Whether or not you follow tennis, if you've seen or heard the iconic Serena Williams in action, it's hard not to be inspired. And she's done it again with a new commercial that's giving even non-sports people on social media a lot of feelings. These tweets about Serena Williams' Nike ad shows the tennis icon has embraced and reclaimed the stereotypes around female athletes passionate about their sport, and people are here for it.
Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles, debuted the ad at the 2019 Oscars ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 24. The ad was apparently inspired by Williams' competition in the U.S. Open in September 2018, where a video of her throwing and destroying her racket went viral. In response, people were quick to label Williams with negative terms for her behavior and one artist even caricatured her.
The ad seeks to reclaim and honor the intensity of emotion and passion that women athletes experience for their sport — without the judgment. Referring to the labels that get slapped on women like her, Williams narrates:
If we show emotion, we're called 'dramatic.' If we want to play against men, we're 'nuts.' And if we dream of equal opportunity, 'delusional.' When we stand for something, we're 'unhinged.' When we're too good, there's something wrong with us, and if we get angry, we're 'hysterical,' or 'just being crazy.'
The ad goes on to cite examples of women who were told their dreams were outlandish; for example, that a woman could ever run a marathon. Williams herself is depicted as one such example, who persisted even if people thought she was dreaming big to come back to her sport after having a baby in her mid-30s.
But it's clear that the message extends far beyond athletes. Across the professional world — and world, really — women tend to be discounted for having emotions. On Twitter, users clearly had a lot of feelings about the ad, and many could relate to the message.
Some users in particular were parents who could see the message relating to their own daughters, and shared their own tales of sexism.
And plenty more users were sharing memes and crying emojis, metaphorically or literally sobbing after watching the ad.
Other users were simply celebrating the power that women (and women athletes specifically) have, and how inspired they were by both Williams and the ad itself.
Discrimination based on gender is well documented in the world of sports. While a June 2018 report from Women In Sport found that nearly three-quarters of women working in the sports industry experienced inequality, women in a variety of different sports, even at the major-league level, are chronically underpaid compared to their male counterparts. Add to that the routine sexual objectification of athletes and the expectations of serving as a wife, mother, and caregiver while still performing as an elite athlete — all of which may be seen as disqualifying an athlete from success. So Williams' message as a top athlete, mother, and advocate for women in sports was readily received.
"So if they want to call you crazy, fine," Williams says at the end of the ad. "Show them what crazy can do."