We Know Why GQ Used Quotes To Invalidate Serena’s Black Womanhood
And it’s not okay
Serena Williams is the real MVP! She’s one of the most if not the most revered and celebrated athlete in the world, and the fact that she’s amassed 23 Grand Slam singles throughout her illustrious career is just the icing on a cake that tips over with the weight of her accomplishments.
But as a Black woman, she and her equally formidable sister, and regular competitor, Venus Williams, have been subjected to the very worst treatment that threatened to stain their otherwise spotless trajectory. The horrific reception has been the result of bigoted industry officials, who can’t stand the dignified presence of young Black women who use their Blackness as the winning tool to dominate the notably elite circuit.
Serena’s prowess as Queen of the Courts is undisputed, even if her detractors try and fail to undermine her ability to proudly display her achievements by cunningly punishing and publicly shaming her for her choice of outfits.
What has been naggingly insulting and infuriatingly revolting is the way the physicality of Serena Williams has been used as weaponry against her, in an effort to demean, dehumanize and eradicate her womanhood.
She’s had to endure the needless and tiresome comparisons to a much-lesser talent who happens to be a doper, but due to her Whiteness, has managed to retain her reputation and unrelenting popularity, that’s measured by the globally viable features of shiny blonde hair, and the statuesque physique that qualifies her supermodel status.
Maria Sharapova inexplicably summoned the nerve to write a book, where she detailed how intimidated she was competing against her idol, who was quite imposing and made her feel woefully inadequate. Interestingly enough, Sharapova, who was accepted to Harvard Business School during her mandated hiatus after she was found guilty of doing what Serena has always been accused of without proof, is actually taller than her reluctant nemesis.
But Black women who excel beyond reason in high stakes environments are forced to weather the ire of powerful White men, and the systemized heckling of the shifty public, who can’t resist the temptation to reduce her to the definition of what isn’t deemed womanly.
And no matter how cruel the critics are, and how loudly the insults vibrate all over the globe, the world’s greatest is able to rise above it all with her head held high. She’s been to hell and back, and those dark episodes are the documented evidence that explain how two young Black teenagers can purposely drown out the racially-offensive jeers, that never hit hard enough to stop their game.
Yes, she’s the definition of “Black Girl Magic,” and embodies the wealth of the strong Black woman who makes it look so damn easy when it comes to navigating the cumbersome task of bouncing back from the societal wounds of the battlefield.
“I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong. It has been said that that I use drugs (No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage). It has been said I don’t belong in Women’s sports — that I belong in Men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it).”
What we won’t do is assume that it’s acceptable to continue the quest of pummeling her with the reminder of how her femininity is up for debate.
Not too long ago, Serena Williams was demonized for wearing an outfit that gorgeously recalls the replica of the “Black Panther catsuit” that was fitted to counteract the effects of what turned out to be life-threatening child-birthing experience. The White men in power singled her out as the prime example of what athletes aren’t permitted to wear on the courts, and the primary reason why change is imminent.
As a Black woman, and endearing fan of the world’s top athlete, it was horrifying and quite unnerving to witness the dubious ways in which the body of a woman that resembles my template, was publicly shamed based on ethnicity.
If Maria Sharapova had donned the exact same ensemble — the fashion frenzy would’ve initiated into a trend.
But when Serena Williams sports a body-conscious attire, that’s flexible and medically-inclined, it’s deemed as inappropriate and offensive because of the preferences of Whiteness and how that dictates what is considered durably attractive in the eyes of a biased audience.
That’s what makes the current controversy over the ambitious GQ cover even harder to stomach, as we are once again doused with the unappetizing view of how Black womanhood can be criminally botched.
The photo shoot was supposed to capture the supremeness of Serena as the unconquered and unbothered warrior, who is the captivating champion that unapologetically takes ownership of the Black womanhood that is constantly being forced away from her.
Unfortunately the GQ Man of the Year theme managed to effortlessly elevate fellow cover gal and Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot at the expense of the Black woman who didn’t deserve to be sighted as what she clearly is — “in quotes.”
Apparently the designer-of-the-moment, Virgil Abloh, splashed his signature sign off, which happens to require quotation marks, even if the delivery is harsh enough to destroy his best intentions.
The supposed appeal lies in his messaging, that was meant to spice up the desirability of Serena, but ended up revealing the very worst that can happen when editorial teams are incapable of preventing what is obviously a major snafu that should never see the light of day.
Once the highly-anticipated covers were unleashed, it didn’t take long for the naysayers to express their disgust at the way this “Woman” was diluted by symbols that were unnecessary and annoyingly distracting; as the accompanying image overtakes the negativity, and serves as proof of beauty that can’t be thwarted.
We Know Why GQ Used Quotes To Invalidate Serena’s Black Womanhood — and it’s not okay.
Black womanhood has been historically ridiculed by White people, particularly White men, and that tradition continues with President Trump, as he publicly chides his former apprentice by calling her a dog, while disgraced comedian Rosanne Barr compares Valerie Jarrett to a primate, which is something she has in common with former First Lady — Michelle Obama.
It’s standard procedure to ceremoniously mock the aesthetic of Black women who aren’t shielded by the ambiguousness that give multi-racial women equal footing with White counterparts.
If non-Black women sport braids and flex their muscles under command, they are seen as sensually strong, with the boost of being spirited trendsetters.
But Black women are undoubtedly gifted with the features that are causing Kim Kardashian and her Black sisters to melt from the pressure of spending hours under the drill of plastic surgeons, out of the desperation to maintain what isn’t theirs to claim.
My theory is that the editors at GQ allowed the unsightly “quotation marks” because they wanted the attention from disapprovers, and decided that their highly-visible subject is tough enough to ride this wave of shittiness — since she’s practically a pro when it comes to weathering these periodic storms of discontent.
But the truth is that when you fuck with Serena Williams, you’re also messing with Black women who’ve had to deal with similar hardships that don’t garner the same level of exposure — but still hit below belt and cause private duress.
Serena is dope enough to take it, and so far her response or lack thereof says it all.
This shit is not okay.