“I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose,” said 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams to her male umpire at the US Open. Serena was defending her character and integrity in the face of what she believed was an accusation of cheating.
Standing up for yourself is a good thing. Right? We always tell boys and men to “Man Up!” Surely, it must be okay for women and girls to “Woman Up.”
We need go no further than the news headlines and social media commentary. How dare Serena, a woman, much less a black woman, stand up for herself and challenge this male umpire? How dare she request an apology? Really, how dare she? After all, she’s just a sore loser, an angry black woman, out of line, and having the “mother of all meltdowns.” This is the language of sexism.
Men are assertive; women are aggressive. Men are competitive; women are sore losers. Men are intense; women are out of line.
Imagine, umpires are reportedly threatening to boycott her matches because they felt the umpire was unfairly criticized about his conduct. Are you kidding me? How many times have they threatened to boycott male tennis players like Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, who likewise have challenged this same umpire? I’ll wait ….
If you are a woman, no matter your education or vocation, you are expected to suffer in silence; accept whatever indignity is thrown your way. Just suck it buttercup and keep smiling or suffer the consequences. As women, on a daily basis, we are subjected to overt and covert acts of sexism and gender microaggressions.
As little girls, young ladies, women, we have been indoctrinated to “act like a lady.”
What does that mean exactly? Am I acting like a lady:
- when I sit in silence as you impugn my integrity and character;
- when I sit in silence as you constantly interrupt me while I’m speaking:
- when I sit in silence as you take credit for my ideas;
- when I sit in silence as you get paid more to do the same job;
- when I sit in silence as you speak around me as if I’m not in the room;
- when I sit in silence as you “mansplain” to me;
- when I sit in silence as you assume I’m the court reporter or secretary, not the attorney;
- when I sit in silence as you speak to me in a condescending tone;
- when I sit in silence as you assume I’m not qualified because I’m a woman;
- when I sit in silence as you objectify me;
- when I sit in silence as you [fill in the blank].
If sitting in silence makes me a “lady,” I reject that title. Sexism is wrong, no matter how you spin it. Women need to feel safe and empowered to “Woman Up!” Men and other women need to be allies and support women who “Woman Up!”
Silence is not an option. Letting it slide is not an option. Turning the other cheek is not an option.
Our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandchildren, are watching us. We like to tell our children, “do as I say, not as I do.” But I’m here to tell you, our children “do as we do.”
We must stand up and reject all forms of sexism, whether it is happening to you or someone else. We must operate from a place of power, not victimhood. We must speak up and challenge sexism and microaggressions.
And no, that doesn’t make you an angry woman.
“Woman Up!” That is the true meaning of acting like a lady.
Originally published in The Lyfe Magazine