FROM THE DESK OF
It’s not the Turkish Airlines Wozniacki Tour. It’s not the Compeed Wozniacki Tour. And it will NEVER be the ProActive Wozniacki Tour. (Have you no dignity?!) You have been disinvited from the Gillette Federer Tour and all future Roger Federer RF(TM) centered events. Please pack your racquets and leave.
So this past week, the media has blown up over Wozniacki’s impersonation of Serena by stuffing her butt and boobs with towels. (It’s a good thing Caroline decided to skip the black paint – CLEARLY too time consuming. [I kid! I kid!]) I noticed some headlines a few days ago and rolled my eyes because good God, it was just painfully unfunny. And then I banished it from my mind.
But this was the off-season blow-up that could not be stopped! Soon Sports Illustrated’s On the Baseline began writing about it, followed by Wertheim, and Fox Sports, and then Whoopi got on it. And if Whoopi’s on it, I gotta be on it. Ja feel?
Here are a bunch of excerpts from random articles:
So here’s where I stand: First, in no way do I think Wozniacki was being mean-spirited, much less racist. Serena was present in the arena, I’m told, and didn’t flinch. Plus, the two are friends: Remember that when Serena was hospitalized with an embolism, Wozniacki was the first player to call her. There’s a cultural relativism trope, too. Should Wozniacki, who grew up in Denmark, likely unaware about some of the historical connotations she was spoofing, be held accountable? And, yes, it bears mentioning that both Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic have unveiled similar impersonations of Serena without causing controversy.
1) Okay, whenever we discuss race issues can we please a) refrain from trying to disseminate the “tone” or “intent” of the action and b) stop trying to ascertain whether the perpetrator has black friends?
2) The “cultural relativism” argument holds no water. Racism is the product of global imperialism because that’s the first significant moment when different races met and hierarchies were implemented based on this idea of race. These are global ideas, not limited to the realm of the “overly-politically correct” America, as our friends over at Fox would say.
The most important part of this issue is a historical one that no one’s brought up: Venus Hottentot. Sarah Baartman (Venus Hottentot) was an African woman who European settlers brought to Europe as part of a traveling circus because of her — in their eyes — grotesque body proportions, specifically her buttocks and breasts. She was treated like an animal and kept in a cage where Europeans would leer at and abuse her. And she was considered inferior because she was different than a white woman. (Do I need to underline this shit as well? Keep this in mind because THEMES AND MOTIFS AND FORESHADOWING.)
When she died, they conducted an autopsy on her because they thought she was a freak and they wanted to know what made a freak different from normal people. Her remains were stored at Paris’s Musée de l’Homme for modern peoples to gawk and stare at because, hey, what’s degradation if you can’t transcend generations with it, am I right? (America, you SO rocked this principle. Can I get a racist high five?) And lest you think this was some KRAAAZZZYYYY (I spelled it with a k, that’s how crazy it is.) totally outdated mode of thought, the Musée de l’Homme thought it was a good idea to leave her remains out for public consumption until 1974. That’s after the Civil fucking Rights fucking Movement.
Basically after Dr. King was all “I have a dream” and white liberals everywhere were all “OMG” and Southerners were all “grrr,” French intellectuals were all “hey let’s still keep that dead black lady’s remains in our museum because it’s so grotesque it’s chic”. AND THESE ARE FRENCH INTELLECTUALS! These are the people that gave us Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The point is that these are not stupid people and they are not bad people. The point is that’s how pervasive racism is. It distorts your perceptions and your values in ways you don’t even know. It distorts your judgment so you can simply brush things off as jokes or harmless fun.
1974…That’s in your parents’ lifetimes. If you’re old, that’s in your lifetime! (If you fall into the latter category, what are you doing on this magic box?! Shouldn’t you be asleep in front of the television or reminiscing in front of the fireplace – but behind the record player – about kids these days and their low hanging pants and their loud music and their lack of manners??)
Back to Caroline – she’s a nice girl, if she tries too damn hard. And she obviously didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. And at this point, it just gets counter-productive trying to label anyone a racist because then you’ve got the “HOW DARE YOU CALL HER A RACIST PEOPLE” and then the “SHE’S A RACIST BITCHHHHHHH” people and no one’s really thinking thoughtfully about the action at hand – they just get caught up in the minutae of the racist label game. The truth is that there are legacies and meanings to our actions, even if they are unknown to us, even if our intent is subliminal.
Why did Caroline choose to impersonate Serena with ass and boob padding? Because that’s one of the foremost ways the media has defined Serena. And why has the media focused on that? Because, like Venus Hottentot, seeing body images different from a European norm invites ridicule, incredulity, and examination.
But, you say, if this was so offensive, why didn’t Serena say something? She’s outspoken. Yeah, because Serena’s really going to be labeled as the angry black woman yet AGAIN, who’s going after the sweet innocent blonde girl, who was just having a little bit of fun. What exactly is Serena supposed to do in that situation? Stomp onto the court and snatch Caroline for all she’s worth? Slam her on twitter and then sashay away? If you can’t see how much ridicule Serena would get, you must be a visitor to this planet.
3) The Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic point. This opens up another avenue of sociological criticism. You see, men don’t get criticized for shit. Maria and Vika grunt – oh, excuse me, shriek, and Wimbledon’s measuring the decibels. David Ferrer and Rafa Nadal grunt and no one cares because they are tennis players and exerting themselves. (And if you try to get into the semantics of a grunt versus a shriek, just get the fuck out.) Andy Roddick routinely heaped abuse on fellow players and umpires, but nobody said shit. It was all part of his ~charming persona~. Oh that Andy, he’s such a loose cannon! Oh that Andy, what a personality! But when Serena does it, it’s “SHE IS A DISGRACE TO THE GAME.” (And yes, I understand that threatening someone with death via tennis ball suffocation is a NEW LEVEL, but let’s keep it real, Andy was never robbed of a match like Serena’s been (2004 US Open QF, I’m looking at you).
And here’s another aspect to consider: maybe Caroline gets the criticism because it was jarring for a conventionally attractive blonde white girl to comment on a black woman’s looks. A woman who has benefitted immensely from the racial and gender matrix of advertising: Serena, with all her accomplishments, makes the same amount of money off-court as Caroline does. (Psst…that foreshadowing’s coming back to bite us in the ass, eh?)
4) Final thought: Bill O’Reilly’s tears called and it’s official, I don’t need white men acting like the Racism Authorities(TM).* (If people actually cared about my blog, I predict that there would be a lot of indignation over that last sentence. Guess what…)
*I am actually a notarized Racism Authority(TM), so drop me a line if you need an authority to determine whether someone is being racist. References available on request.