You’ve probably seen it by now: The photo of Serena Williams taking off her pants on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar to sell a story.
At the inspiration of a colleague, I’m calling it her ‘Me, Me, Me Mea Culpa.’
In a hypocritical stunt, Williams has penned an essay for the glossy magazine that explains her 2018 US Open women’s final “debacle” left her so unanchored she had therapy to “find peace”.
Read: Swallow her pride and apologise to opponent Naomi Osaka.
This is where Serena should have left things. Ash Barty would have. Hell, anyone over five would have. But no.
In case you need a reminder of her behaviour in that US Open final, here it is:
Entitled Serena has fame, a $260 million fortune, happy marriage and healthy child. Yet she seems intent on painting herself as a victim.
This is while trotting out po-faced platitudes about being an empowerment beacon and wearing tickets-on-yourself tennis gear emblazoned with ‘goddess’ and ‘champion’.
She can’t have it both ways – are you downtrodden or powerful? – and the proof of this is the Harper’s piece, which is so self-serving I’m half convinced she meant it to be ironic.
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I’m proud to use my voice and words to share an essay on the raw feelings I had during a match we may all remember. The essay and unretouched photos are live on @harpersbazaarus. Link in bio. Photographed by @alexilubomirski Hair by @vernonfrancois Makeup by @tyronmachhausen Styling by @menamorado
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“I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself,” Williams wrote, using an old get-out-of-jail-free card to cover her self-inflicted humiliation about the public implosion.
“I had no idea the media would pit us against each other.”
Really? Hey Serena, you know the media didn’t pit Osaka against anyone. You did.
You were the one trampling her joy and your reputation like a child while ranting you were being a role model mother.
“I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete,” Williams wrote. Well, never, ever unless another female is beating you.
In Trumpian fashion, Serena turned herself into the hero of the piece when recounting Osaka accepted her apology (“You need to continue trailblazing”) then spun her meltdown into tone-deaf social commentary.
The US Open match “exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day,” she wrote.
“We are not allowed to have emotions. We are not allowed to be passionate.
“We are told to sit down and be quiet … It’s shameful that our society penalises women just for being themselves.
“I should be able to have any emotion that any man can have.”
This is rich coming from someone who has controlled her workplace and been paid in stonking sums her entire career, yet bangs on about working motherhood as if she’s the only person ever to do it.
Not once would she have had that panicked feeling from missing a train or choosing between a meeting and a school assembly.
Imagine her career vents to pals Meghan Markle and Kim Kardashian: “I had to play for 90 minutes, so the nanny had to give Olympia her juice.”
(Also, anecdotally, most men have fewer emotions than women, so heads up, you might find your one-note feminist campaign a little limiting.)
Anyway, check out Williams’ Insta feed and see her fighting the good fight for the repressed between the Met Gala, photoshoots and private plane flights. Exhibit A, your honour:
Ladies, any of you forbidden from emotions? Do your masterful male overlords insist you not be passionate, even about crochet and baking and gossiping?
Are you all sitting down like good little mice right now, being penalised for being yourselves?
Seriously Serena, what does all this even mean? Someone has to say it: Give us a spell, love.
Using the trope of women as downtrodden and powerless doesn’t make you a flag bearer to revere. Instead, it undermines all our achievements and fabulousness.
It’s patronising, insulting and wrong.
Our world is packed with vital and dynamic women, playing the hand they’ve been dealt and not bitching about it to get traction for a new fashion line or distract from their mistakes.
Serena, stop pretending you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, instead of at your feet.
This essay isn’t about being powerful. It’s a calculated power play. And I’m calling that particular serve as out.