If the past few days in sports have taught us anything, it’s that reporters often flub up the opportunity to ask the nation’s top athletes pertinent, intelligent, non-redundant, non-offensive questions.
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Last week, we watched as a reporter asked LeBron James the same question over and over again, trying, unsuccessfully, to coax him into either getting angry or ratting out his teammate.
Then, days later over the weekend, a journalist at the French Open asked Serena a question he said he’s been waiting fourteen years to ask.
And despite thinking about it for over a decade, nothing told him it might be sexist, inappropriate or asinine.
According to Rolling Out, Bill Simons first attempted to banter with Williams about her daughter, Olympia before taking a turn.
Bill Simons: I know you want to get back to Olympia, work with me here, please.
Serena Williams: Work with me (smiling.)
Simons: We’re in this together, baby.
Serena: No, we’re not; you’re not going home to a screaming baby.
Simons: I have been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question. After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his LA golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulder were incredibly alluring and then he came up with this incredible analysis: That you were intimidated by her super model good looks. My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?
Serena: I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimidated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it.
Serena said she’s made a more conscious effort not to get offended by the sexist questions reporters ask her and this right here, shows that she was not lying. Because this is beyond insulting.
Before we get into the beauty aspect of the question, we have to acknowledge that it completely disregards the entire reason Williams and the reporter were in the room together: tennis.
And since we’re on the subject of tennis, we should mention that Serena has a 19-3 win record against Sharapova. She’s proven time and time again that she’s the superior athlete. (Sadly, a pectoral injury that prevented her from serving has forced Williams to withdraw from her match with Sharapova that was supposed to have taken place earlier today.) Serena has won 23 Grand Slam titles to Sharapova’s 5. Serena has taken home a gold medal each of the four times she’s appeared at the Olympics, whether she was playing singles or doubles. Sharapova lost the one time she was there. In the words of Joanne The Scammer, “You don’t compare when you don’t compete.”
Now, when it comes to beauty, we all have our standards, our preferences, the conditioning we’ve accepted or rejected. It’s perfectly fine if someone prefers Sharapova’s looks to Serena’s. And judging from Donald Trump’s dating and marriage history and his blatant racism, it should surprise no one that Sharapova would be the woman he extols over Serena Williams.
But is that really any of her business? Should she really be concerned that an old, racist White man, who just so happens to be president, said he thought Sharapova’s shoulders were alluring?
I know it might come as a shock and surprise to White folks but Black women have our own beauty ideals, ones that celebrate features not typically associated with Europeans. And I’m telling you if 1,000 Black women were asked to list 1,000 women— of any race— they found the most attractive, Maria Sharapova’s name would not appear on any list. Let me spell it out. We are not thinking about her. I know our society would like for you to believe otherwise, but most Black women don’t spend their days idolizing the looks of White women. I promise you.
I don’t know Serena personally. But I would assume, outside of ensuring that she wax that a$$ on the tennis court, I doubt she’s thinking about Sharapova’s looks either. And if she is, I believe her when she says she’s not and never has been intimidated by an opponent’s physical features.
I’m not here to prove Serena’s attractiveness to you. You either see it or you don’t. But in the words of Cardi B. and YG, “She Bad.” And there are more than a few people, men, women and fashion publications, alike, who would cosign that opinion. Most importantly, Serena believes that about herself.
Not only is this physical comparison a waste of time emotionally and psychologically, it distracts from the real reason any of us even know Sharapova’s name: tennis.
The fact that this reporter would keep Serena from her baby with a question attempting to pit two women against one another, outside of their actual sport, because of one man’s opinion on beauty just shows the depths of sexism that still exists in our society. It shows that instead of focusing on the time, skill and effort it takes to perform at this elite level for the past 24 years, a man would rather ask a Black woman if she’s intimidated by Sharapova—because Donald Trump, one of the most lying a$$ figures in modern political history—said so. The mere fact that it came from his mouth should have been enough to disqualify the question. The inquiry completely devalues her expertise on the subject of sport and human determination and excellence in favor of a petty and juvenile discussion on beauty. It’s a discussion that is not only unnecessary and trite but completely reductive— as if the only worthy contribution a woman can make to the world are her good looks.
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Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.