Despite being one the best looks to come out of this year’s French Open, the catsuit that Serena Williams wore won’t be allowed at future tournaments if organisers have their way.
Speaking with France’s Tennis Magazine, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli laid down the new law, saying that Williams’ outfit wasn’t “respectable”.
I believe we have sometimes gone too far. Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted… You have to respect the game and the place.
It should be noted that the decision to wear the catsuit was not entirely sartorial: Serena Williams went through complications whilst giving labour to her child, and the suit was specifically designed by Nike to prevent blood clots.
Nevertheless, fans have taken to social media to call out the move, especially when viewed through the lens of policing what women – and specifically women of colour – can and can’t wear.
so, serena williams had to fight her doctors just save her own life after childbirth and now she can't even wear sportswear at a sporting event. seems like… a day in the life of a black woman, to be honest.
— Khalif (@le1f) August 26, 2018
•French Schools criminalize girls who wear hijab
•French Govt criminalizes women who wear niqab
•French Open criminalizes Serena who covers her body
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) August 25, 2018
Even Serena’s husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and tennis great Billie Jean King, questioned the decision.
— Alexis Ohanian Sr. 🚀 (@alexisohanian) August 25, 2018
The policing of women’s bodies must end. The “respect” that’s needed is for the exceptional talent @serenawilliams brings to the game. Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies. https://t.co/ioyP9VTCxM
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 25, 2018
To her credit, Serena has taken the high road in the situation.
In a press conference ahead of the US Open, she said that she has the utmost respect for the French Open organisers, and hopes they understand that the catsuit was for health, not for looks.
That said, it doesn’t really matter: Williams, and any women in sport, should be allowed to wear what’s best for them and their performance. Which, considering it’s 2018, is a ludicrous thing to have to point out, but here we are.