Serena Williams is an icon who supersedes most adjectives.
Having achieved virtually everything there is to achieve in tennis, her influence spans far wider within popular culture. It is therefore no surprise that GQ named Serena Williams its Woman of the Year, shooting the athlete for its cover.
Serena Williams, the Woman of the Year for @GQMagazine https://t.co/GgumfOlRUG
But the magazine’s choice of wording has landed it in hot water. Starring alongside Michael B. Jordan, Henry Golding and Jonah Hill – who were some of its Men of the Year - the tennis great was the only Woman of the Year. Though the accompanying cover text, which puts the word "woman" in quotes, is raising eyebrows.
Someone I follow pointed out that @GQMagazine decided to put woman in quotes on Serena's cover and I too am offende… https://t.co/o3t4x7qjYZ
— I'm That Type Of Guy (@I'm That Type Of Guy)
Gal Gadot, who was named Woman of the Year by GQ last year, was not given quote marks on her cover.
Though while the decision to put woman in quotes is undoubtedly odd, the text is clearly inspired by the work of designer and Williams fashion collaborator Virgil Abloh. Abloh designed Williams’s US Open tutu dress and routinely uses quotation marks on his designs.
Though while this might seem like an obvious connection to those “in the know”, it is clearly lost on most people. Last year, Williams opened up about being "called a man" because of her appearance – a comparison she has had to endure for decades.
I've been called man because I appeared outwardly strong.
It has been said that that I use drugs (No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage).
It has been said I don't belong in Women's sports -- that I belong in Men's -- because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this bada** body and proud of it).
She also opened up about this issue in an interview with Harper's Bazaar last year:
People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I'm strong
I was different to Venus: She was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular -- and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different
So far, neither GQ or Williams have publicly commented on the furore.