Just a few weeks after capturing her 16th Grand Slam Title by defeating Maria Sharapova in the 2013 French Open Finals, tennis sensation Serena Williams found herself making headlines once again. This time however, the news headlines were not for any of her exploits on the tennis court.
Rolling Stones Magazine recently published an article that featured Williams’ views on the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. In this case, two high school football players were convicted in March of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl. Williams caused quite a controversy when, according to Rolling Stones Magazine, she was quoted as saying:
"I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you -- don't take drinks from other people.
She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."
To the naked eye, it seems as though Williams is putting very harsh blame and responsibility on the female student for playing a role in allowing this unfortunate situation to occur. Because of such negative backlash, Williams has since apologized for her comments. However, when we take a closer look at the life story of Serena Williams and how she rose to super-star status in American culture, it provides insightful clues on why she may have initially felt this way about the rape case.
For most of her childhood years, Serena Williams grew up in Compton California. Compton is a city that is a far cry from the glitz and the glamour that most California cities are known for. Both Serena and her sister Venus grew up in a place where drug abuse, alcohol-related violence, un-wanted pregnancy, crime, and death were all just a heartbeat away. It would have been very easy and acceptable for these young women to succumb to any number of these pitfalls which would have ruined any chance for their future success.
However, these women were different because they were not about to become victims of circumstance. Armed with nothing more than talent, will-power, and guidance from their father Richard, these ladies took charge of their destinies and were not going to let society dictate their outcome in life. Serena and Venus were empowering women who ascended to success far beyond what their situation had designated for them.
With seemingly every disadvantage and obstacle in their way, the laser-like focus of these young ladies allowed them to destroy the social and racial barriers in their profession which were once seen as un-breakable. As a result, Serena and Venus Williams were able to alter the entire course of sports history for generations to come. While being incredibly gifted athletically, the Williams sisters also carry themselves with dignity and self-respect off the playing field as well. These attributes make them uniquely qualified to be outstanding role-models for the next generation of young women.
It is true that Serena should have studied the facts about this rape case more thoroughly before publicly commenting about it. However, being such an empowering and revolutionary female role model for young girls, Williams’ message should be crystal clear: Don’t put yourself in situations that will allow someone else to determine your fate. Have respect for yourself, and others will then respect you no matter what.