There’s been a lot to praise in the world of women’s sports this summer. Yet, people still have trouble viewing females as athletes. This week, the Sports Dump looks at the nuanced world of femininity and the women leading the way to breaking the mold.
Two weeks ago, Serena Williams hoisted the “Venus Rosewater Dish” for the sixth time as the Ladies Singles Champion. It was her 21st major title. 12 years ago, Williams won four consecutive Grand Slam titles, later dubbed the “Serena Slam”. History repeats itself in 2015 with the chance for a Calendar Grand Slam at The U.S. Open later this Summer.
While the sports world should be debating Williams’ place as one of the greatest athletes, male or female, instead we are left to argue about the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time’s body.
In the latest example, New York Times contributing writer Ben Rothenberg penned a made for the 50s article, “Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image with Ambition.” Somehow Rothenberg makes the point that other white tennis players choose to lose for the sake of their bodies:
“Williams has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to,” wrote Rothenberg.
It’s preposterous to think that professional athletes would rather look better in a dress than be the best at their sport. These athletes sacrifice more than anyone else could ever dream, but God forbid they start to gain muscle structure.
And why are we even talking about the female physique. The only time I’ve ever heard someone talk about a male athlete’s body is when LeBron James’ junk found its way onto national television in the NBA Finals. Men are powerful, dominant, beasts. Their adjectives are contained solely within the walls of their athletic prowess. Women, on the other hand are constantly judged and ridiculed more for their appearance than their body of work. Williams has stated in the past that she’s conscious of her muscles. Could you imagine how much criticism she must have endured for an athlete to be concerned over one of the main attributes that make her so successful? Could you imagine someone saying, “Michal Jordan was the greatest basketball player that ever lived, but did you see his body, he’s so feminine. He has earrings, and is so well dressed after every game.”
For men, we hear terms as “Big Sexy” and “Teddy Bear”, yet we still struggle to offer the same openness to women. Power is a turn-on, and success breeds attraction. Yet many continue to treat these two attributes as scarlet letters when attached to women.
Sooner or later, everyone will have to learn sexiness does not have one definition, but is a subjective term that encompasses all minds, bodies, and souls. As much as sexiness is a component to femininity, the traditional image of the female has long been washed away by women like Serena Williams.
Since Serena Slam II, there have been more tweets and social media commentary on her physique as well as other more offensive topics, ranging from PED speculation to gorilla references to implications that Serena and sister Venus were from outer space.
The only one of the items listed above which has some credence is the last, because truth be told, the play of both Williams’ sisters have been otherworldly since they bursted on the scene with braided beads flowing from baseline to baseline.
Now, Serena stands on the cusp of history, and that is sexy.
Bookended between Williams’ triumph at Wimbeldon and her upcoming attempt at the Calendar Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, San Antonio Spurs coach Becky Hammon made news of her own this past week.
Hammon has already been a trailblazer for women in the NBA. The Spurs made her the first female assistant coach this past season. She followed that up by becoming the first woman to be the head coach of an NBA Summer League team. Now she can add NBA Summer League Champion to her resume.
The former WNBA point guard led the Spurs to the championship, and in the process has began to change people’s views of whether or not she could actually be a head coach someday. She already has the greatest active coach on her side. Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich has touted Hammon’s basketball IQ and work ethic as well as her ability to relate to players.
Summer League player Jonathan Simmons agrees, “She’s a real cool coach,” he said. “She’s a player’s coach. That’s something we all like.”
After the Summer League title, former New Jersey Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks tweeted, “I know this is a bold statement,” Marks said. “If I was running a team and had a head coaching opening. The first call would be to Becky Hammon.”
Hammon has garnered the respect of executives, coaches and players in her limited time on an NBA sideline. One can only hope that instead of claiming victory for women by continuing to pioneer, she will one day just be winning a game.
Photo Credit: AP File