Remember when Serena Williams was a polarizing figure in this country? When racists despised her and her family, when purists were beside themselves because of some outfit or outburst, when she was deemed too controversial, too big, too loud, too overpowering?
Those days are so far gone that it’s almost hard to believe they actually existed. Now, with so much of the world having gone mad, it’s left to Serena, of all people, to save the day.
She’s up to the task. Of course she is. One of the greatest athletes, male or female, to ever play any sport, Serena has comfortably agreed to assume another, complementary role in our culture.
If she’s not the most famous new mother in the world, she’s certainly the most publicly honest.
After winning a match as a mom for the first time in a Grand Slam tournament Tuesday at the French Open, she spent a fair amount of her time answering questions about what she wore. But it wasn’t in that old, bad, sexist way of talking about what a woman is wearing as a default for actually focusing on something substantive, like her accomplishments.
No. This was exactly what Serena wanted. She wore a gleaming black bodysuit with a bright red waist band that she called her “catsuit” and that her husband, Alexis Ohanian, called her “superhero outfit.”
The suit hid nothing, which appeared to be exactly the point. There was no loose fabric covering something or other. This was the body of one of our most iconic and accomplished athletes nine months after giving birth, winning a match and then happily talking about the message she was sending.
“It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically with their body to come back and have confidence and to believe in themselves,” she told reporters with a smile.
“All the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy and have to come back and try to be fierce, in the middle of everything, that’s what this represents. You can’t beat a catsuit, right?” she said in a Tennis Channel interview.
Later, on Twitter, she wrote: “Catsuit anyone? For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy — here you go. If I can do it, so can you. Love you all!”
Oh my goodness. Serena for President, anyone? (She is 36. Just saying.)
But wait. There’s more. The tight suit wasn’t just about making a statement about motherhood. Serena has had problems with blood clots in the past, including after giving birth to her daughter Olympia. Thus the choice of compression fabric.
“It’s a fun suit,” she said, “but it’s also functional. … I had a lot of problems with my blood clots. I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months.”
Just like many new moms, or many new parents for that matter, Serena is still trying to figure out how to balance her career with her new family life. She’s more than happy to talk about that in front of the world, too.
“I want to get home and see Olympia, because I have been here all day,” she said. “Usually we hang out all the time. If I’m not practicing, we’re hanging out. So that is the biggest difference. I’m concerned how that’s going to work out for me, because normally in Grand Slams, I do spend a lot of time at the site. She’s so young, I don’t really bring her. So this is definitely going to be interesting.”
Imagine all the new mothers out there, listening to Serena and saying what else but “Me too.”