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On the Eve of Her Historic Wimbledon Win, The NY Times Wrote an Article About Serena Williams’ ‘Manly’ Arms

Avatar • Jul 20, 2015

I expect this kind of trolling from bitter internet commenters, not a storied media publication. In an article the New York Times has struggled to explain let alone defend, sports writer Ben Rothenberg contends that Serena Williams’ body is unfeminine and a reason for her professional dominance. The piece, entitled Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image With Ambition, was published on July 10, the day before Serena won Wimbledon and cemented herself, in many people’s minds, as the greatest athlete of our era.

The article was posted to the New York Times’ Twitter account with the caption;

Serena Williams has a muscular frame. Her rivals choose not to emulate her physique

In the opening of the insanely sexist piece Rothenberg writes about Serena once mentioning that she covers her arms in public to be less recognizable.

My arms are really fit, but I wanted to cover them, because when I do people don’t recognize me as much,” she said.

The implication seems to be that she is hyper-aware and ashamed of her arms. Um, you could have fooled me because at the Wimbledon Champions Dinner two days after this piece was written, this is what Serena chose to wear…

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12:  Serena Williams attends the Wimbledon Champions Dinner at The Guildhall on July 12, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

LONDON, ENGLAND — JULY 12: Serena Williams attends the Wimbledon Champions Dinner at The Guildhall on July 12, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Not to mention that when it comes to her toned and curvy figure the beautiful athlete is always on Instagram ‘straight flexin’…

The article goes on to shade Serena MAJORLY by suggesting other female athletes might perform better if they were willing to be as muscular as she is, but they’re not because it’s not ‘feminine’;

Williams, who will be vying for the Wimbledon title against Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday, 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.

Despite Williams’s success — a victory Saturday would give her 21 Grand Slam singles titles and her fourth in a row — body-image issues among female tennis players persist, compelling many players to avoid bulking up.

It’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10,” said Tomasz Wiktorowski, the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, who is listed at 5 feet 8 and 123 pounds. “Because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.”

Oh word? Now female tennis players are blaming Serena’s body for their mediocrity? Mkay…

The New York Times was slammed for publishing this terrible piece and three days later an editor issued a half-assed ‘apology’. In a bumbling essay, the editor struggled to explain why the piece was even necessary and why this creepy and voyeuristic dissection of female athletes’ bodies was even allowed.

I talked Monday morning to Mr. Rothenberg, who said he was “disappointed and surprised” by the negative reaction.

I knew it was going to be a touchy subject,” he said, but he was taken aback nonetheless. In retrospect, he told me, he sees some of the ways that the article could have been approached differently.

I wanted it to be a conversation starter,” he said. “But I should have challenged the norms rather than just stated them as a given.” He also said that a late decision to rewrite the top of the piece, putting more attention on Serena Williams, had the unfortunate effect of creating a “Serena versus everybody else” split.

The sports editor, Jason Stallman, told me that The Times intended to present “a nuanced look at this issue, which we appreciated is a sensitive one.” He said that of the four editors who handled the piece, three were women. And he praised Mr. Rothenberg’s work, especially for his access to the players and his chronicling of Serena Williams’s dominance of the sport…

Mr. Stallman thinks readers may be directing their anger at the wrong source. In the criticism he’s seen, “there is a suggestion that it’s our role to fight this battle. But this wasn’t a column or an editorial.” Let the reader decide, he said, if the views expressed are outrageous.

That is bs at its finest. The publication attempts to hide their own sexism behind the excuse of, “Well other people are sexist and we’re just reporting it!” No, no, no. Let’s be clear; The New York Times gave highly offensive ideals a national and international platform. And in that they betrayed their own sexism and bias towards a white beauty standard. I mean, this is the publication that referred to Viola Davis as “not classically beautiful.” Ugh.

Meanwhile Serena Williams is unbothered, as she should be. America is finally coming to recognize that her talent is legendary and she is collecting millions of dollars in prize money, all the while refusing to be shamed or ashamed and reveling in her black womanhood. This headline from Very Smart Brothas pretty much sums up her life…

Untitled

The corresponding article is both hilarious and precisely accurate;

Because it’s almost as if Serena Williams was specifically and intentionally created with the intention of pissing off the most racist sports fans possible. Her entire existence is an elaborate troll for White tears.

Be from Compton? Check. Dominate a sport traditionally dominated by conventionally attractive and affluent White women? Check. Do this while being “so thick that everybody else in the room is so uncomfortable“? Check. Rock literally every hairstyle every Black American woman has ever rocked, and sometimes all at the exact same time? Check. Despite endless attacks on her looks and “masculinity”, continue to have some of the most eligible Black bachelors in the country (literally) fight over her? Check. Have an active dad who gives no fucks about what White people think? Check. Do absolutely nothing remotely criminal or even rude, making the tearjerkers scour the Earth for shit to criticize? Check.

Yep, pretty much.

Ladies what are your thoughts on all this?

