GQ named Serena Williams its Woman of the Year on Monday, and not everyone is happy about her cover.
The magazine announced that Michael B. Jordan, Henry Golding and Jonah Hill were some of its Men of the Year, and that the all-time tennis great was its sole Woman of the Year — but it’s the outlet’s decision to put the word “woman” in quotes, as handwritten by designer and Williams collaborator, Virgil Abloh, that is turning some heads on Twitter.
“[GQ] decided to put woman in quotes on Serena’s cover and I too am offended and disgusted knowing the gender slights and digs people still throw at [Serena],” one person tweeted.
“They really put ‘woman’ in quotes in reference to Serena and no one at the table thought it was a bad idea,” another user mused. “I’m speechless.”
Writer E. Alex Jung let a simple comparison do the talking, by putting Serena’s cover next to Gal Gadot’s, who was named Woman of the Year by GQ last year.
“You KNOW this cover had to be approved by a team of people and they all thought the quotes were fine,” someone replied to his comparison. “What the f–k?”
“God why the quotes?????” someone else asked.
Though the decision to put woman in quotes is being viewed as questionable by some, added context around the Abloh’s handwritten edit on the cover may shed some light on the magazine’s move: Abloh, of Off-White and Louis Vuitton, designed Serena’s US Open tutu dress and routinely uses quotation marks on his Off-White designs.
Still, the questioning of her gender and womanhood is something that the tennis star has had to fight throughout her decades-long career.
Last year, in a post on reddit, Williams opened up about being “called a man” because of her appearance.
“I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong,” she wrote in a post addressed to her mother. “It has been said that that I use drugs (No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage). It has been said I don’t belong in Women’s sports — that I belong in Men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it).”
Back in May, the new mother opened up about the same issue in a powerful interview with Harper’s Bazaar.
“People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong,” she said. “I was different to Venus: She was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular — and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different.”
Neither GQ nor Serena Williams has responded to the backlash to her Woman of the Year cover.