If we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.
February 27, 2019 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Serena Williams’s new all-female Nike ad, Dream Crazier. yes, yes, nike blue

"There is probably no better woman than Serena Williams to lead the charge of reclaiming the word “crazy.” In the past six months, she’s been penalized, fined and criticized for what she has said, has done, has worn and looks like — being called “crazy” by detractors all the while. Her ability to flourish in spite of it has further endeared her to her legion of supporters, so it was no surprise when fans went, well, crazy on Sunday night when Williams’s new all-female Nike ad, “Dream Crazier,” premiered during the Oscars.


“When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions.” That was the message the tennis great Billie Jean King tweeted on Saturday, responding — as seemingly the rest of the internet has — to Serena Williams’s fraught U.S. Open loss.


Coached in relative isolation on the public courts of Compton, Calif., along with her older sister Venus, she learned the game from self-taught tennis parents who spurned the traditional junior circuit, believing their daughters’ performances one day would speak for themselves. Throughout her 23-year pro career, Serena Williams has done just that — winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles, which broke Steffi Graf’s Open era record, and four Olympic gold medals among an unprecedented trophy haul. She also redefined women’s tennis, ushering in a new era of power, athleticism and skill. Along the way, she has spoken out when confronted with what she feels is injustice on the court — not always in the tone the sport traditionally expects of its female champions.


In that moment the hard truth is that Serena Williams was angry as hell. And not just any type of anger, but one that was borne of and continues to bear the burden of being black and a woman in this country.

Rebecca Traister on womens' anger in sports
posted by ChuraChura (10 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I really like the vibe of the ad. Badass. That being said, I feel like this idea of "taking back the word crazy" is in conflict with the general effort from folks with mental illness to get the world at large to stop using the word pejoratively and I'm having trouble resolving that in my mind given the extent to which "taking back the word" is the focus of this ad.
posted by olinerd at 2:09 PM on February 27, 2019 [8 favorites]

I was instantly reminded of this old comedy routine from Donald Glover: Why Are There No "Crazy Man" Stories?
posted by Catblack at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

"That being said, I feel like this idea of "taking back the word crazy" is in conflict with the general effort from folks with mental illness to get the world at large to stop using the word pejoratively and I'm having trouble resolving that in my mind given the extent to which "taking back the word" is the focus of this ad."

Is "crazy" a world we'll really be able to discontinue? It seems to me a word like "dumb," "lame," or "stupid" which could be construed as ableist, but people so rarely use them to refer to any real mental condition or illness and it's so dissociated with bigotry most folks wouldn't even make a connection between "dumb" and any kind of mental illness. Perhaps reclaiming the word and giving it new context/meaning/useage is a more effective strategy than trying to shame people any time they use it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:01 PM on February 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think part of the problem with words like "lame" "crazy" "retarded" "spaz" ect even if they are rarely used for refering to being actually physically lame, spazzing, crazy[mentally ill], mentally retarded, is that people like the intellectually disabled, for example, see that "retarded" is used to refer to something inherently bad about others, slurs meant to hurt, or simply something negative whereas we know that being intellectually disabled, for example, is not a bad thing as far as inherent human value is concerned. So, until the word is fully "reclaimed" it will still hurt those that are intellectually disabled, for example.

"You're not automatically a bad or evil person/activist if you have used random language on here, but if you have the cognitive/language privilege to adjust your language, it's definitely worthwhile to consider becoming more aware/conscious of how everyday language helps perpetuate ableist ideas and values." Link

I think reading what Lydia Brown says at the link is worthwhile to understand the possible problems with ableism in everyday language even while it is being "reclaimed".

posted by RuvaBlue at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

I can sense the discussion of the word crazy and assumed I would see those thoughts when I finished all the awesome in the post. I'm not equipped to adequately join that discussion. What I can say is that she is just super badass and I love her. So awesome. So much shit has been heaped on her from so many different angles (race, socio, gender, body) and above it she is the badassiest of the badassery. I liked the commercial too. It felt honest or sincere so to speak. Like, the sort of thing I think she might actually say/feel in normal life. I hope my girls have her strength.
posted by chasles at 5:03 PM on February 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm not keen on the use of the word crazy, but apart from that I love this ad a lot. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise, thanks for posting it. Williams has to be the G.O.A.T. right?
posted by harriet vane at 5:54 AM on February 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think it's a great update of their Oh You Are So Emotional ad of the 1990s, which was, I recall, the only ad I ever cut out and put on my inspiration board in my teenage bedroom.
posted by TwoStride at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a lot of trouble understanding the Williams U.S. Open situation.

From the third link:
In case you’ve been blissfully unplugged: During the match, an umpire penalized Ms. Williams — first because he thought she was coached from the stands, then for what he deemed verbal abuse. (She called him a “liar” and a “thief.”) She’d also broken her racket.
The umpire didn't think she was being coached from the stands. He correctly noticed that she was being coached. We know this because the coach admitted to it. Williams, as noted, was then verbally abusive and broke a racket, both clear rules violations. So how is there a controversy over Williams's repeated and clear violations? The umpire, again, made 100% correct call on the coaching violation. Was he supposed to just happily take the verbal abuse from her?

I understand that the larger issue is that male players don't get as harshly punished for their angry outbursts (John McEnroe's persona is built on being the bad boy of tennis). Maybe since I'm not a sports person I just don't get it, but isn't the solution to make everyone, male or female, not behave like children having a tantrum? If it's in the rules enforce the rules for everyone, and if you don't think it should be enforced then remove those restrictions and let people smash rackets and be verbally abusive to umpires to their heart's content.

I'm an attorney and have worked with male partners who scream and rage at associates. It sucked. I've been embarrassed in meetings with clients because we could clearly here the screams from across the office. But the solution isn't to accept female partners screaming and raging, it's to enforce the idea that screaming rage is not appropriate for anyone at work.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:40 AM on March 1, 2019

But that's not what happened with Williams, at least not in that situation. The umpire made a correct call that she disagreed with and was unhappy. Was Ramos supposed to just sit there and smile as she hurled insults at him despite there being rules specifically against that, and keep sitting and smiling as she continued to violate the rules after being penalized twice and told not to?

No one seems to be disputing that she broke the rules, repeatedly. Does Williams just have a free pass on being abusive?

This seems to be conflating issues to defend bad actions in the same way Gwyneth Paltrow deflects criticisms of goop by invoking feminism.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:32 AM on March 1, 2019

The issue is that coaches offer coaching all the time and it almost never gets called. I've listed to the commentators in fact say, on air, that a female player who is a)struggling but b)not Serena should, in fact, look to her coaches for support. So there is a clear double-standard about when umpires decide to get ticky-tacky, and Serena gets the short end of the stick more often than men or blonder opponents.
posted by TwoStride at 12:53 PM on March 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

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