serena williams woman of the year

Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock (Licensed)

‘GQ’ under fire for putting ‘woman’ in quotation marks in regards to Serena Williams

The magazine has a reason, but many still feel it's a weird decision.


Samantha Grasso


Posted on Nov 13, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 1:47 am CDT

Serena Williams might be GQ Magazine‘s Woman of the Year, but Twitter users think she’s being snubbed by the honor.

On Wednesday, the magazine announced that Williams was among its Men of the Year cover stars, including Michael B. Jordan, Henry Golding, and Jonah Hill. However, instead of styling Williams’ title simply as “Woman of the Year,” the word “man” is scratched out and there are quotation marks only around the word “woman.”

The magazine was forthcoming about the typography of Williams’ title being different from the men’s covers—in its tweet announcement, it revealed that artist Virgil Abloh, who is in partnership with Williams, wrote the word woman in quotation marks. Abloh designed her U.S. Open catsuit, and the titles of his work often include quotation marks, the magazine’s research manager Mick Rouse pointed out.

However, Williams fans seemed to have a stronger connection to the athlete than the artist styling her, so the quotation marks’ use was not obvious. Others wondered why management at GQ wouldn’t have anticipated this misunderstanding in the era of Twitter callouts.

The problem, critics pointed out, is that Williams has long been questioned for her femininity and woman-ness, both because she’s a Black woman and a strong-as-hell athlete. Williams’ body has been unfairly critiqued for its musculature and Blackness, as if her own existence made her any less of a woman to begin with. So to have her title, woman of the year, in quotation marks, as if to question her existence as a woman, seems offensive and playing into these negative, inaccurate stereotypes to delegitimize her success.

With any hope, the typography and ensuing controversy won’t overshadow Williams’ much-deserved praise.

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 13, 2018, 9:44 am CST