Whenever Serena Williams plays, people use code words to talk about her weight. Here’s why: it’s not OK to talk about a woman’s weight. So they say things like she’s not “fit” when they really mean “fat.”
Expect to see that a lot of talk about “fitness” since Williams played Daniela Hantuchova yesterday. Hantuchova got the opposite of what Williams did, and has been called too thin or unhealthy. Not fit enough.
“What is troubling to one player is the exact opposite for another player,” Lindsay Davenport said. “We’re out here obviously as athletes, but just like any other woman. You know, it’s society’s problem. It’s not just, you know, in women’s tennis.”
This is a loaded topic. Women are constantly judged on their appearance — why else airbrush Katie Couric? — rather than what they can do. In this one regard, Serena Williams is a role model, every pound of her. Even with her ranking, she can batter a tennis ball into submission. And she wasn’t exactly a sylph when she was on top of her game. Knees and dedication (and no that doesn’t mean to a diet) have had more to do with her demise than a number on a scale.
“I think to me, a strong, athletic woman seems a lot healthier than just, you know, weight,” Davenport said. “Like, you know, instead of what the scale says.”
Swimmers need an extra layer of fat to stay warm in the water. The women who play tennis need strong muscles to play the power game. Let’s stop using their bodies to perpetuate the subtle message that sends girls to the scale to see if they are good enough.
If Serena lost yesterday, it would have been that she wasn’t “fit” enough. If Hantuchova lost, it’s that she is too thin. Really. When it comes to weight and perception, neither one of them can win.