The 2009 Australian Open and Validating Black Beauty

9 years ago

Perhaps because of the public backlash, it seems as though the post and the images of 10 most beautiful women of the 2009 Australian Open has been removed from their website, but a photo gallery is still up. According to The Root, the Williams sisters, most notably Serena, who took home the women's Grand Slam title were not included on the list.

The list was filled with sleek, thin images, and European names such as Dementieva and Hantuchova, and gushing's over Jelena Jankovic’s “No. 1 body to go along with her No. 1 ranking.” Curiously, there was no mention of the two women of color whose unique looks have challenged Eurocentric standards of beauty all around the world.

The writer of the article, Jewel Woods, adds: 

As the husband of a woman who looks like Venus and Serena, it offends me that my standards of beauty are not recognized or validated in professional sports. And as the father of a 6-year-old black girl who loves to run, jump, sweat, grimace, grunt and do all the things that are necessary for her to excel as an athlete, it pains me to think of the choices that will be forced upon her as she gets older because of these standards.

Admittedly,my first reaction was ' is anybody really surprised? After all, it is Australia.' During the 2008 Australian Open, an announcer made some unsettling remarks - apparently during live coverage for a local TV station about Serena's butt. In addition a quite offensive and sexist video that was centered on Serena lower regions at the match also hit the 'Net.

Plus, as North Americans, aren't we being a bit hypocritical? When a teenaged Venus Williams started making a name for herself on the professional tennis circuit, the media made fun of her multi-colored beaded braids, her muscular physique and most importantly, her lower-economic status  as a resident of Compton, California meant that she would have nothing in common with her colleagues on the tennis court.

Black media was embarrassed of her ' ghetto-ness' and black media outlets didn't acknowledge her until she started kicking white girl's asses. She was not rich, nor European and did not come from a distinguished family. Her father - who was no fool - knew that Venus and later, Serena, were entering the proverbial lion's den when they entered the Pro's and trained them to keep their heads high and to ignore the racial taunts they endured - both by tennis fans and former tennis champs - in the early years of their careers.

It's also hypocritical to scorn the Australian Open when Americans also seem have a sick fascination with Serena's body - and not in a positive way, but more ala Hottentot Venus, sexually curious animal in the zoo- in- a- cage kinda sicko way.

There are many comments on The Root's website and other blogs  that wrote about Wood's article who questioned whether the Williams sisters were deemed attractive enough to be included on the list. A comment post on the blog A Conversation About Race:

Is it not possible that Venus and Serena are not good looking?
Now, if Halle Berry was a tennis player…..
Come on guys, you know what I am saying.

While this issue might seem trite to some, there is a deeper meaning to this apparent slight against the Williams sisters as how they are perceived is regarded by many black folks as being representative of how the general public views the attractiveness of black women in general. the most logical response is, ' who gives a f#$k?' but we do.

But what is worse is the response from black commenters who in their agreement that the Williams sisters are not as attractive as their tennis-playing colleagues is the usual isms' that have emerged: Skin color and physical features that they have been ingrained through decades of self-hate and brainwashing by popular culture to believe that if one's looks deviate from the westernized norm they are deficient.

We are also seeing this nonsense in the comments from people who feel that singer Rhianna is a 'Bajan bitch' who think's she's better' because she is light-skinned and not a naturalized American and somehow deserves the alleged beating she got from Chris Brown. We are also seeing this via the outrage over Michelle Obama's penchant for wearing sleeveless dresses that showcase her muscular arms. While this latest slight will soon fade into obscurity, I think that we need to pay more attention to what the masses are saying - and less on stupid, sexist, and irrelevant 'Top 10' lists.

For an interesting post and thread on Black women's bodies and the idiocy of commenters, please check out Feministing