Gender Play Gap - The Serena Williams Edition

Stop saying Serena had a meltdown.

The 2018 US Open final will be remembered for everything, except for the winner. For some it’s very black and white. It was rule enforcement, Serena Williams broke the rules and paid the price. However, like life, sport is not black and white. It a series of greys. The ‘meltdown’ was a response to living a life of injustice. We are all a product of the lives we have lived. A lot of the criticism thrown at Williams is because she violated the rules, and that she didn’t behave with decorum. Let’s look at it through Williams’ eyes. From childhood, she has been racially abused, and was the minority in a minority sport. At Indian Wells, racist slurs were thrown at her as she tried to play, and on that day too, some calls went against her (despite her being in the right).


Rules are ok, if we all live by them. Though, as Serena Williams has learnt over the years, the rules are different for her. More stringent. She, as woman who is black, is held to a higher standard than all of her fellow athletes. Yesterday, she was reprimanded for a coaching instruction she didn’t even see. Of course, she shouldn’t have reacted the way she did. Psychologically even, it was never going to help her get back into the match when her mind was elsewhere. That said, male athletes have sworn at the top of their lungs, abused staff and broken rackets to smithereens and have never been penalised. The umpire tends to understand that people vent and stay above it, and deflate not ignite the situation. Not here.


The sequence of events happened, not due to her having a meltdown, but because Serena Williams has had to live with injustice for over 30 years. She defended herself on a stage in a sport that continually disrespects her. Let’s not forget that it’s not that long ago that the French Open wouldn’t allow her to wear her catsuit. Who cares that it helps protect her from blood clots? Let’s not forget that the US Open penalised Alize Cornet for changing her top on court, despite the fact that many male players do it.

Not one, but two players were robbed in this US final, with both distraught during the presentation. If men were held to the same standards, this wouldn’t even be a discussion point.