Serena Still Reduced to the Sum of Her Parts

With her titles and talent, why can't people stop talking about -- or making fun of -- her physical assets?; Matthew Stockman/Getty Images; Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

(The Root) — It’s ridiculous that we still have to explain this. That with a black woman in the White House, another starring in the TV show everyone’s talking about and another who created said show — plus scores more breaking barriers in politics, business and sports — we still have to explain why certain images simply aren’t OK.

Kerry Washington, the star of ABC’s prime-time political drama Scandal, told Oprah Winfrey recently that her character, Olivia Pope (a fictional version of real-life “fixer” Judy Smith), represented a “new moment”:

For a long time, the only images you saw of black women in media were very stereotypical images, and then we went to this place where all the images of African-American women had to be flawless, perfect — you know, Clair Huxtable — so we could erase that legacy of negativity.

I get what Washington is saying. We’ve come a long way, and one would think that we should be looking forward instead of back. But unfortunately, there are some who still need a history lesson — namely one Caroline Wozniacki, the former No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world.

At a recent exhibition match against Maria Sharapova, Wozniacki decided that it would be fun to stuff her tank top and tennis skirt with towels in order to imitate Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams. When she waddled lopsided to the court and served her first ball as “Serena,” the crowd didn’t gasp or boo or hiss — it laughed.

And she’s done this before, complete with sound effects like Serena’s trademark primal scream. Actually, a few tennis players have. Apparently this is what’s hot on the court in 2012.  

In November at a charity exhibition match in Slovakia, Novak Djokovic padded his shirt with towels before his first serve in front of a small crowd sipping champagne. The announcer even got in on the joke: “Serena Williams to serve.” Afterward Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, explained, “We wanted to play quality tennis, to entertain crowd, came up with some good shots, good impersonations. I hope you liked it.” Later that same month in Toronto, Andy Roddick stuffed his shorts and then threatened to “stick this ball down” the throat of an official, all in imitation of U.S. Open champion Serena Williams. In every case the crowd roared with laughter.