As usual Brett Wins, Serena Loses
This past September, two very public meltdowns by two largely scrutinized personalities were televised live for our consumption and digestion.
By now you’ve heard about Serena Williams’s outrage, after a series of what she believed to be unjust violations were called against her in the 2018 U.S. Open. Williams displayed what has been characterized as “unsportsmanlike” conduct by fighting with the referee, Carlos Ramos. Specifically, he penalized her with a coaching violation and for smashing her racket. The dispute gives the good-willing opponent, Naomi Osaka, the advantage, leading her to victory. Williams has maintained that she was penalized wrongly, due to the fact that the well-known practice of coaching during games is often exercised by the coaches of many professional male tennis players. However, whatever justification Serena has for her actions pales in comparison to the emphasis that the public eye placed on her expression of rage and defiance. Williams lost the championship, and a positive light in the media.
Two and a half weeks later, the much-anticipated hearing of President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was finally underway. Under oath, the future Supreme Court Justice put on a colorful display of defense in wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation. He yelled, he mocked, and he cried. The reaction, in general, was wholesome. Kavanaugh reacted to the intense scrutiny with a predictable defiance, especially for someone so privileged they have never faced a consequence in their life. Like Serena Williams, a pivotal, tumultuous moment in Kavanaugh’s career was televised live, for the world to see.
Let’s take a moment to step back, asses, and compare. A black, female athlete and a whitemale politician; both completely different figures who are just alike at this time. I’d say that both of these people enjoy a unique amount of privilege. Were these simply diva outbursts in work settings? Maybe. But what is more important is how the actions of these disparate individuals were interpreted.
For Serena Williams, this is a PR disaster. Being a famous African-American woman is a lot of pressure to begin with. Not only did she undermine her reputation as the greatest tennis player of all time, but she revealed a certain human flaw that famous women are careful to hide; temper. On top of that, she is claiming that sexism, rather than her own actions, is responsible for her loss.
As for Kavanaugh, this is a triumphant victory; the Senate voted to confirm him as SCOTUS. He fought a seemingly uphill battle for the GOP and won, inspiring men around the nation to defend their honor from the afflicting #MeToo movement. Emerging from the brutal hearings as a crusader of truth and beer, Kavanaugh’s public image is at its peak.
The irony is too rich. Each professional showed an unusual vulnerability, which is culturally frowned upon. Both exploded in defense of their reputation. So why is it so hard to defend Serena Williams yet extremely easy to defend Brett Kavanaugh? Perhaps because there is a conditioned response to the outburst of these individuals and their respective identities. An upper-class white male politician defending his honor in response to a sexual assault allegation – not uncommon coverage in the United States in this day and age. We have been groomed to accept these defensive tirades as testaments to masculinity and justice. This is why Kavanaugh received his nomination; America has a precedent of institutionalized patriarchy.
Even Serena Williams, as she might agree, is subject to prejudice despite her best efforts. During her culminating strife with the referee, Williams’s temperament was easily on the same level as Kavanaugh’s during his hearing. In clear contrast, Serena’s outburst against Ramos escalated the situation, and Kavanaugh’s somehow de-escalated the situation. Each individual provoked their argumentative opponents.
As a member of the American society, how you interpret and respond to these events is a clear insight of your status on the spectrum of gender equality.
Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, the outcome and reception of these two parallel events sends a clear message to the American people: that women should refrain from defending their honor because this is a man’s world.
Such events continue to perpetrate the notion that if you are a woman, you may be heard but your words will not be validated. This serves as indication that we are nowhere near gender equality in this country, and that’s how they like it.
Black Power activist and American fugitive Assata Shakur once said, “No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them.” Like public opinion, this quote explains why the institution of oppression exists.
Shakur was right – we cannot depend on our government to honor the social rights that women have. At this time, the US administration is complicit with domestic gender inequality and (with the help of Judge Kavanaugh) has an active agenda to revoke female reproductive rights. The year is 2018.