Serena Williams looked stunning on the cover of the GQ for the publication’s annual “Men of the Year” issue. Nevertheless, readers still found something to be upset about. Williams’ cover seemed to spark controversy over a particular design element on the front.
While GQ’s issue is usually called the “Men of the Year” issue, the publication chose to switch things up for Serena’s cover, seeing how she is one of very few women featured (Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot also has a cover). On Williams’ cover, the original “Men” header appears to be crossed out and replaced with “Woman” in black ink and quotation marks.
According to many Twitter users, they found a problem with the use of quotations around “Woman.” Some seemed to believe it was a sign of disrespect, pointing out that it perpetuated constant criticism of Williams’ physique and appearance.
— Luis. (@serenapower_) November 12, 2018
“I can’t believe no one at GQ thought perhaps with misogynistic and violent trans insults that Serena (and Venus) have dealt with for the last almost 20 years, to not put woman in quotation marks,” one user suggested.
While these points may seem valid, they are missing one key factor. In the lower lefthand corner, the handwriting is attributed to fashion designer Virgil Abloh. Abloh, who is the chief executive officer of Milan-based fashion house Off-White, is known for creating designs that utilize quotation marks around specific words.
Williams and Abloh have previously collaborated on ensembles, which she has worn on the tennis court. She most notably wore his black tutu design during the first round of the US Open. The dress incorporated the word “Logo” with quotation marks across the heart. Even so, some people felt that the quotations could have been placed around a different word like “Serena.”
In a past interview with 032c, Abloh stated that the use of quotations was to invoke a sense of irony. “You can use typography and wording to completely change the perception of a thing without changing anything about it” Abloh explained. “If I take a men’s sweatshirt and write “woman” on its back, that’s art.”
Check out Serena Williams GQ cover and join the debate below.
I can’t believe no one at GQ thought perhaps with misogynistic and violent trans insults that Serena (and Venus) have dealt with for the last almost 20 years, to not put woman in quotation marks. Editorial rooms are a fucking disaster, all over this country. I’m offended for her pic.twitter.com/97yaP18etC
— a princess diana stan account (@seabethree) November 12, 2018
GQ editors could’ve been smarter here.
I think when you’re marketing Serena Williams, you’ve got to have a bigger clue on how things are going to be read.
Would’ve been more interesting to have done
“S E R E N A”
and play with people’s understanding of who and what she is. pic.twitter.com/jhbLZBLLwE
— kyle a.b. (@kyalbr) November 12, 2018
That context definitely helps – it’s definitely off putting especially for an athlete who has been critiqued for not being womanly/not a real woman in all sorts of racist and problematic ways
— Anna Wagner (@Anna_F_Wagner) November 12, 2018