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Serena Williams Less Bothered By Viral Video Imitations Than You Are (So Now What?)

by Courtney
December 23, 2012 12:07 PM
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Serena Williams

We didn't cover the initial outrage here on S&A; although Tambay posted the video on the S&A Facebook and Twitter pages, which drew lots of comments on both social media sites, and all over the web.

In short, if you missed it, earlier this month, former No. 1 player Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark made fun of Serena Williams' physique at an exhibition match in Brazil; specifically, during the exhibition game, while on the court, Wozniacki stuffed her skirt with towels to give herself a much bigger butt, and also did the same in her top, making her chest look larger.

The match, which has been viewed several million times on YouTube, and other video sharing sites, was video-tapped, and, of course, the sequence in which Wozniacki imitates Serena became its own separate instant hit. It was immediately stamped with the scarlet letter - in this case the big "R" for Racist - going viral on the web rather quickly. As you'd probably expect, it was met with swift and sharp criticism, although it also brought out some of the ugliness that exists across the racial divide. 

But, everyone else's criticisms aside, how does the woman who was the target of that mocking viral video feel about it?

Initially mum about the video, USA Today reached out to Serena for comment, and in an article published last week, on December 19th, here's what she had to say:

"I know Caro [Wozniacki] and I would call her my friend and I don't think she (meant) anything racist by it... (Roddick) and (Djokovic) do it all the time and Caro does (it) and now it's racist.??

When she says the Roddick and Djokovic do it all the time, she's referring to the fact that both gentlemen have also parodied her equally irreverently, in the past, but, as she seems to be saying, there wasn't as much uproard when those guys did it, so why the uproar now.

Also worth noting, according to USA Today, she and Wozniacki have a freindly history. The paper says that Wozniacki was one of the few players to visit Williams in 2011, after she'd undergone surgery for hematoma, and also that both of them "have traded advice on everything from jewelry to boyfriends."

So does this change anything for you, if you're one of those who was critical of Wozniacki's actions? And was there as much outrage wehn Roddick did it (he's actually done it a few times over the last several years, but I can't say I recall as much criticism as there is this time, with Wozniacki); Is it a function of more people knowing about Wozniacki's immitation than Roddick's or Djokovic's? Is Serena not taking this as seriously as you think she should, and isn't seeing it from the *outside* world's POV? If Wozniacki and Roddick were also black players, would it be interpreted differently? I would actually think that Roddick's would get more criticism, since, some would argue, he's taking advantage of both his gender and race priviledge. Or is it all much ado about nothing, and we should all take our cues from Serena?

But chime in with your thoughts on this Sunday afternoon...

First, here's the Wozniacki video, and secondly, after it, you'll find one of Roddick's immitation videos:

And here's Roddick's:

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  • emmanuaeladdo | February 21, 2013 5:03 AMReply

    my sweat heart serena williams you have nice bottom because you are so beauitful and i
    do fancy you as well even sexy under wear really suit you so don;t listen to nobody what
    people will say to you .serena williams you look so amzaing when watch you on a tv
    you so increditable so nice beauitful i am praying so hard that if get such womens like this
    will be very much happy .so thanks bye

  • starry118 | December 26, 2012 10:00 PMReply

    May/may not have been racist, but it was certainly classless and mean. Well, Wozniacki got what she wanted: Attention. Mission complete. Oh, and Serena, she's not your friend. Way to take the high road though.

  • Kelea | December 27, 2012 5:07 PM

    Seriously, I agree with this as well. It certainly was offensive and not cute at all.

