March is officially listed as National Women’s Month, but these past couple of days had the spotlight fixated on women who were all over the news cycles.
First is tennis superstar Serena Williams. Widely considered as the greatest female tennis player of all time with the most number of Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, Williams filled the headlines after her choice of on-court gear got controversially banned by an official who, as one netizen pointed out due to lack of substantial reasoning behind the move, “simply didn’t like it.”
“I believe we have sometimes gone too far,” said French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli in an interview with Tennis Magazine, pertaining to the Black Panther-inspired catsuit Williams wore during the 2018 French Open in May. “Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”
It was later pointed out that the item in contention served a purpose beyond style. According to Williams, the black, body-tight one-piece was helpful in preventing blood clots after she had a pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her daughter.
(Following the decision, Williams appeared in the ongoing US Open wearing a tutu, which people perceived as a statement response to the issue. But that’s not the case. Nike had already announced that The Queen would be wearing a dress inspired by her love of dance and ballet, made by acclaimed designer Virgil Abloh, days before the Guidicelli ruling. Timing is all it was.)
Aside from the catsuit ban, there’s another recent controversy concerning tennis and wardrobe. French player Alizé Cornet stepped onto the US Open court last week and noticed that her shirt was on backwards. Right then and there, she reversed her clothes, and to her surprise, got charged with a penalty by Umpire Christian Rask for code violation.
The Women’s Tennis Association has since came out with a statement, saying it has “no rule” against such incident and added that “Alizé did nothing wrong.” At the time of the issue, however, people expressed outrage on social media and claimed that it was yet another classic example of double standards. Male tennis superstars routinely take their clothes off on the court, either by changing shirts in between sets, or even shorts, for that matter, as Rafael Nadal once did in the 2015 Rio Open. Novak Djokovic even performed a strip tease for the crowd on multiple occasions years ago.
What these incidents tell us is that the battle for gender equality still stands. Tremendous progress has been achieved regarding the issue in the past decade, but there’s still a ways to go.
Another manifestation of this unfolded over Aretha Franklin’s funeral in Detroit over the weekend. Instead of the event being a celebration of a music icon’s life, one man’s carnal desires stole the show.
Bishop Charles Ellis III led the services and failed to keep his hands to himself. The preacher greeted popstar Ariana Grande onstage after her performance of a tribute song to Aretha. Ellis then locked the singer in a curious embrace, where, while speaking, his fingers were running on the side of her breasts that obviously no stranger, much less a bishop in front of national television, should attempt to reach.
Ellis has since apologized for the incident, saying it would never be his intention to touch any woman’s breasts. “Maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
The incident sparked public outrage. Shortly after, #RespectAriana was trending on Twitter, with posts accompanied by stills of the video that zoomed in on the bishop’s extended fingers and Ariana’s awkward expression.
Unfortunate as the incident may be, the succeeding waves of support given to Ariana inspire optimism. It’s not hard to imagine a kid encountering the prevalence of the hashtag and being enlightened that what happened was wrong; that a whole generation could take on the lessons from this experience.
In a week which featured some sorry incidents that displayed the lack of equality and respect toward women in this modern world, there was also a golden reminder about why they should be held in high esteem—four reminders, to be exact.
All four gold medals by the Philippines in the recently concluded 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang were won by female athletes. Louis Kaye Go, Bianca Pagdanganan and Yuka Saso contributed one medal for the Golf-Women’s Team Event, with Saso adding another for the individual play category. Margielyn Digal topped the Skateboarding-Women’s Street Event, and celebrated Filipino Olympian Hidilyn Diaz won the Weightlifting-Women’s -53kg category. All four, all women.
As with all things in life, whether on the heels of a positive or negative event, there’s always, always a chance for improvement.