By Brianna Bush
It’s 2021, and women athletes are still discouraged, torn apart, and shoved to the side because they’re told that they are “too old” to have success in sports.
I know what you’re thinking. Who would explicitly say that in today’s age? Look no further than the comment made by former tennis player, Ion Tiriac about current tennis player and 23-time Grand Slam Champion, Serena Williams.
“If she had a little decency, she would retire,” Tirac wrote on Twitter. “At this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as she did 15 years ago.”
This isn’t Tiriac’s first offense; he started this scrutiny back in 2016, “With all due respect, 36 years old and 90 kilograms…I would like to see something else, I would like to see a player like Steffi Graf.”
Those comments definitely don’t hide the sexism and racism African American women continue to face. And to add more fuel to the fire, he pitted her against another woman. To put it frankly, those exact words reinforce why we celebrate Women’s History Month. Since oftentimes, it seems that people forget what women of every race have done in this country and across the world.
With the same “no filter” attitude I have this year, Serena Williams’ husband, Alexis Ohanian
took to Twitter to directly respond to Tiriac’s newest comments, “2021 and no holding back when a racist/sexist clown with a platform comes for my family.” And to show that he ‘talks the talk’ and ‘walks the walks,’ Ohanian strutted into the Australia Open semifinals to not only watch his wife reign but to also show that he means business. Photos instantly surfaced media of him wearing a t-shirt that read “Greatest Female Athlete” with the word “Female” crossed out. This comes after Tiriac’s comments and after the Superbowl win of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Tom Brady–further sparking the debate about which athlete is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time).
What a fashionably put unapologetic statement upheld by Ohanian; however, I will say one thing. Why does it take a man (and I know he’s Serena’s husband) to put another man in their place? People continue to deny women their earned right to be the GOAT as five-time Olympic Gold Medalist gymnast, Simone Biles, was also thrown into this controversial debate. Do Williams and Biles simply being women exclude them from being great?
And as we come together this March to celebrate Women’s History Month, we should look at ourselves and think of all that we’ve accomplished small and large because every woman has done something that goes unnoticed. And that is why I continue to believe that feminism unites women.
Feminism has long been a way for us to demand equality; it gives us empowerment. Women’s history leads us to many things, and one thing it leads us to is demanding the label “GOAT.” We’ve worked too hard to gain entrance into the field of sports only for a man to strip that of us and tell us that our time is over.
With my experience running cross country and track and field collegiately as a woman athlete, I am in awe of Serena’s graceful perseverance. She continues to walk out into the tennis court, repeatedly proving that she is indeed the GOAT. Most importantly, she paves the way for women like me to continue to defy the odds.
Controversial debates and negative connotations will never take away the power of the feminist movement. Wiliams, like many other women, will continue to be walking proof that we can excel in anything that we do.