  • bondgirl | December 24, 2012 12:00 PMReply

    Big, round and full butts are associated with people of African descent first...anyone else is secondary. It really doesn't have to be every BW, does it? The majority of BW do, and more importantly, big butts (thanks to Sir Mix-A-Lot and others) are perceived as the de facto feature of BW. You will also find that those other races of women hail from regions where there is an African population, and a high probability of some West African lineage. Think JLo & Sophia Vergara. You will nto see racism if your barometer is intention only. There are plenty of white college kids who dress up in blackface for Halloween w/o any knowledge of the history of it, but it's still racist whether they know it or not. WHo really can say why Caroline's video went viral; maybe she looked funny than the men, maybe because she's a white girl it looked cuter to people. It's irrelevant for people to ask, especially when they don't have problems with it. It's like I'm being told what I should care about. We care about the video with Caroline, not Roddick because we didn't SEE Roddick. Just because her event wasn't highly publicized doesn't mean it wasn't shown throughout the world on television. There are countries where even a low ranked tennis player's match is a big deal for them. Maybe I was too young to remember, but I don't recall Martin Navratilova or Lindsey Davenport's body being ridiculed in such a manner. There are white people with Asian eyes (Josh Brolin, Charles Bronson, etc) but c'mon, if someone started making fun of an Asian tennis player this way, black people would be 100% defending her. Why it's so difficult for BW/BM to support BW's honor in these kinds of circumstances, I'll never understand.

  • bondgirl | December 24, 2012 2:28 PM

    "Navratoliva and Davenport do not have the body Serena does." Right, that's my point. Martina nor Lindsey have Serena's body shape, but they don't have the average white player's either. I remember a discussion during one match where the broadcasters said that Lindsey had gotten too fat, and they were glad she lost weight (she still looked flabby/dumpy) so she could compete at a champion's level. Martina has a man's body, yet she hasn't had any low-level athlete dress up with towels around their arms to mimick her. We will agree to disagree on this one, sis. Merry Christmas!

  • monkeysuit | December 24, 2012 12:24 PM

    Navratoliva and Davenport do not have the body Serena does. And it was her ass AND breasts she mocked. I think the added breasts element is what makes it less racial because you have women like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor who have become the icon for curvy women and the hour glass figure and aren't black. If it was just her ass, I would understand the controversy because yes that has been traditionally a point of ridicule in regards to black women's bodies. And having another opinion is not dishonoring black women. It's just in our highly critical climate sometimes people jump the gun to call something automatically racist when a black and white person are involved. And it's not always the case. I'm not saying your interpretation is wholly wrong. I don't agree with it, but I recognize that this is a subjective issue.

  • petros | December 24, 2012 7:41 AMReply

    It's definitely tasteless but why racist? There was no race reference there at all. Are we just seeing racism by default in these situations? Would it be considered racist if a black woman was making fun of a white woman's funny laugh?

  • monkeysuit | December 24, 2012 11:27 AM

    But big ass + big breasts isn't an ethnic feature. Most Asians have slanted eyes, but not every black woman is blessed like Serena. That's why blackface is universally deemed offensive because it's mocking a characteristic that is inarguably associated with black people. Serena's body stands out in the tennis world teeming with traditionally athletic builds that are lean and flat-chested like her sister. There women of all races who look like the parts of Serena she is referencing. I can see an argument for sexism. Why are women's bodies constantly being picked apart and discussed? Why are our bodies constantly at the center of controversy? But racism? I'm not sold on that. And in regards to the men who did the same, Wozniacki was competing at a less-publicized match just like the men. And her video went viral just like the men. But unlike the men, somebody decided to post her video with an article about racism. And it got shared and passed around. That's the only reason "millions" of people saw it unlike the men. The controversy is what made it popular.

  • bondgirl | December 24, 2012 10:38 AM

    It was racially insensitive, does that make you feel better? First off, it's racist because what you do in the PUBLIC, affects everyone in public. This is not a group of friends having fun at someone's house that got caught on video...she got in front of a platform of millions of people, many who look like the person she's ridiculing, and did this. Her intent is irrelevant, and so is Serena's approval. The impact she made is "this body is funny-looking and worthy of laughter". Civilized people do not make fun of ethnic features (Asian eyes, for example) because of the history in which these features have been deemed inferior. No one saw the men, so I don't know why people are deflecting from the real issue with that. FYI, you can have white friends who are well-meaning, that still do racist/prejudiced things. I have had to check a few friends myself, because they said something out of pocket.

  • monkeysuit | December 24, 2012 10:04 AM

    Yeah, I agree. I don't see a race reference. Maybe the big ass thing, but the big breasts with it makes it a specific mocking of Serena not black women in general. And Serena raises a good point. Why does everyone attack the woman and not the men. I smell a tinge of sexism in this backlash.

