Serena Williams is no doubt one of the greatest athletes of all time. This January, Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open, surpassing her already remarkable legacy.
Williams announced she was 20 weeks pregnant via Snapchat on April 19. Not only did she win her record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title, but she won it while pregnant. Her announcement sparked even more appreciation for the 35-year-old tennis star, fans taking to social media to voice their excitement for Williams and her fiancée Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit. Even with all of the appreciation and enthusiasm for Williams however, she became subject to sexist and racist reactions as well.
It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the athlete’s pregnancy announcement brought speculation about whether Williams has a post-baby future in a sport she has dominated for years.
Several headlines questioned Williams’ ability to bounce back after having her child. Many questioned whether the child will damage her physical performance and if she will even have the desire to play at a top level post-baby.
Hollywood Life published an article on April 19 titled “Serena Williams Pregnant: Will Baby Slow Down Her Tennis Career?” Tennis magazine asked in response to Williams’ announcement, “Are Serena’s playing days over?”
“The real question related to motivation,” The Telegraph suggested. “How much will she want her career back?”
Williams is 20 weeks pregnant and pregnancy impacts women differently, each to their own and there is still no public information about how her pregnancy journey is going.
Williams, unfortunately, is not stranger to such discussion, especially about her body. As a black female athlete, she has faced several bigoted attacks throughout her career.
Williams’ publicist has confirmed that the star athlete does indeed have plans to return to the circuit next year. Williams posted a message to her future child, via Instagram, that read “I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait for you to join the players box next year.”
The ongoing speculation and doubt that Williams will want to return to tennis is ingrained in a sexist belief that being career driven and being a mom are mutually exclusive.
Williams’ baby is not even born yet, but they are already a target of a racial joke. Former world number one tennis player, Ilie Nastase, made remarks about Williams and her unborn child: “Let’s see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?”
Williams fired back at Nastase, writing in an Instagram post: “It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child, and sexist comments against my peers.”
Nastase was banned from the remainder of the Fed Cup.
The idea that having a child will hinder Williams’ career is rooted in sexist assumptions about mothers and being subject to a joke about the color of her baby is incredibly racist.