Rape jokes & Serena Williams’s big butt: this weekend in racism and sexism!

Apparently, Virgin Mobile US, thinks rape jokes really sell. Wait, I’m not being fair to them– they think rape jokes, or violence against women jokes or kidnapping or assault jokes sell. Check out this ad they released:

Hahahah. I get it! Is this man covering the woman’s eyes because he’s going to put a necklace on her? Or because he is going to cover her nose and mouth with something drenched in chloroform, the colorless, sweet-smelling, dense liquid, that is a toxic and potentially lethal anesthetic. Still laughing? At 6:45, Sunday morning, Everyday Sexism called out the rape-based holiday cheer hilarity, tweeting  “Please tweet @richardbranson@virgimobileus if you think using rape/domestic violence jokes to sell products isn’t ok pic.twitter.com/j9f4sRYv“. within two hours, Richard Branson, who no longer owns Virgin Mobile US, had actually responded (and posted a pensive-looking photo) on his Virgin.com blog, writing,

Having just seen, for the first time, the Virgin Mobile US advert which has upset many today, I agree it is ill-judged. Although I don’t own the company, it carries our brand. I will speak to the team there, make my thoughts clear and see what can be done about it. Virgin Mobile US usually get these things right, although on this occasion it is clear they have gone too far. Update: Update: Having spoken with them the team has confirmed this was a rogue post by an external agency that was not approved by Virgin Mobile US. They acknowledge a dreadful mistake was made. The advert, along with the whole calendar, has been removed, never to be seen again.

Hooray! A happy ending! A victory for feminists/ people who don’t like rape. Well, not quite. 

At 11:08 AM, @EverydaySexism tweeted this:

 

So, Virgin Mobile US did indeed take down the one creepy, predatory, Christmas-themed ad about rendering women unconscious. But they decided to replace it with another creepy, Christmas-themed, predatory ad about stalking women.

Finally, at 4:47 AM, Monday morning, almost 24 hours after originally notifying Richard and Virgin, @EverydaySexism tweeted, “UPDATE: Virgin have now removed the entire offensive feature, not just the single most offensive image!” Finally, it was gone. Phew.

Moving on. Saturday, at a tennis match against the blond-haired, Russian, white Maria Sharapova in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the blond-haired, Polish-Danish, white Caroline Wozniacki decided it would be really funny to make fun of the body of the African-American Serena Williams. She oh so cleverly inserted towels into her top and bottom, so it looked like she had bigger breasts and a bigger butt. Making fun of somebody’s body is inappropriate, sexist, offensive and problematic. But given the history and current-day context of racialized standards of beauty, and the hypersexualization of people of color, when a white woman makes fun of a black women’s body, especially in a way that hypersexualizes her and draws on the stereotype of black women’s big butts, it’s racist. Sadly, the audience and sportscasters didn’t responded to the impersonation by laughing, cheering and whistling. Maybe Everyday Sexism or someone else should start a twitter campaign to get Wozniacki to apologize. It worked for Virgen.

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17 Comments

  1. Posted December 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    “Sadly, the audience and sportscasters didn’t responded to the impersonation by laughing, cheering and whistling” makes no sense and looks grammatically incorrect. Could you clarify, please?

    • Posted December 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      That is completely ridiculous to call that racist.

  2. Posted December 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    WHAT?! Racism?! So I am racist every time I imitate my boyfriend accent who is asian?
    Kathie, are you a black people? Because I am and I’m proud of my “exotic” butt because I have a round ass. But I know a lot of beautiful of black women without big ass like I know a lot of white women with round butt. So why do you bring the racism where there a is a small joke about Serena’s body. Not because Serena is black but because she has a round ass like she LOVES to say!!!

    Don’t speak for everybody, don’t defend black people with fake arguments, you just ashame people who really try to fight REAL racism!

    Sincerely, I feel sorry for you because you find issues where there are not…

    • Posted December 12, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      Well technically Keefha, I think if you make fun of someone’s accent, then yes, it is racist. But if it’s not malicious & he doesnt mind, then it is probably OK!

    • Posted December 12, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much Keefha!
      I am not black but I really appreciate you standing up against this anti-racism with fake reasons! –> I am against racism of course(!) but I am not sharing the articles opinion!

      And I do agree with you that this ashames the REAL fighters against racism!

  3. Posted December 11, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    So her picking at Serena’s full figure is racist ? Maybe it is racist that you assume that it is an insult for her to point out a black women’s figure. It’s time for us to move beyond this intense political correctness associated with everything black. It’s funny how the most outraged people are not even black . . . it’s as if you all see black people as little children who need protecting because they themselves don’t know what to be offended by. Take it for what it was . . . a joke and move on.

  4. Posted December 12, 2012 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Re – Caroline’s funny antics on tennis court.

    Who on earth mentioned anything about black or white or even inferred it for that matter.
    You do realize you brought it up, and you may even be the first to do so.
    It simply doesn’t give credibility to yourself or any movement you may be commenting from.
    I am sure Caroline wouldn’t appreciate having Racism labelled on her antics when there were none.
    Kindly research any material before publishing.

