They still said no
June 8, 2021 3:19 PM   Subscribe

You Ain't Never Been No Little Girl, Taylor Townsend "America hating fat Black women — it’s just part of life. It’s in the culture. It’s in the health-care system. You see it in Hollywood, you see it in sports. You don’t have to look around very hard."
I’m not thin, and I’ve never been thin — that’s just the truth about it, straight up. Like, forreal, I used to be out there on the court with my lil rolls hanging out in my tight tank tops. Why?? Because why not?? I liked the way I looked. I liked the way I felt, and I wasn’t ashamed.
Anyway, now you can picture me at 16.
That’s where this story starts. I’m 16, I’m coming off some great results, and I’m only a few weeks from the U.S. Open.
And then…….. I get this phone call.
It was an official from the USTA. (That’s like being called to the principal’s office.) They said, “Taylor, you need to come to Florida — now. We’re putting you on an eight-week block of fitness training.”
I didn’t even have to do the math. I heard “eight weeks” and my stomach just dropped.
Eight weeks meant missing the U.S. Open.
posted by misskaz (30 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for posting this.
posted by minsies at 3:38 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]

Honestly — it seems like she’s doing alright.

posted by chavenet at 3:41 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Fantastic essay. I loved the clarity in which she ordered things out of chronology.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 3:45 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

Great essay, especially the last bit.
posted by signal at 4:10 PM on June 8

I love stories like that, even as I mourn the incredible loss of talent and potential in the US due to racism. We must face it. And fix it.
posted by Floydd at 4:43 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]

That is a terrific piece. Taylor is all right, and I'm rooting for her, because even if she doesn't make it any further as a tennis pro (and it sounds like she just might), she's got a voice, and can write and I would read more from her in a heartbeat.
Go Taylor Townsend!
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:45 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

Great read, thanks.
(And lol over her last doubles game with her sister.
posted by cheshyre at 4:56 PM on June 8

This is a great article. It’s so infuriating that so many people (women) are being robbed of dreams they’re quite capable of achieving because of weight bias.
posted by obfuscation at 5:23 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

(And to be clear: obviously weight bias is not the only thing going on here)
posted by obfuscation at 5:34 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


I pay no attention to tennis and had never heard of Taylor Townsend, but I found this whole piece beautiful and riveting.

So insightful:
As a child, you have this amazing ability to shrug stuff like that off — but also to carry it forever.
So insightful:
And I guess that’s what I’m still trying to figure out, in some ways. I know that tennis wasn’t taken away from me. But I also know that it was.
I kind of hate to quote any of it, because it's so beautiful as a whole.

I wish I could tell her that - for whatever little it's worth - I'm just a stranger on the internet, but:

I see you. I hear you.

And I am very proud to have you among us, for all that you are, not just your No. 1.

I love stories like that.

Good for her.

Thank you so much for posting this, misskaz.
posted by kristi at 5:38 PM on June 8 [24 favorites]

Riveting and moving. I too know nothing of tennis and it didn’t matter.
posted by spitbull at 5:57 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

When she's ready to retire from tennis, I hope she does a lot more writing!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:00 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

The honesty, the realness of her voice, like she’s talking to you right now and being herself - it is so good, and it’s so good at hiding exactly how good it is, how well crafted. Thanks for posting this, I would never have seen it otherwise and it’s so. Damn. Good.
posted by zenzenobia at 8:22 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]

This was such a good read, her voice comes through really powerfully. Thanks for sharing.

I hadn't heard of these particular issues before, thanks for educating me.
posted by freethefeet at 10:06 PM on June 8

Wow, she's impressive in several different ways.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:28 AM on June 9

What a great piece. I remember this story from when it happened, and I was outraged then too.
posted by LizardBreath at 2:57 AM on June 9

So raw, so real, so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:29 AM on June 9

This was so powerful, thank you for sharing.

I can still remember the first time I was playing and heard one of the moms say, “Look at her. She’s too….. big.” I was probably four or five when that happened.

There is a chamber in my heart packed with audacious rage directed toward every single adult who feels entitled to say any of this kind of shit about children's bodies.

I've been mad as hell lately about the challenges of my own particular body and how thoroughly every single adult in my childhood, parents and family and teachers alike, not only failed me but managed to fail me in ways that left me feeling like their failure was actually my own entire fault.

