Through the lens of women's tennis legend Serena Williams, this article examines the roles of masculinization and feminization as they relate to Black womanhood in sport. Over the course of much of her career, Williams was characterized as “aggressive,” someone who “bludgeoned her way” to success. But after the 2016 and 2017 announcements of her engagement and pregnancy, respectively, media characterizations shifted toward narratives traditionally aligned with femininity. Throughout, media discussion of Williams has been rooted in surveillance of her body, behavior, and closest relationships. Using feminist critical discourse analysis, this article argues that the noted shift in characterization was linked to Williams's strategic performance of docility and engagement with respectability politics, tied closely to her 2015 return to the Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament as well as her adoption of the traditionally feminized roles of wife and mother.
The Serena Show: Mapping Tensions Between Masculinized and Feminized Media Portrayals of Serena Williams and the Black Female Sporting Body
Lauren Wilks is currently pursuing a PhD in media and cultural studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Wilks's research interests include race, gender, and LGBTQ+ representation and identity in media industries, on screens, and online. Prior to completing her MA at the University of Texas at Austin, Wilks worked in public relations. Her experience in professional communications informs her academic interests—specifically how content disseminates, who manages its spread, and how it can eventually become popular.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Lauren E. Wilks; The Serena Show: Mapping Tensions Between Masculinized and Feminized Media Portrayals of Serena Williams and the Black Female Sporting Body. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2020; 6 (3): 52–78. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.3.52
Download citation file: