Dear Gossips,

Last week we talked about Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of VOGUE’s 125th anniversary September issue, the biggest issue of the year. The choice, as I wrote at the time, was status quo. Also featured in VOGUE’s September issue: Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams. Oprah has her own magazine so I guess I can understand why she wouldn’t be on the cover. But …what about Serena Williams? Anna Wintour’s put Serena on the cover of VOGUE before, twice actually. She would have been an excellent cover subject for such a milestone issue, non? Serena was, however, already on the cover of the August issue of VOGUE’s sister publication Vanity Fair and they almost never duplicate. I’m curious about how that works though, whether or not there are editorial fights between them about who they each get.

Before we get into Serena’s VOGUE interview, many of you have written asking for a post about the remarks she made last week that pissed some people off. While speaking to Australia’s Herald Sun she talked about how she expects childbirth will change her


“I think [giving birth] will give me more strength, if that’s possible. I feel like I will be ready for anything. I have so much respect for so many women [for giving birth]. I am about to be a real woman now, you know? It’s going to be something incredibly impressive to go through.”

It’s the “real woman” comment. That you’re not a “real woman” until you’ve had a child. Which, obviously, is bullsh-t. And it’s language that’s become so natural to so many people, an expression that just falls out of your mouth so easily, because you’ve heard it so many times when other people are pregnant. For a long time it was acceptable language, until relatively recently when we started having larger conversations about “womanhood” and how it’s defined and who gets to define it. Since I have no interest in having children, of course my reaction when I hear things like what Serena said is to be like, whatever, thanks for making me feel less-than. But for me personally, it’s not painful – not the way it might be painful for a woman who does actually want children and can’t.

In Serena’s case though, it’s slightly more complicated. Because of the kind of treatment she’s had to endure through the course of her career. Serena Williams has dominated women’s tennis. She is the Greatest Of All Time. As you know, there have been haters. And so much of that hate has been directed towards her body, her “real woman” body. Here are just two examples:

Back in 2014, Shamil Tarpischev, a coach and the former head of the Russian tennis federation, referred to Serena and Venus as the “Williams brothers”. A year later, in 2015, the New York Times published an article about body image in women’s tennis which included comments from other players and their coaches. At the time, Serena was playing for the possibility of a Grand Slam and she seemed unstoppable. Some of the other players then, when asked about whether or not they wanted to change their training regimens to keep up with and challenge Serena, worried about looking “unfeminine”. Agniezska Radwanska’s coach actually said that, “It’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10. Because first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman”. The subtext is obvious.

The truth is, there are a lot of assholes out there who have never considered Serena Williams to be a “real woman”. So when she said that pregnancy and childbirth will make her a “real woman”, I personally read a lot more into that than if the remark had come from someone else, someone whose “real woman-ness” has never been questioned, repeatedly.

What’s incredibly frustrating though is that it’s not just that Serena’s “woman-ness” has been doubted. Because at the same time, her very “woman-ness” has been used against her. Like a couple of a months ago when John McEnroe said that she’d be “like 700 in the world” if she played against men. So either she’s not woman enough or she’s too woman and is therefore not as good as a man. How can she win?


But that’s the thing. She keeps f-cking winning. And she wants to keep winning. She wants to win the Australian Open in 6 months, just 3 months after she gives birth. And she tells VOGUE that that’s a “most outrageous plan”. But she’s doing it anyway, by practising through her pregnancy and studying through her pregnancy. Studying the other players. Studying herself, going through videos of her old matches, revisiting her best matches, focusing on her match management in those matches which I love so much because, as I’ve written many times before, you need a brain to play tennis. You need to think through the points. Tennis isn’t just about bashing a ball back and forth. It’s about strategising where you place the ball, how much pace you put on the ball, how many forehands you hit before you go to the backhand winner, like chess, where each move is a prelude not just for the next move but for a move that will come 15 moves later. If you acknowledge Serena to be the best tennis player in the world – and she is – then you have to acknowledge that she’s beating her opponents on strokes but ALSO on strategy. Which has everything to do with the mind. Serena Williams is tennis-strong and she is tennis-smart.

On a lighter note, because Serena is not just about tennis (she also studies French and designs clothes), this VOGUE article reminded me of another VOGUE article about Serena from last year. About the Williams Invitational, have you heard about it? The current VOGUE piece opens on a dream that Serena had about the Williams Invitational, a private competition between Serena and Venus and their respective teams that includes ping-pong, dodgeball, tennis, and staged DANCE PERFORMANCES which they rehearse for months at a time. Family and friends only. Serena is friends with Beyoncé. Do you think… does… Beyoncé participate in the Williams Invitational, CAN YOU IMAGINE?

Click here to read more about Serena in this month’s VOGUE. And click here to revisit the Williams Invitational where I desperately, desperately want to live.

Yours in gossip,