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Serena Williams has a donk.
This information is about as Earth-shattering as water being wet or, for that matter, Williams being one of the best tennis players who has ever played.
Williams has a curvaceous body, and even though anyone can see that with a glance, it's causing consternation in the sports world.
That's because during an exhibition match in Brazil, fellow tennis player Caroline Wozniacki played to the crowd by doing an impersonation of Williams, her on-court rival.
Wozniacki padded her skirt and shirt to display the full, curvy Serena effect. A few folks in attendance laughed, including Roger Federer and Wozniacki's opponent, Maria Sharapova.
That was supposed to be the end of the joke. But it turned out to be the beginning of a discussion, and now questions are being raised about whether Wozniacki's impersonation was racist.
|Caroline Wozniacki impersonates Serena Williams.|
Hold on a minute. Racist?
It looked like a harmless joke and whether it crossed the line is an issue that only can be determined by Williams, depending on the nature of her relationship with Wozniacki. Reportedly, Williams and Wozniacki are friendly. Other tennis players have mimicked each other, including Novak Djokovic, whose impersonation of Sharapova is well known.
This shouldn't have touched a nerve, but it did, particularly among African-Americans.
I understand why it made some black people uncomfortable. For years, Williams' body has been scrutinized in a way that is drastically different from her professional female peers.
Unlike a lot of the other female tennis players, Williams is powerfully built. She's not a stick figure, and flaunts her voluptuous frame.
The media has, at times, been harsh, eyeing Williams' weight and proportions in a way that sometimes has made me uncomfortable.
Williams' physical assets aren't considered the norm, since on nearly every women's magazine cover (and not a few targeted at men) there seems to be a rail-thin teenage girl. Even in sports, most of the female athletes who are widely considered "hot" are shaped more like magazine models.
Women of every color struggle with body image issues, but this can be an extraordinarily sensitive issue for some black women because, for the most part, the mainstream's idea of beauty has excluded women who look like us.
"I know they're friends, but still it does something inside of me because we've been made fun of for so long for different parts of our body," Sherri Shepherd, co-host of "The View," said when the show discussed Wozniacki on Tuesday. "And to see Serena Williams reduced to this, I don't like it."
But the curves are something that many black women embrace. In a recent survey conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 66 percent of black women identified as obese by the government standard had high self-esteem compared to just 41 percent of average-sized or thin white women.
Black women love their curves.
Who cares if someone makes fun of them?
For the record, I think Williams is beautiful, and if there were any athlete's body I could steal for myself, it would be hers. I'm also glad that Williams isn't afraid to show the world that she's proud of her body, regardless of what others might say about it. Exhibit A: The infamous catsuit.
Wozniacki's joke picked at some cultural insecurities, but who knows if she was even aware of them. Wozniacki might not exactly be Tina Fey, but she certainly isn't Mel Gibson.
Besides, as many professional athletes have discovered, their bodies and appearance are fair game. For example, LeBron James' hairline is the source of constant jokes. During TNT's "Inside the NBA" in February, Charles Barkley jokingly stretched a headband from underneath his chin to the center of his head to clown LeBron, who always wears a thick headband, presumably to cover his follicle issues. LeBron, however, has been a good sport about it, and has even poked fun at himself.
The best way for Williams to respond to Wozniacki is to chuckle. Williams has been a great role model for women who struggle with body image issues and Wozniacki's impersonation won't change that.
"I want women to know that it's OK," Williams said in ESPN The Magazine's Body issue in 2009, for which she was the cover model. "That you can be whatever size you are and you can be beautiful inside and out. We're always told what's beautiful, and what's not, and that's not right."