Brendan O’Neill |
Serena Williams has just set back the cause of women’s equality. Not by losing her cool during the final of the US Open: women are as entitled to temper tantrums as men are. No, it was her playing of the misogyny card that has potentially harmed the cause of women. It was the fact that no sooner had the umpire imposed penalties on her for her bad behaviour than she was crying ‘Sexism!’. Such a cynical use of feministic language to try to deflect attention from one’s own behaviour does nobody any favours — not Serena herself, and certainly not women more broadly.
Serena had a rough final. She ended up losing to Naomi Osaka, a relative newcomer at the age of 20, and the first person from Japan to win a Grand Slam title. It was a great achievement for Osaka but her victory was utterly overshadowed by Serena’s egocentric behaviour. The stink started when the umpire, Carlos Ramos, gave Serena a coaching violation and deducted a point from her. He believed her coach was using hand signals to try to steer her game. Serena angrily denied this and later called Ramos a ‘liar’ and a ‘thief’. He gave her another violation, for abusing the umpire. She also smashed her racquet in anger — another violation. She ended up being fined $17,000.
None of this is particularly out of the ordinary. From McEnroe to our very own Andy Murray, tennis players often flip out. Serena herself has form: at the 2009 US Open she threatened to shove a tennis ball down a lineswoman’s throat, earning her a $10,500 fine. But what is new this time round is the way Serena branded the judgements against her as misogynistic. She accused the umpire of picking on her because she is female. Male tennis players say and do worse and they aren’t punished like this, she said.