During the 2018 French Open Tournament, Serena Williams shocked officials and audience members alike by competing in a black catsuit. She has been widely criticized for this choice. Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the French Tennis Federation, said that Williams’ outfit was from then on prohibited, saying, “It will no longer be accepted, one must respect the game and the place.” He further declared, “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far.” Nike then responded to to this ruling on Twitter, tweeting: “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers. #justdoit— Nike (@Nike) August 25, 2018”
Nike designed Williams’ catsuit specifically to help with her blood clots- a medical issue that has nearly taken her life in the past. Taking into consideration the fact that Williams’ wore this suit in order to stay healthy, calling her disrespectful for wearing it is insensible. This is not the first time Williams’ has been criticized for her outfit choices during tennis, though, and these microaggressions are rooted in racism and sexism.
Throughout her career, Serena Williams has been harassed over various things, facing bigotry over and over again in the form of audience members calling her slurs and being criticized for the things she wears and the things she does. Even when she was a young player, Serena Williams and her sister Venus were harassed over their choice to wear their hair in braids. These comments have all been rooted in the policing of women’s bodies, especially black women’s bodies. But Williams’ is not the first person to wear a catsuit on the court. In 1985, at the Wimbledon tournament, Anne White wore a white bodysuit to compete and she was heavily judged, as well.
The dictation over every single thing that Serena Williams does must end. Williams’ is an exceptional tennis player, and the reasons she’s been criticized have nothing to do with tennis. Williams has a great argument to be the best athlete of all time and she is a symbol for something greater than herself, inspiring not only women interested in sports but women and minorities interested in all fields of endeavor, showing them that they can overcome oppression and unnecessary criticism.