Why We Care About Venus Williams' Clingy French Open Dress

What Women Really Think
May 25 2010 9:56 AM

Why We Care About Venus Williams' Clingy French Open Dress

/blogs/xx_factor/2010/05/25/venus_williamss_risque_french_open_dress/jcr:content/body/slate_image

A frisson rippled through the crowd watching Venus Williams at the French Open this weekend-not because she handily beat her opponent, but because she did so wearing a lacy black and red outfit that resembled a negligee. Williams’s dress had a clingy bodice and flared skirt and appeared "see-through," according to the AP. Among the photos from the match were two in which Williams’s skirt blew up to reveal not her girly parts, but an artfully modest pair of flesh-colored shorts.

Advertisement

The Huffington Post notes that Williams’s little black number was her "most talked-about on-court apparel choice" since the abbreviated yellow-green dress she wore at the Australian Open in January. That yellow dress, like the transparent-seeming black one at the French Open, led some viewers to wonder whether Williams was wearing underwear. That this question was asked about a sports star of Williams’ stature seems bizarre. Of course she’s wearing underwear. She’s a professional athlete, people! In case anyone didn’t notice, Williams is interested in the dramatic potential of her on-court appearance.

She told the AP that her look at the French Open was "about illusion," and that she brings eight to 10 outfits to each tournament. At the Australian Open, Williams wore a flesh-colored bodysuit under her dress. Yet anxiety about her possible nakedness occasioned a faux investigation by sports blog Deadspin to determine whether she had revealed her "lower shame." "Venus almost does us a favor by refusing to cross her ankles like a lady," Deadspin writes, bringing to mind a certain Supreme Court nominee who also refuses to cross her ankles, "but is unwilling to completely aid in our investigation due to a well-played towel."

The "controversy" over whether Venus Williams was wearing underwear at the Australian Open is like the controversy over Lady Gaga's penis. Maybe Williams’ underwear wasn't visible from the stands, but it’s totally visible in photos from the match. So is her potential nudity really risque? Or is her willingness to play with our expectations of what a sportswoman should wear risque? The non-troversy over Williams’s nakedness is not unrelated to our recent conversation about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's habit of sitting with her legs "ajar." Why are we so anxious about what's between a prominent woman's legs and whether we can see it? The space between a woman’s legs is the screen on which our conception of modesty is projected. It matters! It makes us nervous! No one overworries male near-nudity this way.

Photograph of Venus Williams by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.