For the next four to seven years following her arrival, she was on display for her striking body, for many Europeans had never seen one quite like hers. In fact, the European fascination was based on the fact that, according to the mass, she couldn’t be human because of her large breasts, wide hips, large lips and buttocks. Surely Baartman felt humiliated, as she was indeed treated like a spectacle. And for some reason, the difference in body made her “inferior”. This was the beginning of the degradation of the Black woman’s body (currently upheld in much of today’s mainstream rap videos. Hmmmmm.).
After the excitement of Baartman’s body fizzled out, she was no longer wanted in the circus. After becoming a prostitute, Baartman died in poverty at the untimely age of 25 or 26. But her sentence as eye candy for the Europeans didn’t stop with her death. Her vagina and brain were preserved in jars and displayed in a museum for all to see! Even more shocking, it wasn’t until 1972 that her remains were taken out of the museum (160 years of display). Furthermore, the remains were kept until 2002, when they were finally returned to her homeland!
Serena Williams’s curviness and defined muscles are a reflection of her athleticism. But instead of being celebrated, it is widely scrutinized in the tennis world. In a sport that is around 95% White, much attention is placed on Williams’s figure. In 2012, to Williams’ surprise, close friend and professional tennis player Caroline Wazniacki began one of her matches with her bra and shorts stuffed with towels to make her body to appear as Serena’s. Many people in the crowd broke out in laughter when they made the connection. Check out the video below:
It may be all fun and games on the surface, but it is no joking matter given its historical context. But even though she posseses such a curvy feminine physique, her muscular structure has made her suceptible to accusations of being a man. It’s funny how right after Williams’ win at Wimbledon, a New York Times article was posted about her body type, comparing her to her white counterparts. There were numerous quotes from white players about how they could “beef up” like Serena but didn’t want to because they wanted to remain feminine. Why not write an article about how Williams now had 21 singles grand slam titles? Why not write an article about how Serena Williams is a woman from Compton, California that has dominated professional tennis since she was 19?
Now, let’s talk about endorsements. The highest paid female athlete is Maria Sharapova – a white professional tennis player who beat Williams twice…compared to losing to Williams a whopping 17 times in a row! Naturally, Williams has earned more than Sharapova from the League, but Sharapova makes double what Serena makes in endorsements, making her the highest paid female athlete. Why? It seems like Black female athletes aren’t the look corporate America wants to pitch to the public. Can we talk about this?
When talking about the Serena Slam, which she currently holds, Serena explained, “I think the ‘Serena Slam’ is really unbelievable. I didn’t think I would ever do it again. I mean, I thought I would, but when it didn’t happen after a while…It’s captivating. It’s awesome. It’s crazy.”
Williams is a living example of how someone can be the greatest, yet remain humble. And when discussing the history that she plans to make at this year’s U.S. Open, Williams reveals, “I don’t want the pressure of that. When you talk about it every time, you can’t help but think about it. It’s been okay to free my brain from that.” But you better believe she’s focused. She has no time to dwell on the constant ridicule of her physique. She has a Calender-Year Grand Slam to win!