Written By Sophie Okolo
American tennis player Serena Williams is again at the center of conversation around body image. Last Saturday, Williams won her 21st singles Grand Slam title, completing the Serena slam and winning her 6th Wimbledon title. Despite these achievements, the current champion continues to generate discussion on beauty standards in the sport of Tennis.
Since Williams is an active player, her body type will remain a topic of discussion as her frame is not typical of women’s tennis players. The tennis champion challenges beauty stereotypes and this causes a complex relationship with the media and public; although not her fans. When it comes to endorsements, Williams ranks among the world’s top paid female athletes, which is largely a direct result of her success on the tennis court.
In fact, it is debatable if the world’s No.1-ranked player can top the highest paid female athletes list with a body type that doesn’t fit society’s stereotype for beauty. Fellow tennis player, Maria Sharapova, has managed to top the list 10 straight years despite Williams having 16 straight wins against her; holding a 62-31 edge in career titles. According to Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes Magazine, “ …race, corporate bias, likability and beauty are all part of the discussion in why Sharapova earns almost twice as much as Williams from endorsements and appearances, despite only one-quarter the singles Grand Slam wins.”
Although the champion has established herself as possibly the most dominant player in the history of tennis, her form gives her “ …the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years,” states Ben Rothenberg, contributing writer for the New York Times.
Ultimately, Williams’ goal is to break new grounds in tennis, which she’s clearly doing, and her body may change after retirement. Despite the conversation, she is close to becoming the female tennis player with the most singles major championship wins.
Do you think beauty stereotypes help or harm women sports? Can society truly accept all types of beauty?