Analyst: Serena is right to claim sexism

Serena Williams' heated dispute with the umpire during the US Open final opens the door to a discussion on sexism.

Posted: Sep 11, 2018 8:06 AM
Updated: Sep 11, 2018 8:13 AM

An Australian newspaper has doubled down on a cartoon of multiple Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams widely denounced as racist both at home and in the US.

In a statement Tuesday, Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston said the cartoon "had nothing to do with gender or race."

"A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and (the) cartoon depicted that," he said, referring to a piece published by cartoonist Mark Knight Monday after the US Open final in which Williams had a dispute with the umpire over his allegedly sexist treatment of her.

The cartoon showed Williams jumping up and down next to a broken racket and pacifier, with large, exaggerated lips and nose reminiscent of racist depictions of black people in the US during the Jim Crow era.

Williams' opponent, Japan's Naomi Osaka, is depicted as a skinny blonde woman, to whom the umpire is saying: "Can't you just let her win?"

The US-based National Association of Black Journalists said the cartoon was "repugnant on many levels."

"(It) not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams' depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like," the group said in a statement. "The art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of color at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports."

Angry reaction

Knight -- an award-winning cartoonist who has worked for the Herald Sun for decades -- told his employer he was "amazed" by the reaction to the cartoon, which he said did not attract significant criticism until it was picked up on Twitter by users in the US.

"It's been picked up by social media in the US and my phone has just melted down," he said. "The world has just gone crazy."

Criticism was voiced from within Australia however, where the furore comes after months of hand-wringing and criticism over the country's attitudes towards race after a neo-Nazi was invited on air by a national broadcaster.

"I take no pleasure in saying this, but, right now, it feels like there has never been a more exciting time to be a dog-whistling politician or race-baiting commentator in Australia," outgoing Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said last month.

On Twitter, Australian author Benjamin Law compared headlines from American newspapers which "matter-of-factly" described Knight's cartoon as racist to coverage within his country.

"It isn't a subjective call," he said. "Embarrassing to see the Herald Sun doesn't realise defending Knight's cartoon supports the case swathes of Australian media is blind to its own racism."

This isn't the first time Knight's work has been criticized in this manner. A cartoon from August 10 was widely denounced after it depicted faceless black figures destroying a Melbourne subway station, echoing a caricature of African gang crime in the city which is not supported by statistics.

"The racist vilification of Melburnians from the Herald Sun continues apace," local lawmaker Rohan Leppert wrote in response to that cartoon. "Utterly shameful."

Lack of representation

Despite Australia's proud multiculturalism and the fact that today one in four Australians were born abroad, the upper strata of society remains predominantly white.

According to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission earlier this year, 95% "of senior leaders in Australia have an Anglo-Celtic or European background."

In business, the report found there was "a combined total of 11 chief executives who have a non-European or Indigenous background," or 3% of the total.

Indigenous people are especially under-represented, and have themselves been the subject of racist cartoons in the Australian press.

Knight was denounced for a 2012 cartoon published on Australia Day, which marks the start of European colonization of the continent, while the late Bill Leak was frequently criticized for his portrayals of Indigenous people.

While the US has deep racial divides and ongoing issues related to the legacy of slavery and post-reconstruction discrimination, it is more diverse than Australia. Non-white people make up over 23% of the population, and 11% of Members of Congress are people of color. The voices of non-white people are also more prominent in the US media than Australia's.

On Twitter, Australian musician Eddie Perfect, who is based in the US, reflected on this difference after he received some criticism for calling out Knight's cartoon.

"Got about 200 tweets from Aussies angry I 'spoke for them'," he said. "This cartoon hit hard in the US. Things are VERY different here, where image, race, history and struggle are REAL."

In a follow up tweet, Perfect said he frequently hears comments from Americans about Australians being racist "and it stings."

"(It) stings because it's a generalisation, but also because it's often true," he added. "You don't have to look hard to see and hear it. And today's cartoon SHOCKED Americans."

Australian broadcaster Neil Mitchell took the opposite tack on his morning radio show on Melbourne-based 3AW.

Following an interview with the cartoonist, he said the reaction "shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country."

"I looked at that cartoon and it didn't even cross my mind it was about race," he said.

Huntsville
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Florence
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 75°
Fayetteville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Scottsboro
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 51316

Reported Deaths: 645
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby11793200
Davidson11089122
Rutherford298735
Hamilton278135
Sumner161052
Trousdale14985
Williamson131315
Out of TN11857
Knox11717
Wilson94117
Putnam8837
Robertson83411
Sevier8043
Bradley7073
Lake6920
Tipton6455
Unassigned6351
Bledsoe6201
Bedford5705
Montgomery5547
Macon4654
Maury3543
Hardeman3434
Hamblen3404
Fayette3172
Madison2992
Loudon2871
Rhea2860
Dyer2511
McMinn23718
Cheatham2301
Blount2273
Dickson2090
Cumberland1814
Washington1650
Lawrence1636
Lauderdale1453
Anderson1422
Monroe1406
Jefferson1360
Gibson1291
Smith1201
Coffee1190
Sullivan1172
Obion1122
Hardin1087
Greene1032
Cocke940
Haywood922
Marshall911
Franklin873
Wayne860
Hickman800
Warren760
Marion734
McNairy730
White703
DeKalb670
Lincoln640
Weakley641
Grundy621
Overton621
Roane620
Giles601
Carter591
Hawkins572
Unicoi550
Campbell481
Carroll471
Henderson460
Claiborne450
Polk450
Henry440
Johnson440
Grainger420
Sequatchie420
Crockett383
Cannon370
Chester340
Perry340
Meigs320
Humphreys281
Jackson270
Morgan271
Stewart230
Decatur220
Fentress220
Union180
Clay170
Scott170
Houston150
Benton131
Moore120
Van Buren80
Hancock60
Lewis60
Pickett60

 

 

Community Events