Rape Culture, Sloane Stephens & Mean Girls: Why Serena Williams Keeps On Disappointing Me

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Serena, you have really, really disappointed me.

I understand that you issued a non-apology/apology for your controversial comments about the 16-year-old Steubenville rape victim, but what people aren’t understanding is that the damage has been done.

Your comments have fortified the rape culture that is already running rampant on social media, in society, in our schools, in our workplaces…in the world. And an apology explaining what you really meant versus how you said it does nothing more than make these sentiments admissible to those who were just afraid to say them.

But for those who aren’t aware of the victim shaming you perpetuated during a Rolling Stone interview, let’s just run those comments back, shall we:

“Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

And here is the apology you issued:

“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.

I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields – anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”

But what you really said with both of these statements is this:

If you’re drinking, rape is your fault. If you’re a 16-year-old who has no business drinking and you still are drinking, rape is your fault. Those boys didn’t deserve ONE year in jail for raping a girl. What they did was stupid, but not that serious. If you happen to get too drunk and can’t remember anything…oh yeah, it’s also your fault if someone rapes you. And rape is only rape if someone slips you something to drink.

And from the apology?

Rape is not that bad when you’re an adult, but for a 16-year-old girl it’s really terrible.

Serena, I expected more from you.

I will never take away your tireless fight for women’s rights. I commend you for being such a force in your field, in your culture…in America. 

But maybe it’s time to stop relying on your talent to show the world how revolutionary you can be. It’s time to start taking real responsibility for what comes out of your mouth.

Victim shaming isn’t the only example.

You refuse to mentor Sloane Stephens, who is your undeniable heir to the tennis throne:

I don’t know where all that mentor stuff came from. I am definitely not that girl’s mentor.

Which has Sloane thinking of you in this way when she should be able to look up to you:

“That’s insane,” Stephens says. “Just intimidation. That’s just what happened. That’s what she does. She scares people.” At the press conference after Stephens dumped Williams out of the Oz [Australian Open], Williams referred to Stephens as “my opponent” and called her a “good player” but took no pains to praise her. Stephens calls such tactics mind games. “I would never do that to anyone,” she says. “So I don’t understand how some people do the things they do. That’s life. What can you do? You can’t change that. She is who she is, so you just move on.”

You’ve been painted over and over again as a mean girl in the media, just from the things that slip out of your mouth.

And we all love you dearly, so we usually chalk it up and move on.

But it’s time to realize that there are two things in life that you can’t get back. Time…and words once they’ve come out your mouth.

Time to stop being the girl who says everything that comes to mind and be the woman that we know you really are. The woman who had the power to help change rape culture, but instead, even if by accident, gave power to a scary monster in our society.

Christina Coleman 

Christina Coleman is the News and Politics Editor at GlobalGrind and a Howard University Alumna. Prior to this she was a science writer. That explains her NASA obsession. She crushes on Anthony Bourdain. Nothing explains that. Follow her on Twitter @ChrissyCole for all things news & politics. Oh. And afros.

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