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Election Season: Get Out The Vote! [INFORMATION YOU NEED]

[blackamericaweb]

When Venus and Serena appeared on “The New York Times” magazine cover this past weekend for a mostly flattering story, many people, even their detractors, enjoyed an unusually intimate look at the tennis superstars. But for a few others, the usual sniping came through, particularly about Serena and some of her more controversial moments, including infamously telling a lineswoman after what she thought was a bad call that she would ram a tennis ball down her throat. When Serena wore a tight red dress to “The David Letterman Show” last week, most people applauded her sexy look but other web posters sneered at her “masculine” arms and her overall “tranny” appearance. Despite her numerous on-court accomplishments, jabs about her femininity have followed Serena her entire career.

Laila Ali had similar issues when she was boxing. She was once accused of being gay and in a relationship with Queen Latifah, who’s fielded gay rumors for years. The rumors were so widespread in 2005 that Ali, then in the midst of a divorce from her first husband, issued a statement that said “Yes, I am in the process of getting a divorce, but I am not dating, nor will I ever be dating a woman, because I am not gay.” After a stint on “Dancing With The Stars” and after having two children with her second husband, rumors about her sexuality have largely subsided. But that begs the question – why are strong women, very often athletic ones, often viewed as “masculine” or “gay?”

Common sense would tell you that women in sports would be more muscular than the average non-athlete. It would also tell you that certain sports demand more muscle than others. The women who play beach volleyball aren’t just viewed as more “feminine” because they play in bathing suits. Their sport requires them to have lean muscle. Long distance runners are thin because their sport burns so many calories. Female swimmers aren’t generally ripped, but they do often have thick shoulders and buff arms from the strength required to cut through the water. Serena is more muscular than her sister, which gives her more power on the court – thus the ability to serve aces almost as fast as the men do. What’s most interesting about perceptions of Serena is that off the court, she’s nearly always dressed in high heels and tight dresses with big hair, makeup and sometimes even nails. Yet that, and that fact that Serena is much more buxom that the average female athlete has done little to stop the derogatory comments about her appearance.

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