Serena Williams is no stranger to making bold and courageous moves as a public figure. In addition to being a sports megastar and 22-time Grand Slam singles champion, she has resisted against body-shamers, spoken out against police brutality, and recently joined forces with her sister to open The Yetunde Price Resource Center; a safe haven for Compton residents who have been affected by gun violence.
Williams latest move comes in the form of an open letter written for Porter Magazine’s Incredible Women of 2016 issue. Addressed to “all incredible women who strive for excellence”, the letter highlights the real issues of gender bias, the ongoing matter of unequal pay, and the challenges that Williams has encountered on her way to becoming a hugely successful world athlete.
Opening with sentences that hark back to her childhood past, Williams illustrates “My dream wasn’t like that of an average kid, my dream was to be the best tennis player in the world. Not the best “female” tennis player in the world.”
In immediately confronting the subject of gender within the sphere of her career, Williams reminds us of the inspiring words she said before the Wimbledon final in July this year, concerning double-standards within the sporting world. After a reporter asked if she considered herself one of the greatest female athletes of all time, Williams clarified “I prefer the word ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’”.
On noting the barriers that women have to overcome on their way to success, Williams reinforces the problem of equal pay and the struggles she has encountered in gaining recognition alongside her male sporting counterparts. She writes “So when the subject of equal pay comes up, it frustrates me because I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts […] women have to break down many barriers on the road to success. One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw.”
Williams also shines a light on how she battled and powered through discouragement. She states “For me, it was a question of resilience. What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself – my race, my gender – I embraced as fuel for my success. I never let anything or anyone define me or my potential. I controlled my future.”
Ending with final words of encouragement, Williams presents the need to inspire young women “to push for greatness and follow their dreams with steadfast resilience. We must continue to dream big, and in doing so, we empower the next generation of women to be just as bold in their pursuits.”
Williams open letter is an important gesture reinforcing the huge changes that still need to be made in the issues surrounding gender equality. While Williams evokes that we should be judged by our achievements and not our gender, we are reminded that figures such as Williams, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama, should be acknowledged as some of the greatest and most successful people of our time.
These are some well-needed words of wisdom!
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