One of the Greatest FEMALE Athletes of All Time

This week tennis superstar Serena Williams revealed that she is twenty weeks pregnant with her first child.

A quick check on the calendar shows that she probably conceived her baby around the first week of December (don’t act like you weren’t curious).

But wait, she played in the Australian Open in January. More than that, she won the Australian Open in January.

She did it while she was pregnant.

Let me say that again, in case you missed it.

Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was seven or eight weeks pregnant. 

For those readers who are familiar with the crazy workings of the female body, you know that the first trimester of pregnancy is generally considered the most dangerous. This is the time that miscarriages are the most prevalent.

Some critics might say that it was irresponsible for Serena to play in the tournament, especially with the extremely hot temperatures that accompany the Australian Open and can fatigue even the healthiest athletes. Some might say she was putting her baby at risk. But to such critics I would say, who cares?

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Would anyone have guessed she was pregnant here?

Williams was simply doing her job. It is her career to play tennis. Many women have extremely stressful jobs, but they can’t stop working when they are pregnant. That’s a luxury most women don’t have, so why should Serena quit her job before she has to? Granted she is no longer playing competitively for the remainder of her pregnancy, which is understandable because at a certain point it’s not physically possible for her to play on the competitive level she would need to. Let’s not get carried away here. But if Serena was able to compete at an elite level and not compromise her baby’s health at the Australian Open, then more power to her. It doesn’t matter that she’s out for the season. She already made a statement for women everywhere.

She won the Australian Open while she was pregnant.

She showed women they don’t have to sacrifice their careers when they are pregnant. Pregnancy is not a weakness. It is simply a part of a woman; it does not define women.

Serena Williams is internationally recognized for her strength and power. She has famously said that she does not want to be considered one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, but rather one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Most people would agree that she is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She has twenty-three grand-slam singles championships. That’s more than any other tennis player male or female. Ever.

However, this week Serena reminded us all  that she is a woman. Not only is she a woman, she is one of the strongest women. She is showing women that it is possible to have it all- a successful career and a family.

Some people might be thinking, “She was only seven weeks pregnant. The baby is the size of an almond at that point. She probably couldn’t even tell.”

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It sure isn’t going to stay this size

To which I would say, Williams is a professional athlete. Her body is quite literally her living. Even the tiniest change will be noticeable to any athlete who so carefully maintains their body and everything that goes into their body. Yet, she was still able to carry on and make it work.

Former world-ranked #1 men’s singles player Novak Djokovic is notorious for calling medical timeouts during his matches when he has “ailments” such as foot cramps, or blisters. Curiously, these timeouts always seem to come when he is in a slump during his match (coincidence? I think not).

I’ve always found Djokovic’s “timeouts” to be weak and annoying. So has former mens singles champion and color commentator John McEnroe, who has more than once called Djokovic out for violating the on-court rules of calling a medical trainer.

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Oh you poor thing.

Well Novak, I’d love to see you call a medical timeout for a blister on your foot now. I’m sure it’s painful. Anyone who has played tennis regularly, or any sport for that matter, has most likely experienced some gnarly blisters.

But, it is not the equivalent as having a human growing inside of you.

In juxtaposition to Djokovic, some women are also known for playing up their “female bodies.” Say the word menstrual cycle or cramps to a man and they will flee as though they just discovered that you have the plague and tell you to go do whatever you need to do. Easy way out of work or school.

But is this right?

I had quite a few friends in high school who would stay home when they got their periods or complain to their teachers so they could get out of class. Was it that bad? Somehow I doubt it.

Women who cry wolf over their “cramps” are part of the reason why female bodies can be viewed as weak. Suck it up. Very few women actually have the luxury to take a day off because they have cramps. Women need to stop using it as an excuse. Pop a Midol and carry on.

So the next time anyone complains about cramps or blisters on their feet, I invite them to remember- Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was pregnant.

