This isn’t going to be a popular column. I may even lose some of you.
Let me just preface by saying: I wasn’t going to talk about Caitlyn Jenner. I didn’t want to be bothered. But then ESPN made the announcement that Jenner would be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs. I was appalled. Flabbergasted. Dismayed. And it had nothing to do with any transphobia, but everything to do with the fact that while we can debate the merit of a courage award at all, certainly a courage in sports award — for a person who has not been relevant as an athlete for nearly 40 years — is unwarranted.
I was still going to leave it alone, though. As I watched people fawn over how beautiful Caitlyn had become all over the internet, I rolled my eyes and set off to find something else to write about.
But then Serena won at Wimbledon. And I started seeing her mocked and called manly and ugly. Folks were making her out to be animalistic again. And I was infuriated.
How could people be so open to this man-turned-woman as a standard of beauty and so adamant in their refusal to acknowledge Serena Williams’ own beauty? Is it because she’s Black? Probably, I decided. Society has often had trouble embracing Black women as a standard of beauty. Even once Black features become popular — big butts and full lips in recent years — credit hasn’t been given to Black women. Is it because society has difficulty with dynasties? Not really. I think people love dynasties.
But Black dynasties? That might be the key issue here.
People have had a hard time swallowing the pill of the Williams sisters’ success for nearly 20 years now. (Just accept it, folks: they’re not going anywhere.) Similarly, many in the golf world revelled in Tiger Woods’ decline as news of his affairs became public, the subsequent public humiliation unfolded and his performance began to decline. Tiger was toppled and put back in his place in society.
But for the Williams sisters, and particularly Serena, there has been no such topple from the throne of greatness. Sure, she had a few years in which she wasn’t winning everything, and injuries held her back for a bit. But there has been no dethroning, no public shaming, no incident to knock her back down to size.
So the public, aided by the media, seem to have made it their mission to knock her back down. When her colorful outfits and curvy frame drew the attention of men across the world — and after it was clear that attacking her on a talent or merit-based level was not going to work — many sought to tear her down. In fact, it seemed, they went out of their way to constantly portray her as aggressive, unattractive, animalistic.
So as hoards of the same media professionals and spectators rush to celebrate Caitlyn (born Bruce) Jenner’s transition into a woman, you can miss me with all of the discussion of how beautiful and brave she is. I’m Just Saying…