  • Sam Ojekwe | December 24, 2012 6:54 AMReply

    SERENA WILLIAMS’ response is CLASSY.
    ALSO, it does NOT CHANGE the FACT that RODDICK and DJOKOVIC who have
    yeah ….
    really ………

  • kid chaos | December 23, 2012 8:51 PMReply

    More bothered about the sisters love of white men

  • monkeysuit | December 24, 2012 10:04 AM

    *rolling eyes*

  • No | December 23, 2012 7:55 PMReply

    Racist? Maybe. Bad form? definitely.

  • QBN | December 23, 2012 7:05 PMReply

    If she put on black face THEN it would have been racist...

  • B | December 23, 2012 6:31 PMReply

    @ Silly Nadia
    When you lay off watching old Serena matches, join us in the real world. This is shadow acts summary of what she said. I read the article from USA today yesterday.

    Williams explained that she hadn't seen the widely viewed video clip and didn't understand why it suddenly took on racist tones when others had done it before. " Roddick) and (Djokovic) do it all the time and Caro does (it) and now it's racist.??" she wrote.

    You aren't too smart are you? So if others did not get called on it, it means it's not offensive? Could it be that those who have a problem with it did not see the others?
    Maybe it was the fact other renditions were not reported widely? Maybe it was the fake butt that was not in other impressions or maybe it was a tipping point for those who already new about the other impressions?
    See how easy that was to use a little brain power?
    Saying the chick was racist and thanking those who tried to defend her, but explain it was with no malice makes more sense.... To normal non stans

    Yes you are done with this conversation because you are being woefully ignorant on purpose.... (Lawd I Hope)
    Just like the spike lee comment

    Happy holidays.

  • Donella | December 23, 2012 6:17 PMReply

    Most women on top of their game, the alphas, the dominants, the ones everyone else wants to be (imitation as flattery?) know a jealous insecure woman when they see one and smile and maybe give a little chuckle. Just like President Obama brushes off the smaller men who envy, Serena probably just shrugs and goes back to practice in order to b!tch slap chihuahuas at the net. Go Serena! LOL

  • B | December 23, 2012 5:24 PMReply

    @ Nadia
    On the contray my initial response was quite thoughtful and well reasoned.
    It was you who went into full Stan mode. Come now, you are talking about how Serena was raised like you are her play cousin. As I said before I don't need or require permission from an athlete to criticize what came through my television. I am not a brainless twit like someone you know personally ( hint: mirror). Now, you chose the response you got, not me. Speak to me like you have sense.
    If you are going to work as a part time Serena bouncer, you should be more thick skinned.
    Have a seat, you are doing a little too much.
    Saying she was not being racist is one thing, but to act as if you are oblivious why it got that reaction is ridiculous. Both are not mutually exclusive.
    Remember those who came to her defense were doing so in the defense of her and other black women.

    As I said before to say you don't understand why it caused a commotion you are either ignorant or dissmive.

  • Nadia | December 23, 2012 5:49 PM

    Um, no, your first response was far from "quite thoughtful and well reasoned." All you really did was suggest that Serena lacked "sense," and you said she was ignorant. I responded challenging you on that, saying that there is no basis for you to make that statement. You don't know her, you haven't talked to her, all you know is what you see on TV or read in the papers. To say that she has no sense and that she's ignorant of the history of the exploitation of the black female form, is baseless. Like I said in my first response to you, if anything, what we know about where she's from and how she was raised, and how far she has come, tells us that she has lots of "sense" and is very aware of her place in this world, and in the sport as a black woman. And there is no place in anything she said that says that she's acting as if she is oblivious to why it got the reaction it did. Her comment said that she didn't think it was meant to be racist. Wozniacki is her friend. And Roddick and Djokovic do it all the time but nobody said anything before, but suddenly it's racist. Maybe you should read the post again. Anyway, I'm done with this conversation. SMH.

  • B | December 23, 2012 4:19 PMReply

    @ Nadia
    You delusional child. If I don't care what Serena thinks, do you really think I care what you think? A faceless fool on the Internet. Please have a seat. I am not in the business of celebrity worship nor am I as dimwitted you to need Serena to form an opinion. Which one of us sounds like a crazy? A person who comments on what a white chick did in a public place or the person who says if Serena says it okay, it's okay with me. You sound immature and a tad bit slow.
    You are tandem to a Justin Beiber fan, not fully developed.
    No fully developed brain would vouch for a someone else based on what a celebrity said. You thought that made sense to type. Considering you are the brainiac who could not figure out why Spike said he did like Django before seeing the movie the question that must be asked,
    Do you walk upright?

