Serena Williams and the Black Catsuit Backlash

Following the birth of her child Venus, Serena Williams began to experience blot clots, one of which almost killed her. To help reduce this risk, Williams began wearing a black compression suit designed by Nike to help prevent the clots.

Serena faced a lot of backlash for wearing the tight fitting suit and was banned from wearing it at the French Open because “One must respect the game and the place” president of the French Tennis Federation said.

Bernard Giudicelli, President of the French Tennis Federation (Source: Getty Images)

The suit was designed with the purpose of preventing potentially fatal blood clots yet was banned for beingdisrespectful”. How can a suit designed to prevent a life threatening occurrence be disrespectful? This controversy is worth noting because it demonstrates the way in which sports were created based on male gender ideals and the struggle of men to maintain these ideals.

Feminist theory is a theory that looks into how things in society such as sports are “based on the values, experiences and insights of men and do not take into consideration the values, experiences and insights of women” (Coakley and Donnelly, 2009). The incident with Serena Williams can be explored using feminist theory. Serena stated that wearing the catsuit made her feel like a warrior. Based on traditional gender ideologies, women are not supposed to be dominant; they are not supposed to feel like a “warrior”. So is it that the cat suit truly is disrespectful to tennis? Or is banning the suit just another tactic used by men such as Bernard Giudiecelli to maintain the traditional gender ideologies in sport?

An article about the sociological implications of dress codes in schools titled “Oppressive Curriculum: Sexist, Racist, Classist, and Homophobic Practice of Dress Codes in Schooling” https://rdcu.be/bSr69

May also be interested in: “Female athletes often face the femininity police – especially Serena Williams” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/14/serena-williams-female-athletes-femininity-police

Citation: Coakley, J. and Donnely, P. (2009) Issues and Controversies Sports in Society. Toronto, Canada. McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Amanda Gormley

Featured image: Williams in the black catsuit (Source: Christophe Ena / AP )

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