at the U.S. Open in 2009, where she reportedly berated a lineswoman, “I swear to God I’ll f***ing take the ball and shove it down your f***ing throat.” Williams was being outplayed in that match, too, except this time she couldn’t blame sexism because the official was female.
The issue here is not that Williams disagreed with Ramos, or even that she got emotional. Rebutting an official in any sporting event is part of the game, and it’s human nature to lose your cool on occasion. But refusing to accept responsibility for your actions is weak, and it’s a disservice to women everywhere when you fallback on unfounded claims of sexism.
Not to mention, Williams’ scapegoating “sexist” nonsense robbed Osaka, a young woman who idolizes Williams, of the joy of winning her first-ever Grand Slam (Japan’s first Grand Slam champion, by the way). The 20-year-old was moved to tears after the match — and not tears of joy. A win for women? I think not.
It’s undeniable that Williams is one of the best tennis players to ever hit the court and that she’s done more than anyone to put women’s tennis on the map. But on Saturday she shamefully took the easy way out. “Strong women” don’t cry sexism when things don’t go their way. They take ownership for their own actions and learn from their mistakes, just as we’d expect anyone else, male or female, to do.