GQ's Woman of the Year featuring Serena Williams slammed as "racist and transphobic" for having woman in quotation marks
The cover was released alongside the three covers for Men of the Year featuring Michael B Jordan, Henry Golding, and Jonah Hill
In keeping with a tradition that began in 2013, GQ has announced its Woman of the Year for 2018 alongside its special Man of the Year issue. This year, the honor went to tennis star and 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, who has had an incredibly eventful 2018 and deservedly laid claim to the honor.
The 37-year-old's cover shot for the issue was released this past Monday alongside the three images for Men of the Year — Michael B. Jordan, Henry Golding, and Jonah Hill — but seems to have stirred up some controversy. While Serena's attire, featuring her posing with her hands on her hips and her frizzy hair showcased in all its glory, is faultless, social media took offense to how woman was written in quotation marks on the cover.
Announcing GQ's Men (and Woman) of the Year 2018: @michaelb4jordan, @henrygolding, @jonahhill, and @serenawilliams (featuring handwriting by @virgilabloh) https://t.co/EpG3lKCJ3r #GQMOTY pic.twitter.com/6MgczSxSpq— GQ Magazine (@GQMagazine) 12 November 2018
According to the Daily Mail, none of the other covers had men written within quotation marks, and nor has it featured any time in the past. For example, for last year's woman of the year, Gal Gadot, was presented as just the Woman of the Year. Similarly, past winners such as Amy Schumer, Shailene Woodly, Tilda Swinton, Emily Ratajkowski, Mila Kunis, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston, Gwen Stefani, and Angelina Jolie featured on relatively normal covers as well.
Fans took to social media to call out GQ over the gaffe, with one writing "Okay but why is GQ in quotation marks?" and another posting that the cover risked being interpreted as "inappropriate, dangerous, racist, and transphobic." Another person shared an image of last year's cover with Gal Gadot which did not have quotation marks around woman alongside this year's issue with just a caption of "Hmm."
While Serena herself did not comment on the cover and add to controversy, the fact that she hasn't shared the image on any of her social media accounts seems to indicate that she too may not have expected the cover to turn out the way it did.
However, there were a few quick to jump to the magazine's defense and to point out there was a good reason for doing so, even if it seemed inappropriate. One tweeter wrote, "It was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks of late (see Serena's US Open apparel that he designed."
Indeed, Abloh was responsible for the Nike x Off White tutu dresses that the star sported at the U.S Open this past August/September when the tennis star got into a ferocious argument with the chair umpire during her finals against Naomi Osaka.
Nonetheless, viewers would have noticed that each of those designs featured the word "LOGO" in quotation marks above the signature Nike swoosh.
But there were still quite few who, despite the explanation, were still unhappy with GQ's faux pas. "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," one wrote.
"It's easy to see how this could be mistaken. I get GQ in the mail because I like the articles. I flip right past the fashion pages so my first thought was "Why the quotes". Understanding context helps but it may have been wiser to just go a different font route," posted another.
A third commented, "Everyone knows Virgil. We know his designs. We get the quotations. Doesn’t mean putting quotes around woman makes it any less insensitive esp. considering the masculinization of Serena and black women in general!"
No can argue that Williams doesn't deserve to be on the cover but it seems like this controversy has taken the sheen off the achievement just that little bit.