Tennis all-time great Serena Williams has been honored by GQ as the magazine’s Woman of the Year, but a decision to put the word “Woman” in quotation marks on the cover page left many in outrage that the magazine appeared to be raising doubt about the 37-year-old superstar’s femininity. Williams, who has faced racial abuse, false claims that she takes growth hormones, and insinuations that her domination in the women’s game is a result of her being too “manly,” acknowledged the difficulties of dealing with such accusations in an open letter posted to Reddit last year.
“I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong … It has been said I don’t belong in women’s sports — that I belong in men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this baddass [sic] body and proud of it.)” Williams wrote.
Your GQ's 2018 Woman of the Year: Serena Williams 😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/wDL0ILsMTh
— Luis. (@serenapower_) November 12, 2018
Given past events, fans of Williams expressed anger at GQ’s decision to have the word “man” visibly crossed out on the cover and the word “woman” re-written over it in quotation marks, noting that past covers with stars such as Gal Gadot named her as woman of the year without any strange caveats.
@GQMagazine Please explain to me why GQ Magazine’s Editorial Team felt that quote marks were necessary on the Serena Williams’ Woman of the Year Cover. I Really Really Need to Know. I’m Expecting an Answer😡🙄🤷🏽♀️🤔👎🏾👎🏾👎🏾👎🏾👎🏾 pic.twitter.com/qGNPNJI4Rq
— Y•S•A•N•N•E (@YsanneBueno) November 13, 2018
But GQ’s decision, while questionable, appears not to have been a deliberate attempt at further maligning the new mother and tennis champion. The typography, wrote GQ research manager Mick Rouse, “was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena’s U.S. Open apparel that he designed).”
Serena Williams has been styled by Virgil Abloh recently for the Nike-Off White collaborations, and his signature has been “QUOTES” he actually hand wrote the “WOMAN” on the cover art. But I understand the controversy pic.twitter.com/XEMGwVlHYk
— aloisio (@therealAlcosta) November 13, 2018
Why GQ decided to feature Abloh’s work in such a potentially misleading way remains unclear. Regardless, fans of Williams, who returned to the court within months of nearly dying during the birth of her daughter last year and promptly made both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, are making it clear that they will broke no further ambiguities — intentional or otherwise — about the star’s femininity. Williams has yet to comment on the controversy over the cover.
Read the full story at CNN.