Motherhood, it seems, has made Serena Williams especially reflective.
Williams, who gave birth to her first daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. earlier this month, posted a letter to her own mother on Tuesday that commended her mom on displaying strength and class even as Williams faced body shamers and “haters.” The note appeared on Reddit, the social platform co-founded by Williams’s fiancé Alexis Ohanian.
“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.
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 badass body and proud of it).”
The note by the tennis star follows the publication of a book titled Unstoppable by rival Maria Sharapova that references Williams more than 100 times and comments on Williams’s “thick arms and thick legs.” The letter also seems to allude to remarks by tennis commentator John McEnroe, a former pro player, who said earlier this year that Williams would rank 700th if she played on the men’s circuit.
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“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!
You are so classy, I only wish I could take your lead. I am trying, though, and God is not done with me yet. I have a LONG way to go, but thank you.”
Williams has been especially outspoken in recent months, responding publicly to McEnroe and to a racist comment allegedly made by Romanian tennis legend Ilie Nastase. She also wrote an op-ed in Fortune in July to mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and to call attention to black women’s wage gap.