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Serena Williams says it's "unfair" that she has to retire from tennis
But who's forcing her to do so?
It is almost unarguable that Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player to have ever lived, with only Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer challenging her for that distinction. And she has now announced that she plans to retire from professional tennis after the U.S. Open. From Vogue:
I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.
At the age of 41, an age most tennis players, male or female, do not continue to play professionally at, Serena has made the choice to retire from tennis so that she can expand her family and give more attention to other projects that are important to her. However, rather than own her own decision, she would rather make the claim that it’s unfair that she has to make a decision and that this decision only exists because she’s a woman.
Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity.
But what exactly is unfair about it?
Is it unfair that she was born a woman? Is it unfair that women are the sex that get pregnant and give birth to children? Is it unfair that pregnancy and birth can have such a dramatic effect on a woman’s body? Is it unfair that people get older and their bodies don’t work exactly the same way as when they were young? Or, is it merely unfair that nobody can have everything that they want all of the time, and that sometimes the choices that we have or want to make have downsides as well as upsides?
Maybe all of these facts are unfair, but it’s childish to worry about whether they’re fair because there’s nothing that anybody on Earth has ever been able to do about any of them. These facts are unfair in the same way that it’s unfair that I can’t flap my arms and start flying around in the sky. Maybe it’s true, but that’s life.
She can point to Tom Brady, who at the age of 45 is still one of the best players in the National Football League and who will go down as the greatest quarterback of all time, but what comparison can truly be made? These are two different people, with different choices, with different lives, who play two very different sports professionally. Tom Brady has never been pregnant, and can never get pregnant. Maybe that’s unfair to him. Regardless, that fact means that he has different choices than she does, and that’s just one of the variables that we know about. There are an infinite number of other variables in both of their lives that renders any comparison like the one that Serena is trying to make complete and utter nonsense.
Nor is it the case that her choices are simply so black and white as expand her family or continue to play tennis professionally. She already has one child, and, as she points out, won a major championship while pregnant. She has the choice to expand her family and to continue playing as she has already done once before. Whether she can do so at the same level might be in question, but whether or not that’s fair is pointless to ask. It’s unfair the same way that it was unfair for every other tennis player to not play as well as she did in her career. Another option she has, that most people do not have, but is open to her given her vast wealth, is to have a surrogate for her pregnancy while she continues to play tennis professionally. Fellow rich celebrity Kim Kardashian did this on at least one occasion that I’m aware of.
So it is not the case that Serena Williams is making an important point about women’s rights: She’s merely whining about human biology and the fact that there are upsides and downsides to every choice that a person has to make in their life, while ignoring the fact that, as one of the wealthiest people on planet Earth, she has far more good options for her choices than most of us.