  • Nadia | December 23, 2012 4:57 PM

    LOL! When you have absolutely nothing substantive to say in response to a challenge, resort to insults. How adult and fresh. You used up a whole paragraph to say nothing of any substance in relation to the subject matter, except toss scornful remarks at me. Brilliant! You wanna try again? GTFO!

  • B | December 23, 2012 3:01 PMReply

    Let me put it like this:
    Who cares what Serena thinks? I don't use WWSD ( what would Serena do) as a barometer on what I think. When you do something in a public forum as Wozniacki did people can react to it any way they choose regardless of Serena. Maybe she doesn't have sense to know that it's offensive just like Tiger excused fuzzy zeller comments.
    If she wants to claim it was not racist, okay.
    However to say she doesn't understand why people thought it was racist makes her ignorant of the historical exploitation/ ridicule of the African female form.
    So again who cares what Serena thinks?
    Btw Williams let her " friend" get slammed for two weeks before saying a word.
    What a friend.

  • Nadia | December 23, 2012 3:22 PM

    You sound like you and Serena are best friends and you know how much "sense" she has and how much she knows about the "historical exploitation of the African female form." Maybe I just missed something, but she's the one who's being mocked in the video, not you. So if I had the choice between whose opinion mattered more - yours or Serena's - I'ma go with Serena's, not yours, which is of absolutely no consequence! If you were informed properly and know of how hard their father was, and how their father and mother never let them forget that they are black women in a sport dominated by white people, you wouldn't make such stupid comments about her "sense" or "ignorance." So to answer your question, many folks care what Serena thinks. And as she said, where were you when the other players were making fun of her? Nobody said shit when Roddick did his thing, which was probably far more questionable.

  • Orville | December 23, 2012 2:41 PMReply

    If people think Wozniacki's so called joke was just an inside joke in tennis they need to be paying close attention. Does Courtney not get it why these white tennis players make fun of Serena? She's the best female tennis player in the world she's won Wimbledon, US OPEN, Olympic gold medal, and the WTA championships. Serena is the dominant female tennis champion and she's a black woman. For some whites they are uncomfortable with the fact, a part time player, a woman who is thirty one years old can do as Whoopi Goldberg said "beat their asses with her eyes closed." Serena is just that good.

    I read her comment from Wozniacki and she's just trying to keep the peace. Serena is probably privately offended by Caroline's comments but knows the white media are going to say she's too sensitive if she speaks out. Sherri Shephard and Whoopi Goldberg on the View already defended Serena in the media.

    I think Wozniacki's joke was in poor taste maybe she didn't think it wasn't racist but it certainly was extremely offensive and not funny at all.
    There is a difference between making fun of someone's mannerisms like when Djokovic makes fun of Sharapova or Nadal than when someone mocks and ridicules Serena's body. Maybe Courtney needs to read the wikipedia entry on Sara Baartman? There is a long history of black women's bodies being ridiculed and demonized in white society. Also, I want to add there is a black teenage girl Taylor Townsend the number one junior in the world she did not get funding to compete at the junior US OPEN. Patrick McEnroe and the racist USTA said that Townsend needed to lose weight. Now Townsend, won the junior Australian Open in singles and the junior US OPEN girl title in doubles. Now imagine being a sixteen year old girl and being told you need to lose weight and get into shape? Never mind that Townsend body is still developing and growing.
    I disagree with Courtney, Serena is trying to be diplomatic, she can't make a big scene about it she's just being smart.

    Serena knows that Caroline's so called joke is really just an act of jealousy of a lower ranked player who never won a grand slam. Wozniacki also has a losing record against Serena Williams.

