Femme Fatale: The Controversy of Serena Williams’ Catsuit

Courtney Cordoza
Staff Writer

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PC: Carolinian Opinions

Serena Williams is a powerhouse tennis player. With 23 grand slams under her belt, she is a dominant force on the tennis court. She has become a household name with her athletic abilities and down-to-earth presence. When Williams was told she was not allowed to wear a certain outfit, it was no surprise that tennis fans were in an uproar.

Within the last week, the words “catsuit” and “Serena Williams” have been tied together after she stepped onto the court donning a figure-hugging black suit.

Bernard Giudicelli, The French Open president, issued a statement banning Williams from wearing the catsuit. Giudicelli said, “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”

He received backlash from tennis aficionados, as well as non-followers for his harsh statement. Her catsuit served as a compression suit. Williams suffered from complications while giving birth to daughter Olympia last September. The suit was made to prevent her from getting blood clots; she has previously had several brushes with death from pulmonary embolisms.

Williams had already worn the catsuit in a match last spring. After her match, she was interviewed by reporters. She referred to her black catsuit as being inspired by Wakanda, the fictional land from the 2018 Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther.”

The film was the first in the franchise to feature a black superhero on the big screen. Since its debut, it has become a milestone for people within the Black community. For the first time, little boys and girls are able to see heroes who resemble them. The movie has become an icon that the African-American population has embraced with open arms.

The issue with the controversy is that Serena Williams equated the catsuit to Wakanda, which has become a symbol for Black excellence. Williams is proud of her heritage. Since she had to wear it for medical reasons, she decided to fully embrace her black catsuit while she is on the court. It likely would not have been an issue if she had solely equated the suit with a medical need.

Williams is wearing this catsuit as a representation of her African roots. She started out as a young girl playing tennis with her sister, Venus. Her father would coach them for hours every week. Williams has gone on to accomplish so much in her career and personal life. She wants to pay homage to her background that aided her in her success. Against all odds, Serena Williams has arguably become the most prestigious and respected tennis player in the world.

Supporters have rushed to social media, standing behind the tennis star. Nike, who designed the catsuit, issued a statement on Twitter regarding the matter. “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers. #justdoit.”

Would they rather have Williams and other female tennis players wear tank tops and short tennis skirts, even when medical reasons make this difficult? Or is it an issue because she is a curvy woman who was uplifting her Black brothers and sisters? It should not be deemed a dress code violation. She was properly covered and looked professional; there was absolutely nothing wrong with what she is wearing.

The backlash did not stop her from expressing herself. She took to the tennis court last weekend wearing a black tutu and wore a lavender tutu to her following match. Williams has not let haters get to her. She turned the catsuit ban into a tasteful display of retaliation. The French Open may go low, but Serena Williams goes higher and remains a force to be reckoned with. Shine on, our fierce Wakandan warrior.

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