If The Treatment of Serena Wasn’t Sexist, Then??

If The Treatment of Serena Wasn’t Sexist, Then??
My News and You Are Welcome to It
September 12, 2018

“Did you see the Serena match?” he asked the young woman behind the counter, as he began probing his quiche and coleslaw lunch.

The attendant, bearing a certain athleticism of her own, smiled without answering directly.

“The tennis?”

“Where she smashed her racket!” the man pressed with a disgusted little chuckle.

It became apparent through affirmative nods and pleasantries that the server had seen. Or at least, seen or heard enough to know Serena Williams, tennis and cultural icon, had been cited at the U.S. Open by a notorious umpire who hit her with code violations for coaching, breaking her racket, and verbal abuse. The violations cost Williams a game. They may or may not have contributed to her losing the finals match which is an unfortunate blurring of the solid win over Williams by up-and-coming Naomi Osaka.

My lunch host and I were having our own conversation and doing our best to not become part of the gentleman’s, but it’s a small neighborhood restaurant, and the close-quarters counter bar plays out like a community table. He sat around the corner of the bar from us, but probably only ten total feet away.

He had stepped slowly through the tiny, packed Myers Park establishment’s entryway toward the open seat at the counter. His gait suggested his age; in his seventies, maybe older. He looked like he could have played a morning round of golf in his creamsicle orange shirt and casual slacks.

He had taken a seat next to a white-haired gentleman in a blue pinstriped cotton button-down with muted red tie loosened at the collar. The look was of a trusted South Charlotte attorney slipping out of his converted bungalow office for lunch. Estate and probate, I’d guess.

Between the maybe-attorney and my lunch partner was another grey-haired gentleman who looked like he might spend half his year in a beach town. And on the other side of the tennis enthusiast sat a nicely appointed woman wearing white pearls over her colorful casual blouse.

The gentleman continued his disapproving Serena dialogue for several minutes, turning to engage the man and woman on his left and right. He didn’t seem to know these fellow diners personally, but he did seem to think he knew the room. He spoke as people sometimes do when they assume everybody in earshot agrees with them. I didn’t hear their every word but saw their smiles and nods.

Not everyone at the counter agreed with him. I could sense my companion bracing herself.

“John McEnroe swore up a storm at the officials and we loved him!” I blurted across the counter. “What happened to Serena was sexist!”

“It wasn’t sexist,” the gentleman replied.

“Andre Agassi broke rackets and it didn’t cost him games.”

“It wasn’t sexist,” he deadpanned.

It wasn’t sexist?

You can find the details in the sports pages but there’s no question it was disparate and far more severe treatment of one player for behavior commonly demonstrated by certain other players. The professional tennis world – and this match’s umpire specifically – consistently treat one class of players differently from others.

“It wasn’t sexist,” the man muttered to his quiche as my friend and I left. No one else at the counter said a word.

There’s some kind of “-ist” in it, Sir.

If it’s not sex-ist, then I guess it’s that other?

Charlotte Observer contributor Keith Larson’s regular podcasts can be heard on TheLarsonPage.com