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1st March 2019

Serena Williams cartoon cleared of racism, deemed “offensive”

The Serena Williams cartoon that circulated after her US Open final loss has been cleared of racism and continues to divide opinions
Serena Williams cartoon cleared of racism, deemed “offensive”
Serena Williams has 23 Grnad Slam singles titles, more than any other female player. Photo: mirsasha @flickr

The Australian Press Council have cleared a controversial Serena Williams cartoon of racism accusations.

The cartoon, created by Mark Knight of The Herald Sun, depicted an angry Williams while the umpire asks her opponent to “just let her win”.

The cartoon emerged in the aftermath of the US Open final, where the most successful female tennis player in history accused the umpire of being a “liar” and a “thief”.

The cartoon sparked conversations of how Black women are portrayed in the media. The portrayal of Williams as unfeminine, rageful, and disrespectful is consistent of today’s trope of the “angry Black woman” in the media, according to professor Trina Jones.

Jones adds that when a Black woman opposes anything “they’re deemed to be domineering. Aggressive. Threatening. Loud.”

The world number ten lost her patience with the umpire as she received point and game punishments for her in-game actions, followed later by a fine.

Although the umpire did dish out the penalties to the letter of the law, the incident brought to light the question of why Williams was pulled up, while plenty of other players get away with similar, or even worse, actions.

The Women’s Tennis Association has declared the turn of events as “sexist”. Thus, the incident brings claims of institutionalised sexism and racism in both tennis and the media.

The watchdog report stated that the cartoon did “not depict Ms Williams as an ape”, alluding that the crude caricature, although “offensive”, was not racist.

The event continues to divide opinions, with one side insisting that the cartoon was neither racist nor sexist.

Others argue that the image highlights underlying racism left over from minstrelsy, an offensive form of entertainment from the darker recesses of American history, as well as the umpire portraying sexism in his actions during the US Open final.


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