Serena Williams is in the hot seat over comments she’s made about rival Maria Sharapova and the Ohio Steubenville rape case. The illustrious tennis champion has received a fury of backlash for her criticism and has offered her apologies to Sharapova and the Ohio Steubenville rape victim, who was 16 years old at the time of the assault. Serena Williams seems to be under the illusion of “rape myths” holding victims accountable for their sexual assaults. Serena was quoted as saying
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… 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.”
While Serena Williams may be poorly informed about rape myths and their contribution to a rape culture in America, sadly, she’s not alone, and her comments are reflective of a sizable minority of Americans who subscribe to such rape myths and hinder the eradication of what is known as “rape culture”.
Her mention of the victim’s age, parental upbringing and virginal status are all indicative of sex-role stereotyping. A study done by Coller & Resick found that “women in the high sex-role stereotyping group blamed the victim more for her victimization, felt the victim had led the perpetrator on, and attributed more responsibility to the victim for her situation…”
The French Open champion was quick to express her remorse, by reaching out to the victim and her mother personally.
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,”
Serena Williams apology is reminiscent of the controversy stirred earlier this year by rap artist Rick Ross for his lyrics U.O.E.N.O where he brags about dropping a molly into the drink of an unsuspecting female, taking her home and raping her while she is completely unaware of it. As a result of the public outrage, Rick Ross lost a publicity deal with Reebok. Ross’ first apology, similar to Williams was void of true understanding, and sounds more like an attempt at soothing public relations between themselves and the public.
However, Serena Williams is not offering one apology for her poor choice of words, but two within a week. Williams offers her apologies to Maria Sharpova as well as the Ohio Steubenville rape victim. Apparently Williams was in a private conversation with her sister Venus Williams, that was overheard by a reporter.
“She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”
Serena claims she offered a direct apology to Maria Sharapova two days before Sharapova publicly retorted to her rival, stating
If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids…
While both Williams and Sharapova have acknowledged a deep respect for one another professionally, it doesn’t sound like there’s any love lost between the two rivals. While Serena Williams eyes her next win, the drama surrounding her opinions has certainly brought the tennis star a great deal of publicity, albeit not very positive. This week Serena Williams offers apologies to Sharapova and Ohio Steubenville rape victim and learns a valuable lesson behind the power of the spoken word.
CBC Sports Tennis – Maria Sharapova takes verbal shot at Serena Williams
Fumble – Serena Williams Causes Stir with Comments
Shelly Schaefer Hinck, Richard W. Thomas– Rape Myth Acceptance in College Students:How Far Have We Come, 1999