As an adult I've learnt that I'm hypermobile and autistic, both of which come with specific movement challenges - I injure easily, I don't move like other people, my proprioception is terrible and I walk into things all the time, my gait is weird, and I really struggle to process and copy movements that I watch other people making. None of the adults around me as a kid had words like "proprioception" or "hypermobility" in their toolkits, though, and the words they used instead - fat, clumsy, awkward, inept - have haunted me throughout my life. It's taken me years and years, and lots of pain and shame and humiliation along the way, to find ways of moving my body that feel good for me. I still hate moving in front of other people, still automatically tense and flinch ahead of the criticism I assume I'm about to receive for having an undignified-looking body that doesn't move through this world with grace.

Which is to say, I can't even imagine trying to go through the level of criticism I received about my body growing up in such a public context as Taylor Townsend's junior tennis career, nor can I imagine how much worse being constantly told your body was wrong would be when you knew that those comments were motivated by racism and anti-blackness as well as misogyny and fatphobia.

Here are some better ideas than the ones I was taught growing up: everyone's body is different and everyone's body is fine and it's much better to celebrate what all of our bodies can do than to punish people for wearing bodies that fail to meet restrictive social norms. And if you ever see a child with a body you disapprove of, it will cost you absolutely nothing to keep those opinions to yourself, and you'll be saving the child a world of trauma and hurt.
posted by terretu at 6:46 AM on June 9 [23 favorites]

Her voice is clear, conversational and absolutely necessary. Thank you for the link.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:11 AM on June 9

Can’t read this, about to stroke out from anger
posted by bq at 7:55 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

Read it, absolutely about to stroke out from anger. This country is fucked up from the floor up.
posted by corvikate at 8:40 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

She has strength beyond what her body can do, and I'm glad she's got a voice. Thank you for posting.
posted by winesong at 9:29 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

As a child, you have this amazing ability to shrug stuff like that off — but also to carry it forever.

So well-put.
posted by praemunire at 9:48 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Just by chance, I have listed to a couple of podcasts that touch on the early years of modern women's athletics. It is amazingly clear that, from both men and the upper- and upper middle-class women who organized and policed those years, that women's athletics were seen to be as more about "appreciating" the athletes as objects of (gender/class/race) value as celebrating their competition of accomplishments. As opportunities opened up, so did the chances to get "appreciated" and "scorned" for race, class, variant bodies, and public attitude. It's a very stable and very bad theme.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:46 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]

This is so powerful. Thanks for posting it - and thanks to the mods for sidebarring it, because otherwise I probably would missed it. I don't really follow sports at all, it's not something I care about, but I always assumed that while the media and sports franchises would push athletes who don't fit the "right" (white / thin / heteronormative) mold out of the spotlight and away from endorsements, if you were good at the sport you'd still play and make the team (and win if you're better than the competition). I never imagined they would keep a ranking star from playing. As she puts it herself, there’s also hundreds (thousands?!) of stories you’ll probably never even hear about, of Black girls who just didn’t get a shot at all.
posted by Mchelly at 1:00 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

Never seen her play. If she can play half as well as she can write, she's phenomenal.
posted by flabdablet at 1:26 PM on June 9

She's really amazing. I cried.
posted by ferret branca at 2:01 PM on June 9

This is a great essay. Besides the points she makes so eloquently about gender, size, and race, I really loved her description of her relationship with her sister. The anecdote about how they had to stop playing doubles together after a particular match that devolved into a minigame of trying to hit each other with their serves had me laughing out loud on my bus commute home.

Thanks for posting!
posted by the primroses were over at 2:40 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]

women's athletics were seen to be as more about "appreciating" the athletes as objects of (gender/class/race) value as celebrating their competition of accomplishments.

It’s particularly rife in athletics, but it’s a message those of us with female presenting bodies have been told all our lives. Even as children, what we can do is so often treated as secondary to how we look doing it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:52 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

This is tragic. The injustice of robbing not only this amazing women of her rights and her pride and her oppounities, but also the deliberate perpetration of the lie that black people don't belong in tennis and the other ugly falsehood that all fat people are unhealthy and unfit. It's disgusting. I'm so glad she's speaking out and ripping down the curtain so everyone can see the pathetic people involved in this massive lie!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:56 AM on June 17

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