Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player in the world right now, and she wants to point out what’s wrong with that sentence.
In a brutally honest open letter penned for Porter Magazine’s Incredible Women of 2016 issue and published in the Guardian, the 22-time Grand Slam champion opens up about her experience with gender discrimination in sport and what she wants to see changed.
“People call me one of the ‘world’s greatest female athletes’,” she writes, “do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female.”
Stating that this rhetoric needs to be called out and challenged, she goes on to reflect over the gender pay gap which isn't just an issue in sport, but across the board.
“People call me one of the ‘world’s greatest female athletes’...Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female.”
Despite tennis being lauded as one of the most equal sports in terms of remuneration, only a few competitions - led by the Grand Slam tournaments - have agreed to pay men and women the same amount of prize money.
“I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts. I would never want my daughter to be paid less than my son for the same work. Nor would you,” she says.
“What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself – my race, my gender – I embraced as fuel for my success. I never let anything or anyone define me or my potential."
Williams adds that women are often not supported enough to follow their chosen career path and that in her personal experience, she needed to build plenty of resilience to break through.
“What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself – my race, my gender – I embraced as fuel for my success. I never let anything or anyone define me or my potential,” she says.
Williams’ comments come after she called out men’s champion Novak Djokovic for saying men deserve more prize money than women because they attract higher audiences earlier this year.
She told the Guardian at the time, “Novak is entitled to his opinion but if he has a daughter – I think he has a son right now – he should talk to her and tell her how his son deserves more money because he is a boy.”