  5. Posted December 12, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    lmao who cares if she had a good natured play around with Serena… any woman can have a big butt or large chest but trust you to jump out of the bushes, on the “thats racist!, thats sexist!” bandwagon.
    you dont need to feel like youre fighting the good fight because quite frankly, women have it easy in this day and age so you dont need this website and you dont need to be part of a feminist movement.
    there are still men who are courteous and hold doors and pull out chairs to allow the woman to go 1st but youre probably one of those ones that has the biggest whinge when a guy doesnt do this for you. men and women are equal right? so who cares who goes first right? should a man feel bad for not going out of his way to be chivalrous in this day and age?
    as people from different countries and nationalities, yes we do differ in appearance and have the right to point that out as long as we arent wilfully attempting to cause harm to another. if you cant accept this and want to shout racist or sexist every time this sort of thing happens – it is YOU who is the racist sexist.

  6. Posted December 12, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Granted it may have been in poor taste, & not exactly what one would expect from a professional tennis player, but I dont see it as being racist. By labelling this act as racism, YOU are perpetuating the stereotype that black women have big boobs & butts, not Ms Wozniacki. Serena Williams DOES have these attributes, & yes, it was offensive to exagerate the fact (although if Serena wasn’t offended, I dont see that we should be) but I dont see it as racism.

  7. Posted December 12, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I love it when white females like Katie get the nerve to call others racist. This story about the Danish tennis star and her American counterpart have nothing to do with racism. If Serena had found it racist, she would have been vocal about it. If you have an issue of another woman teasing Serena about her weight, then make it about that and not racism.

    It’s like the parable of Peter and the wolf. You keep trying to point out racism when it doesn’t exist, then the term and accusation loses its impact. Then when racism really occurs, most people look past it as just another malcontent attempting to find something to complain about.

  8. Posted December 12, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I have to say, I generally like the articles here, but as far as Wozniacki and Williams, you’ve completely drooped the ball. Wozniacki was making fun of her friend, who does have large breasts and a big butt. It’s not stereotypical to say Michael Jordan jumps high, it is to say black people jump high. Likewise, it’s not stereotypical to say Serena has a big butt. She does. There are enough real issues for women to deal with. Lets not make mountains out of molehills here.

  9. Posted December 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    “draws on the stereotype of black women’s big butts, it’s racist. ”

    RACIST????????????? no, not even a little bit. Black women have big butts. Latino women have big butts. That is a fact of life. To say that that is racism is insulting to everyone.

    Using the race card is out of hand. White people can’t do or say anything because the black people get all up in arms and claim racism. Guess what sometimes its just funny. Serena Williams makes herself a target for mocking just by the way she dresses. She is setting herself up to be made fun of. What she wears is insulting to every single woman in the world.

    • Posted December 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

      Hi,
      I have been visiting this website for a while, but this is my first time commenting. I don’t want to single anyone out, but this comment is particularly offensive to me. I was surprised to see a lot of racism denial in the comment section. I thought that the members of this community were allies of EVERYONE. I happen to be Black and I think that her actions were racist. Also, I thought that this was a feminist website? “Serena makes herself a target for mocking just by the way she dresses,” are you serious! Talk about blaming the victim! And FYI, all female tennis players wear those short skirts. Although that shouldn’t even have to be explained. You said, “what she wears is insulting to every single woman in the world”. Excuse me, when did it become her job to portray global womanhood. She is a grown woman, and an amazing athlete. Yet, all you can talk about is how she dresses. I don’t even know what to say about your comments of the “race card” and how “white people can’t do anything because THE BLACK PEOPLE get all up in arms and CLAIM racism. I hope you remember that the next time you CLAIM SEXISM, and a guy says that’s not sexist, “no, not even a little bit.” Helpful hint: intersectionality

  10. Posted December 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    These comments are intense. I don’t know why it is that racist and malicious have to go hand in hand… Just because she may have not intended to be offensive, doesn’t mean she wasn’t offensive. I don’t harbor any conscious prejudices or actively participate in the discrimination of groups, but it doesn’t mean I’m incapable of being racist. No one asked Sharapova to admit to being a racist, just that she acknowledge that she perpetuated racist ideology.

    As a person of color, the exotification of woman of color, especially black women, is problematic. This hypersexualization has a painful historical context; although it seems harmless to us now, this perpetuation is pervasive, and it undermines Williams while participating in her line of work.

    The way I see it, calling these things out doesn’t mean that we think that Sharapova is a shitty person, but that we think she’s capable of something better. We all have the ability to check ourselves, internalize the sometimes hurtful things we do, and say we’re going to do better next time.

    • Posted December 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Well said. Thank you.

  11. Posted December 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I think zuleyka makes some good points. Someone could have done something racist without being racist, but I understand why people get defensive when the word racist is used. It’s a loaded term that carries a lot of connotations. I think that Wozniacki was being racially insensitive in this instance because it wasn’t a private joke between two friends, it was publicly mocking Williams’ body, a Black body and that has implications. It could make people feel that there is something funny or weird or wrong about their bodies and that is insensitive and certainly not a very professional thing for a professional tennis player to do. Also, for a completely different group reaction on this look up the comments for this same story on racialicious. The totally different reactions to almost exactly the same story provides a really interesting comparison.

  12. Posted December 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    It’s not blatant “I hate black people racism”, but it is “Your body is a caricature” type racism. Just like whoever that male tennis player putting tennis balls in his shirt was sexism. It’s also totally different being done in the public sphere than in private between two friends. I’m white but my black friends joke about me having a “ghetto booty” all the time. That’s acceptable well because a)I, the white privileged person, am not saying it and b) it’s not a public reinforcement of stereotypes without the sort of context a close friendship provides. If something like that were said about me on television, it would be completely different, mostly because a lot of stupid people watch television. When something like this is presented to the masses, it’s just going reinforce stereotypes and maybe if even in a subtle way kind of says to black people who want to play tennis “You’re not welcome here.”

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