There’s Still Work to be Done

For fans of tennis, this Australian Open Finals weekend may as well have been Christmas morning- Williams vs. Williams and Federer vs. Nadal. Four of the greatest athletes to ever play the game met head-to-head once more in the singles finals to compete for the Women’s and Men’s Singles titles, respectively.

On Friday night, I settled in to watch the Women’s Singles Championship.

Actually, that’s a lie.

The match didn’t start until 12:30 a.m. Pacific time. I’m a dedicated fan, but not quite that dedicated. So I set my trusty DVR to record the historic ninth time Serena Williams will meet her sister Venus in a grand slam singles final.

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Venus and Serena post-match. Spoiler alert- this post is not about the match itself.

I did, however, stay up to listen to the pre-match commentary, and, quite frankly, was a little taken aback by what I heard.

The commentators began by giving a recap of the Williams sisters over the years. They flashed pictures across the screen of Venus and Serena competing from early in their teenage years, all the way to the present and highlighted all of the different hair styles they have had.

Wait.

Hair styles?

Do I care about their hair styles? Will they talk about Federer’s and Nadal’s hairstyles? Maybe. But my guess is probably not.

Now, to be fair, this is no where near the 2015 Australian Open snafu where a male reporter infamously asked Eugenie Bouchard, the 7th ranked women’s singles player in the world at a time, to “give us a twirl” after her second-round victory.

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Bouchard stunned at being asked to “twirl” after Australian Open victory

A twirl? Is this a beauty pageant?

Needless to say, that remark was widely criticized across the globe as being “sexist.”

Now commenting about the Williams sisters’ hair styles is not the same as the Bouchard incident. Yet, it’s these daily, seemingly innocuous, remarks that help perpetuate the double standard and sexist culture the exists not just in tennis, but in most sports.

Serena Williams has been a powerful voice in the industry, fighting for equal prize money and respect for female tennis players. Though she has made great strides in the sport, there are still daily battles to be fought, as these commentating remarks show.

The commentators went on to describe Serena as “one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.” Now I don’t think they meant to make that slip, as there has been a lot of criticism of late over calling Serena a great female tennis player (most of it by Serena herself), but this just goes to show how easy it is to make these slips.

Finally, the commentators came to my favorite [read “worst”] remark of the pre-match show. While talking about the Williams sisters’ careers, female commentator Chris McKendry, claimed that the only other siblings who come to mind to compare them to are the Manning brothers.

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Eli and Peyton Manning aka the equivalent of the Williams sisters

The Manning brothers?

Perhaps Venus and Serena should be flattered that they are being held on the same level as two great male football players. But how is this a like comparison?

Peyton and Eli Manning play a team sport, and, furthermore, they are both quarterbacks. They will never be on the same field at the same time. They will never compete one-on-one against the one person who might know more about their game than they do. They will never face each other on the field as enemies, and then return hours later to compete on the same team (Venus and Serena also have fourteen Grand Slam doubles titles together).

Is this the best comparison the Australian Open commentators can come up with? A comparison in which the only similarity is that the two pairs are siblings who play the same sport?

Does everything have to come back to football to be viewed as relevant in the sporting world?

Well, maybe it does.

Serena’s and Venus’ match happened to fall on the same day that Baylor, a Christian university, announced a lawsuit against them that alleges over fifty-two rapes have been committed by over thirty football players over the last four years.

Fifty-two.

That is a shocking number. And sadly, that number is probably lower than actual number, as most rapes go unreported.

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This is not normal

Baylor has been discovered to have an institutionalized sports culture that condones showing possible football recruits a “good ole time.” Apparently, these players interpreted “good ole time” to mean a ” good ole rape.”

Again, I’m not saying that any of the comments towards Venus and Serena on Friday night were anything close to this horror, but they did reveal that inherent, everyday sexism is still around, even in the slightest of forms. We’ve come a long way, and most people would probably agree that Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, male or female. But, there’s always more work to be done.

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This is also not normal

If we don’t take note of what may seem to be the smallest of comments, we start to think they’re normal and okay, and then one day we wake up to fifty-two rapes by college football players and a pussy-grabbing president.