The US golden girl of tennis, Serena Williams, lost her temper at the US Open final against Japan’s Naomi Osaka after being given a warning when her coach was seen to give on court coaching (which he later confirmed). She then claimed that the umpire was sexist and racist to take points off her after she broke her racquet and insulted the umpire.
But before we jump to any conclusions, let’s get the facts right. It seems that the mainstream media and most commentators online don’t much care about the facts and have decided that she was indeed treated unfairly, no matter what the situation actually was. The Cut even started their article “I don’t care much about the rules of tennis that Serena Williams was accused of violating…”. I’m sorry but I have to stop right there.
How can we build a fairer society for all (women and men) if we don’t care to check the facts and live in the truth?
This complete ignorance of what actually happened on court that day bothers me deeply and is very worrying on a larger scale. Are we living in an age where it’s completely acceptable to make up your own truth?
Serena got a warning (she was not deducted any points at this stage) for on court coaching. She then herself escalated the event by breaking her racquet and verbally abusing the umpire. She was already losing the game at this point.
A fact check, the rules: During a match, umpires give an official warning for the first violation, deduct a point for the second, and for a third infringement, dock a whole game. Verbal abuse is defined as a statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise. Abuse of racquets or equipment is defined as intentionally, dangerously and violently destroying or damaging racquets. Players shall not receive coaching during a match. Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching.
A fact check, the fines: During the four Grand Slam tournaments in 2018 there were 85 fines for code violations issued to men and 43 to women. There’s no evidence that women were fined more often than men per set during the 2018 season. You should also know that Carlos Ramos is a strict official “who takes nothing from any opponent whether they’re male or female”.
Serena not only behaved badly on court, she also ruined the most amazing moment to this young 20 year old tennis player – winning her first Grand Slam. A sore loser, she directed the limelight to her tantrum rather than accepting that Naomi played brilliantly and it wasn’t her day. At no point did she apologise to Naomi for her behaviour. What is more astonishing to me is that again, the main media such as Inc magazine rallied behind Serena to promote her acts of kindness (??) when she shouldn’t have escalated it to the point it did.
But she didn’t stop there.
Criticising her is off limits, as an Australian cartoonist has found out after being called ‘sexist and racist’ after releasing a cartoon of her jumping up and down and looking like a crying baby on court. She is the greatest female tennis player of all time (fact) but let’s face it, on Saturday she was a primadonna and a sore loser.
Serena is playing the patriarchal game and she’s playing it well.
There’s sexism in tennis (and everywhere else in this world) but that doesn’t excuse her behaviour and there was no evidence of sexism on that court that day. She was experiencing the world through her ego, not living in truth of the present moment. And ego wants nothing more than to create drama and division.
Us vs them.
Men vs women.
Right vs wrong.
Good vs bad.
Black vs white.
That’s also how patriarchy operates.
It wants to divide. It wants to conquer. It doesn’t want to collaborate, it doesn’t want to settle. It loves outrage and anger as a sign of strength. It protects ego at all cost, even if she has to crush those who played fairly.
In that old system your aim is to end up on the top, no matter at what cost. You want to silence your critics and bully them into fear. And you play whatever card you need in order to get out of trouble.
In the patriarchal system there are only winners and losers.
And there are victims, in Serena’s case she can now interpret any criticism towards her as a racist or sexist act as she pleases because she’s now defined herself and other female tennis players and black women (and all women) in general as victims of the system.
Yes, I completely agree that the world is mostly unfair. There’s a lot of sexism and racism everywhere and I don’t approve. I’m sure there have been many umpires who have let male tennis players use more abusive language than she did. The fact remains her language towards the referee was unaccpetable.
Just because someone else is acting like an ass does’t mean you should. The longer we engage in the anger game, identifying as victims, the longer we let this imbalance and inequality play out. It’s a vicious cycle: victim, anger, revenge, negativity, division.
If you are treated unfairly (at a workplace/in a relationship/anywhere) and you have done what you can to move forward with positivity, are you going to engage your energy in fighting or will you leave and find an environment that treats you well and respects you as your authentic, feminine self? The choice is entirely yours.
As long as we identify as victims in the system we can’t grow.
It’s impossible to define your own kind of success if your views are constantly seen as inferior by the system. Most women still live in this environment but I still don’t believe that bitterness, anger and fighting are the answer.
We must peacefully become strong within ourselves and trust that we don’t have to waste our energy creating a divide. We must start using our energy positively, in building the future we want, and seek for those environments that support our values. When we find our centre and believe that we can always live in the truth (even when we are losing) we become unstoppable in a very peaceful way.
Monica Lewinsky gave us a very powerful lesson in staying present in her truth.
Another news that broke out was when Monica Lewinsky walked off live TV interview earlier this month.
She had agreed with the interviewer that she would not be asked any questions relating to Bill Clinton. The interviewer did not respect these rules so Monica simply stood up and walked out. The aftermath has been interesting.
Firstly, we all respect Monica for walking out. However, there has also been calls that she should have stayed and said something powerful to make the interviewer embarrassed, forced her point and emerged as a ‘winner’. Well, this would have been the patriarchal approach.
When she stood up she was very centred in herself and in her truth. She knew her energy was much better spent elsewhere. She refused to engage with people and environments that did not respect her. She was not going to engage in a winner-loser battle. She owed them nothing and she had to explain nothing. The interviewer had broken her trust and didn’t respect her boundaries.
When our truth is not respected we must have the courage to take our brilliance elsewhere.
Every time we turn to fighting we are playing into the hands of patriarchy. The new feminine power will rise above ego seeking no winners or losers.
If every single woman would demand that people around us respect our truth and value our boundaries, if we’d start walking away from situations where rules are not applied (equal pay etc), when our personal boundaries are hurt (abusive language, pressure to act/dress/be a certain way etc) we’d immediately create a more equal society. (We’d leave them holding the bag, like that interviewer!)
Serena Williams didn’t want to accept the rules, she wanted to emerge as the ultimate winner. It was about her, not about sexism or racism.
There is no revenge in the present moment. The past is always full of injustices. We can’t turn every personal situation into a feminist issue, because mostly it isn’t. Monica’s moment wasn’t a feminist fight, she was simply clear with her boundaries.
Let’s engage in a conversation. You may be holding an exactly opposite view to mine and that’s fine. I don’t seek to emerge as a winner, I’m simply living my truth here and therefore I wanted to write this article but I’d love to hear your views.
Miisa Mink is the founder and chief-doer at DrivenWoman, a supportive women’s network that helps all women from all backgrounds seek their own truth and follow their dreams.