Tennis great Serena Williams wore a sleek black catsuit to play in the French Open in May.
It made her look like a superhero, but it also protected her against blood clots that had plagued her since she gave birth to her daughter.
French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli apparently didn’t like the look. He said he’d institute a dress code to prevent her from wearing it again.
“One must respect the game and the place,” Giudicelli said.
Social media lit up. Fans called it misogynistic. Williams seemed to shrug off the incident, saying the next day at a press conference at the U.S. Open: “Everything is fine, guys.”
In that moment, anyone who has ever tried to tell a woman what she should wear knew this wasn’t over.
Williams said she’d found another way to deal with potential blood clots. Really, it was fine.
“When it comes to fashion,” she said, “you don’t want to be a repeat offender.”
Williams knows this kind of criticism doesn’t change her value as a player.
She has experienced this kind of shaming since she was a teenage phenom, picked apart for her hair, size and clothes. She has handled it with grace.
Legendary player Billie Jean King tweeted: “The policing of women’s bodies must end. The ‘respect’ that’s needed is for the exceptional talent (Serena Williams) brings to the game. Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies.”
Williams knows this kind of criticism doesn’t define her.
Nike posted a picture of the 23-time Grand Slam winner in her catsuit: “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”
Three days after the catsuit ban, Williams showed up for the first round of the U.S. Open in a new costume: a black tutu and compression fishnet tights.
And she won.
Everything was fine.