When the best athlete in the world, Serena Williams, announced last week on Snapchat that she was 20 weeks pregnant she delighted millions of fans. Now, of course, there have been athlete-mothers before Williams, but “many of the conversations about Williams continue to be steeped in the misogynoir she has long faced as a Black woman” and an awesome athlete, argues Shireen Ahmed.
Some media commentators, for example, figured out that Williams had won her 23rd Grand Slam tournament while she was pregnant, and the New Scientist actually wondered aloud on Twitter whether “Could Pregnancy have helped Serena Williams win the Australian Open?”
“Williams is certainly not the first athlete to be pregnant while competing. She would certainly not be the first player to return to professional sports after giving birth,” says Ahmed.
Williams’ fellow athletes have also joined the fray, including former tennis player Ilie Nastase who felt no qualms about commenting upon the possible color of her baby’s skin. Williams’ fiancé, Alexis Ohanian, is white. Nastase has not apologized for his bigotry nor has he faced any specific professional consequences.
Still, as a society we’ve come part of the way. We no longer try to convince women to avoid competition because that might interfere with their ability to have children. And then, of course, there is the divine Serena herself.
Williams is perfectly poised to rewrite the narrative on a female professional returning to her sport after giving birth. That, as Lou Moore, a history professor who specializes in African-American studies, gender history, and sports, reminds us “is a whole different level of fame” and power.