Serena Williams: Promoting Resistance


Mike Segar/REUTERS

Successful Match: Serena Williams celebrates her triumph over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31, 2022

Miriam Santos, Staff Writer

Serena Williams is ready for the next chapter in her life. The 41-year-old tennis player announced her retirement in her feature in the September 2022 Vogue issue. With a 27-year-long professional tennis career under her belt, Williams retired having left an immense influence on the sports community with her major activism for race and gender equality.

In 1995, Williams kick-started her professional tennis career at 14 years old. After winning in the French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon in ‘02, she took first place in the Australian Open tournament a year later, successfully attaining a Career Grand Slam, a feat few players have ever acquired and an incredible milestone in Williams’ career.

However, her success made her a target for racism, in the form of negative comments about her hair beads and comics featuring distorted caricatures. People also ignorantly disputed William’s gender identity; Insider reports that commentator Jason Whitlock described Williams’ body as “thick, muscled blubber,” and others have referred to her as a “man” or “gorilla.” 

As stated by Insider, commentators such as John McEnroe and Mary Carillo mentioned that the beads in Williams’ and her sister’s hair were “noisy and disruptive.” Comments like this were used to alienate Black people, such as Williams, within tennis. These remarks pushed Williams to overcome gender and racial deprecation and strive toward reversing the inequalities of the sport. 

The inequality of pay between women and men in tennis is 34 percent, with men earning $4.8 million more than women a year, according to the Women’s Tennis Blog. Williams hadn’t failed to notice the ridicule men placed upon women. 

“I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and – in the most painful times – I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court,” said Williams, as stated by The Guardian

Driven by the belittlement from her male peers and comments on her gender identity and race, Williams seeks equality and uses advocacy to spread the word.

“I’d like to acknowledge the many realities Black women face every day. To recognize that women of color have to work — on average — eight months longer to earn the same as their male counterparts do in one year,” Williams said.

Williams is passionate about bringing these truths to light, as she has advocated for Black women and women in general, specifically on her social media and in interviews. Hoping to advance these goals, Williams founded the “Serena Williams Fund” which donates to a variety of organizations that focus on racial inequality and support marginalized children. 

Now retired, Williams has left a path of inspiration for the next generation of athletes. Guided by her many feats and commitment to fighting off racism and gender inequality, new athletes – like Naomi Osaka, who’s half Haitian and half Japanese – have found Williams as an inspiration. “I think I’m a product of what she’s done,” Osaka said in a press conference ahead of the U.S Open, according to ESPN. “There’s definitely been a lot of barriers that I’m sure she had to fight to break down. We can now easily go through that because of her.”