When photos from the photo shoot featuring Serena Williams on the pages of Sports Illustrated a few days ago, it was met with applause and awe- many women of colour have commended the World number one for daring to bare her body and slam body shamers (pretty much like Beyoncé at the Grammy’s), but more recently, the shoot has drawn criticism from writers slamming the move as a direct contradiction of female empowerment championed by the 35-year-old.
For the swimsuit issue of the fitness magazine, Serena poses scantily clad in a range of sexy swimwear, switching the steam up a bit in topless shots and a shower scene. Obviously, the world-renowned tennis player isn’t your average swimwear model or UK size 8. Serena shows off her toned, fit physique and does look sexy and confident in the photos. She admits it didn’t necessarily come naturally and that the experience was even more nerve-racking that playing a major tournament.
In a behind the scenes video of the shoot, shot on location in the Turks and Caicos, Serena says she wants people to come away from the editorial with the idea that “It’s OK to be comfortable in your body.” The whole point she opines, is to show women who don’t have the ‘model’ body shape that they can also feel beautiful, and comfortable in their body. “I’m strong and I feel like it’s OK to look strong and be sexy and to be a woman. To be all these things- for people out there that have my body type to be able to say I look good too.” And she’s got a point.
We can argue about her motives for doing the shoot all day long, but the fact remains that society does have a preconceived notion of what constitutes beauty. Women who do not fit a certain body type are not regarded as ‘beautiful’ or ‘sexy’ and this is where body shaming comes in. The message here is that no one should define your beautiful. Every woman; round, pear-shaped, skinny, toned, muscular or whatever should be able to feel feminine, confident and beautiful no matter what they look like.
We couldn’t agree more.