By Stephanie Sardinha
I started playing tennis when I was 13, and have thoroughly enjoyed the sport ever since. As someone who is notoriously known for hating physical activity, it was refreshing to find a sport that was as exhilarating as it was relaxing, and one that I could enjoy both playing and watching,
The tennis world was rocked recently in the US Open Women’s Grand Final. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Serena Williams lost what would’ve been her 24th Grand Slam to Naomi Osaka, a 20 year old tennis player from Japan. Williams accused chair umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism, further labelling him as a ‘thief’ for removing a point.
The media had a field day documenting Williams’ ‘meltdown’. Some used it as an opportunity to talk about sexism within the sport, others labelled Williams’ a sore loser for having a temper tantrum.
One cartoonist for the Herald Sun, Mark Knight, published the following cartoon, to which many reacted strongly, calling it ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’
The aim of cartoons is to exacerbate and embellish situations in a comedic light. It is this reason that makes the labels of racist and sexist incredibly problematic.
Serena Williams is an African American woman. It’s fact. Her depiction in the cartoon doesn’t make fun of her gender or ethnicity, rather her behaviour and actions during the game. Thus, the consequences of claiming her representation is offensive, ironically, is offensive in and of itself.
Why? Because it sends the message that being a woman of colour is inherently offensive, and that depicting her features as they are is something that should be avoided in order to be respectful.
There is nothing wrong or offensive about having skin that is not white. There is nothing wrong or offensive about being a woman.
Although I’m not African American, I am a young woman of colour and find this whole conversation incredibly toxic. Those who claim that this anger comes from a place of equality and acceptance instead perpetuate harmful rhetoric that tells me as a young woman to be ashamed of my colour and my gender identity, and that any representation of myself as who I am shouldn’t be allowed in the social and public sphere.
This is not political correctness. This is an insight into our societal psyche that indicates something very, very wrong with what we consider to be fair and polite representation. The comments made about the cartoon were more offensive than the cartoon itself, and inhibit the ‘acceptance and tolerance’ that those who made the comments want to create.
Serena Williams should not be ashamed to be a woman of colour. I am not ashamed to be a woman of colour. And you, no matter what gender you identify with or colour you bear, should not be ashamed either.