I've always seen champion tennis player Serena Williams as a symbol of powerful womanhood. That's why I was so disappointed by the remarks she made about the Steubenville rape in a recent Rolling Stone interview. It kind of sounded like Serena was blaming the Steubenville rape victim for putting herself in a dangerous situation -- even though Serena prefaces her comments with "I'm not blaming the girl ..." As journalist Jamil Smith said via Twitter, "if 'I'm not blaming the girl, but' exits your mouth, stop there. There is no 'but.'" Here's what Serena said.
Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don't take drinks from other people. She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously, I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different.
Oof. What's tough about what Serena says is that I agree with some of what she says. It's dangerous for teens to drink, and I think we all know that when a teen girl gets drunk around boys, she's putting herself in danger. BUT for the 100th time, why aren't we also talking about teen boys getting drunk and becoming a danger to others? Couldn't we also say the boys' parents should teach them not to get drunk, not to get girls drunk, not to violate girls at all, drunk or not?
We need to change the conversation, because blaming rape victims and making it entirely a girl's responsibility to prevent rape is unrealistic. It's not working. Serena was in a position to do that, and she missed that opportunity.
More than that, though, I want Serena to have the Steubenville victim's back. She needs it.
Well, apparently I'm not the only person who feels this way. After Serena's interview got out, there was a shitstorm of comments from people who were disappointed in the way she expressed her opinion. And Serena, who on the court delivers killer defense, is actually backing down on this one. In a blog post this morning, Serena apologized for her remarks.
"What was written -- what I supposedly said -- is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame," Serena writes. She says she's called the rape victim's family to apologize for her words. And then she throws her full support behind the girl, with all the power and force we know Serena has.
I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields -- anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.
Beautiful -- it takes a big woman to apologize for something she said, and I love how Serena put this. She gets it, and she has the rape victim's back. And she makes all women stronger with this statement.
Which do you agree with more, Serena's original statement or her apology?
Image via Rob Young/Flickr