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Keda
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Keda

Sex ism and racism at its finest.…I find it funny the assertion that other athletes ‘choose’ not to copy her frame. ..lol. They weren’t blessed with that frame. ..God chose to give it to her along with amazing incredible talent that they couldn’t copy if they wanted to. …and they want to because her dominance in the sport for so long clearly pisses them off. I’m sure they’ve tried ask they could n left with nothing they choose to belittle insult n degrade. .. but the William sisters have such great manners and patience they don’t stoop down to their… Read more »

Tabatha
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Tabatha

MAN I LOVE HER STRONG ASS TONED ARMS! Their just made that she is that darn powerful. That shows the result of hard training. All that is is just trolls not knowing that everybody’s bodies react differently to training. Ignorance heard around the world. As for the article, It’s going to ruffle feathers. What are you going to do? Either you read it or you pass it by do to the title. I do feel though that some of the backlash is going to fall on Serena though; as if she told the writer to write that. Oh well, the… Read more »

sanjidude
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sanjidude

Haters gonna hater her and lovers gonna love her. I’m a lover. Go on girl!

Skeewee
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Skeewee

Like they could even get that muscular if they tried lol! They don’t realize by now that as Black women, we can put the least amount of effort and bulk up? As long as we eat decent and do some type of workout, we are likely to develop a muscular frame. Our ppl are the BEST of the best, with strong muscles, bones and teeth, and skin to die for! This is nothing new. She’s not the first muscular Black woman, and certainly not the last. You would think THEY are used to it, especially since they are often all… Read more »

Mahogany
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Mahogany

Meanwhile, they celebrate Caitlyn Jenner as a woman. Smh. They need to let Serena be great. ?

Kari
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Kari

Serena is already great. The only validation that she seeks is her own and she is knowledgeable and comfortable with that, because she knows that it most likely will not come from elsewhere.

Nicole Nikki P Purville
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Nicole Nikki P Purville

I read the piece and it’s a bold piece about some of the fears and insecurities women who work out deal with. I feel it too being a straight muscular woman. The feminine look is why so many black women would rather be over weight. Defining muscle when your already a big girl is a lot to carry.

Serena is beautiful. It doesn’t change how society views her cut up physic. She is boldly changing the way people look at toned women…and she’s doing it with the utmost grace and class.

Rea Fe Greenage
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Rea Fe Greenage

I find that the New York Times sport writer is an a**hole for calling Serena’s arms manly and that she is trying to be a woman. What the hell does he think, she is a woman and her body is fit and active. Black women look manly is a stereotype, we are just like any women from different race and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I also find that similar to asain women who are getting plastic surgery to fix their jaws because it look manly. We should not apologize to anyone who disapprove us for be… Read more »

StraightShooter
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StraightShooter

To be honest anything Black people put our minds to we dominate and take over. We are the true MVPs.

k.h.
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k.h.

.….bruh. Don’t get me wrong, the article was totally insensitive and unnecessary, but it had nothing to do with race. He talked about her arms and body build.there was NOTHING there referring to race or ethnicity. I feel like this article is the equivalent of when a kid does something wrong but when they get punished say: “it’s because I’m black”. Seriously. Don’t play the race card for every little thing. As a black person I know when I’m being discriminated against because of my skin, and I don’t think this is the issue here. He’s just a dumb man… Read more »

Lori
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Lori

Body build has everything to do with race or ethnicity. It’s camouflaged for the folks who watch that kind of bigotry go right over their head.

coodyscoops
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coodyscoops

im working out like crazy now and my goal and motivation is to have a similar physique to serena. I too am african american and play tennis and i think her muscles are sexy… i fucking love her body and wish she would post up her routine… i would make that shit my bible.…

lis
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lis

Lol.…they are so JEALOUS and butthurt.….and Serena is unbothered as usual.…smiling, winning, and never without a man.….looooool!.…f the nytimes!.

Camille
Guest
Camille

I think they’re upset that the aesthetic for the ideal tennis body is changing. That’s what power looks like and it’s getting harder to justify the presence of those part time models as competition for Serena. Maybe they’ll start a lingerie league and let the twigs play each other.

Guest
Guest
Guest

Ha! Love the corresponding article. Great comeback.

Alicia
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Alicia

Man GTFO! She is so gorgeous and so toned and fit. She’s an accomplished woman who made it big on her own. Ugh! as soon as she won all of the racists and sexist buttholes came out of the wood work. I hope she keeps loving herself and that she doesn’t listen to these jerks.

eljjai
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eljjai

Serena’s body has always been the business to me. It’s so incredible. Venus’ too. He says 3 women wrote the article with him, are those three women white? Because we know when it comes to women like Serena, white women make lemons taste like honey.

Victoria Owl
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Victoria Owl

Smh. With articles like that, I would suggest we all flood the comment section of those sites, praising her accomplishments and her work ethic. Her physique is powerful and strong. Her arms are beautiful but what’s most important to me is that this woman knows her craft. She is the greatest. I honestly couldn’t care less about what her body type is. Why does that even matter when she has accomplished so much?

Lv
Guest
Lv

The Sisters are Bad!!!!!!! Check!! Let the haters hate. That’s what they do. If you have any doubt that American society has a secret admiration/loathing/fear of us as a people, please rethink. Even though. The Sisters are Bad!!

Osbourne Toni
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Osbourne Toni

I really dont get all these hateful remarks on her physique. She is an athlete for God’s sake, she’s been training all her life so she naturally has the physique to show for it. i bet the idiot that wrote that racist sexist article couldnt say it to her face for fear of just one slap from those arms of hers!!!

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