A lot is being done to obfuscate Serena Williams’ “meltdown” at the US Open final on 9 September, to give it a spin and make it about larger, loftier issues. But, frankly, I’m not buying it. Dragging in the fact that male players aren’t similarly chastised is sheer whataboutery, according to me. Why should men be our standard for anything? As women, and feminists, we aren’t fighting for the right to be as obnoxious as men are, surely. Or trying to teach our children that they should have no respect for authority, and must yell like crazy, entitled people, even if they are, by far, the most successful person in the room.
Making it about “entertainment factor” and “let her express her passion” is pretty bizarre too. People don’t pay tonnes of money for tickets to the US Open final because they want to see tantrums. They do it because they want to see incredible tennis. That is Williams’ unique, magical power, and that is what we expect her to deliver. I mean, if all we wanted to see were tantrums, we’d just take away our teenagers’ cellphone, and watch ‘em yell.
What the incident at the US Open that day was really about, was that somebody who is the most talented tennis player we’ve ever seen, and who has been the undisputed, reigning queen for years and years and years, was finally having her Snow White moment.
The mirror was telling her that a younger, stronger champion was rising in the land. And instead of letting her racquet do the talking, she lost her self control, played an indifferent game, then proceeded to get mad at the umpire—even telling him that he would never officiate at one of her matches again ( which is just intimidating, jaanta-hai-mera-baap-kaun-hai behaviour), then tried to make her meltdown about sexism and racism, and, egged on by her band of faithful acolytes in the crowd, ruined what should’ve been a golden moment for a young girl who won fair and square, and was, docked game or not, clearly the better player on that day.
Divas, male or female, abound in the workplace. Of course they’re pudgier, plainer, and altogether less talented than Williams, but in their own puny way, with their own shallow, limited talents, they’re queen (or king) of all they survey. And if left to reign unchecked, with no dogged Ramos Carlos to check their insurrections, they can ruin the fine balance that keeps an office functioning smoothly. I should know. I’ve been one.
It’s lovely to not sign the check-in register, or punch in the biometrics. To make up your own deadlines, get special budgets sanctioned, to be revered for your earlier successes, and the magical, soothsayer ability of your gut feel. To be above the checks and balances that everybody else at the office is answerable to.
And of course you work hard—you work like a dog, but thanks to the special treatment, and the inevitable disconnectedness that comes with special treatment (because people become afraid to speak to you frankly) a sense of hubris creeps in, and that, coupled with age, and staleness, leads inevitably to your downfall.
The tragedy is that Williams probably totally believes, and very passionately, that her version of how things went down at the final is the real version. That she really is the wronged party here, and her “fight” is a valid, vital one.
And so to her, and to all the other wannabe Serenas, both male and female, I would say, you are amazing, your talent is unique, and there is no one like you. Such is your magic that you have inspired a whole new generation of kids to pick up the game, train passionately, and be good enough to beat you at it. That is your victory. Be satisfied with it.
Wine to Five is a weekly column featuring the random musings of a well-irrigated, middle management mind. Anuja Chauhan is an author and advertising consultant.