  • Curtis | December 23, 2012 4:15 PM

    I don't understand Orville. Aren't you the one that is always on here defending Tyler Perry when he's doing almost exactly the same damn thing? Isn't he also perpetuating black women stereotypes? Have you asked Tyler Perry about "Mammie"? Your words: "there is a long history of black women's bodies being ridiculed and demonized in white society." What about when it happens in "black society?" Do you express the same rage against it then? Madea ain't exactly a loving tribute to black womanhood is it? It's a ridiculous, comedic depiction that reinforces stereotypes.

  • Nadia | December 23, 2012 3:29 PM

    Yes, when you're on top, no matter what color you are, you shouldn't be surprised if you're the butt of jokes. It comes with the territory. I don't understand you people who keep saying she's being "diplomatic." For as long as we've known the Williams sisters, and their parents, especially their father, there's very little about their history that tells us that they would be "diplomatic" about something like this if they were truly offended by it. If she wanted to be "diplomatic" she would just not comment on it at all, and keep playing her game. But she not only commented, she suggested that you all who have a problem with it are the ones with the problem. Why would she go that far, if she was just being "diplomatic?" I actually feel that you're being more disrespectful towards her by questioning her intelligence and integrity. And where was the outrage when Roddick and the other player did it in the past?

  • Raquel | December 23, 2012 12:38 PMReply

    It is Serena's "job" not to care. She is a black athlete in a white-dominated sport and has dealt with...let's call it racial insensitivity... since she was a child. She knows that her best response is to keep kicking ass on the court and to let the outside viewers of "innocent" white mischief make the fuss. Jackie Robinson did this job well. President Obama is doing it on the national stage. Black people understand the tightrope of representation that minorities face when in these positions. So, I'm not surprised that Serena is downplaying the nonsense. It is her job as the most visible (literally) athlete in her sport to do so. Hell, folks still lose their minds when she explodes on the court. Imagine if she cried foul every time white folks took aim at her off the court!?!?

  • Kelea | December 27, 2012 5:03 PM

    I'm late, but I agree with you Raquel. That's how I see it.

  • Raquel | December 24, 2012 12:43 PM

    @Jeff, @Vichuss, @Nadia--- look up W.E.B. Du Bois' "double consciousness." It will help you to understand why a type of two-ness is the outcome of living as a black person in this country. It will help explain why I think she is doing what every black person in similar situations has done before her: maintain coolness. "We wear the mask that grins and lies..."

  • Jeff | December 23, 2012 1:27 PM

    Djokovic makes fun of Maria Sharapova by actually putting on a blonde wig and mimicking her serve. People made fun of Agassi's hair. Tennis players have historically made fun of each other's games, behavior's etc. Roddick was the first to put the towels down the back of his pants to mimic Serena a few years back. There was no harm intended. Jamie Foxx sang a song about Serena's behind. Kanye West, mentioned a girl having "an ass like Serena" in one of his songs. I really don't think this is a racially driven attack. Even Rafael Nadal has been teased about the size of his ass. It's sophomoric, silly and juvenile. Racist? I don't think so.

  • VichusSmith | December 23, 2012 1:03 PM

    So what you're saying is that she's lying and being diplomatic for the sake of the sport. Maybe, or maybe she's an individual, and in her individual opinion, it's not that big a deal.

  • Nadia | December 23, 2012 12:46 PM

    I don't know about that Raquel. The Williams sisters have shown time and time again that they don't care what other people think about what they do, how they act, dress, or say, and tend to be forthright about how they feel. If this was something that bothered her, I think she would've been honest and said that it was. They don't strike me as women who would back down, or sugar-coat things, or have to put on two faces so that they can blend in. If anything I'd say they don't want to blend in. If this ish upset her, I think she would've called the white chick on it. And the fact that it's happened a bunch of times with other players? If she was upset every time it happened, she would say something by now. I don't think you're giving her enough credit. I think we want her to care because we do. But she really doesn't.

  • Jeff | December 23, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    I'm a huge Serena Williams fan but I've never found it racist. The level of taste is debatable but large breasts and butts are not the exclusive realm of black women. This isn't a Sarah Baartman situation. I think it's good natured teasing of someone they have a lot of respect for. All of the players who tease her about her "assets" are the same ones who say she is the greatest female tennis player they have ever seen. Particularly Roddick. He and Serena have been friends since they were kids and they've been known to tease each other through the years. It's actually really refreshing in a sport that's known for being pretty uptight.

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