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If there’s one thing you read this week, make it Serena Williams’ open letter to her mother, Oracene Price. The world’s highest-paid female athlete gave birth to her baby girl, Alexis Olympia, earlier this month, and as a new mom she hopes to be a strong role model for her daughter—just as her own mother has been for her.
“You are one of the strongest women I know. I was looking at my daughter (OMG, yes, I have a daughter ?) and she has my arms and legs! My exact same strong, muscular, powerful, sensational arms and body. I don’t know how I would react if she has to go through what I’ve gone through since I was a 15 year old and even to this day,” Williams posted on Reddit, which was co-founded by her fiancé, Alexis Ohanian.
Williams has faced intense scrutiny, discrimination and body shaming on and off the court for the span of her career. Her pregnancy announcement alone was met with a host of sexist and racist responses, from a former grand-slam winner wondering if Williams’ baby would turn out “chocolate with milk” to the New Scientist insinuating that her win at the Australian Open might have been thanks to her pregnancy.
The 35-year-old writes (perhaps in response to the way Maria Sharapova describes Williams in her new memoir “Unstoppable”) that she has been “called a man” for appearing “outwardly strong,” accused of using drugs and has been told she doesn’t belong in women’s sports but in men’s, all of which undermine her integrity and hard work that got her to where she is today.
“But mom, I’m not sure how you did not go off on every single reporter, person, announcer and quite frankly, hater, who was too ignorant to understand the power of a black woman,” Williams wrote. “I am proud we were able to show them what some women look like. We don’t all look the same. We are curvy, strong, muscular, tall, small, just to name a few, and all the same: We are women and proud!”
Williams’ words speak to everyone who has looked up to their mothers, or even those who have realized their mothers’ strengths after they themselves became mothers. Her words remind us that mothers truly are unsung heroes, having to navigate the difficult, thin line of protecting your child while teaching her to speak for herself.
“Thank you for being the role model I needed to endure all the hardships that I now regard as a challenge—ones that I enjoy. I hope to teach my baby Alexis Olympia the same, and have the same fortitude you have had,” Williams wrote, adding that she hopes to be as strong as her mother is one day.
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