Not even champion female athletes are immune from sexist interview questions, it seems. During a press conference for the US Open, Serena Williams was asked by a male reporter why she wasn’t smiling despite winning a match.
The journalist explained, “Normally you smile when you win. You come in here, you laugh. What happens tonight? Is it because you beat Venus or because you’re thinking about what is going on next? What’s wrong?”
The tennis star responds by saying, amid laughs from herself and other reporters in the audience, “It’s 11:30. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here. I just want to be in bed right now and I have to wake up early to practice and I don’t want to answer any of these questions. And you keep asking me the same questions. It’s not really… you’re not making it super enjoyable.”
Somehow it has become commonplace for men to attempt to dictate women’s emotions by telling them to smile or simply asking why they’re not, as if their faces need to be aesthetically pleasant for men at all times. All women have the experience often where a male acquaintance or even a stranger in public questions their neutral facial expressions, and it is time to put an end to it.
A male reporter would never dream of asking another man, athlete or not, why he wasn’t smiling without the fear that he would be ridiculed or lashed out against, so why is this okay to ask a woman?
Frankly, it was unprofessional for this reporter to ask Williams this question at a press conference and in general. He then proceeded to ask more about her sister, Venus, to which she rolls her eyes, having been asked about her countless times before.
Why aren’t sports journalists focusing on Serena Williams’s other matches or her physical skills, like they would be for a male athlete’s interview? Instead of asking asinine questions about why someone isn’t upbeat late at night after a long day of practice or prodding about a media manufactured rivalry between sisters, reporters should put more energy into asking about the game itself to make the world of professional sports more inclusive for everyone.