We’ve All Got Our McEnroe
In case you missed it, John McEnroe recently mouthed off about Serena Williams, belittling her by suggesting she’d rank 700 if she played men’s tennis. Uproar ensued, and McEnroe expressed his regrets.
Today he opened his mouth yet again and claimed that now, at age 58, he’d be ranked in the top 500 of women tennis players.
This is where I get all Dr. Evil on McEnroe. Zip it. Zip. It.
No matter how successful a woman is, she will encounter her McEnroes. There’s always some idiot who wants to cut you down, to minimize your accomplishments.
So how to deal? I think first, we have to consider responding to our detractors, and we should think about ways to do it with style.
Serena demonstrated it well. She tweeted: “I’ve never played anyone ranked “there” nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy, as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”
It doesn’t hurt to remind your male detractor that you’re going about the business of producing a new life.
Amplify Our Voice
Once we find our voice, we need to amplify it, but we can’t do this alone.
I love the story of the White House staff women who decided to support each other in meetings when they were getting interrupted.
When one woman spoke up, the other women repeated her idea, validating it and also reiterating her contribution. It became tough for men to dismiss or take credit for these ideas. They went for strength in numbers.
The body positive movement has gained so much ground in recent years, and it’s been great for women, but I wish something similar was going on with our careers. Just as any woman any size should feel beautiful in her own skin, workers who do an honest days work should be able to take pride in their accomplishments.
Women tennis players play tennis differently than men. So what? That doesn’t minimize the consistent success, the amazing power of Serena’s career.
A lot of us, men and women both, have imperfect career paths. We’ve changed jobs, we’ve made decisions that we’ve regretted, or we took a break to focus on other parts of life. So what? Our careers are as unique as we are, but so often we’re judged harshly for any deviation from the straight path to the top of a career.
To really defend ourselves against the McEnroes, we should look at ways to accept our careers as they are. We should be on alert for shaming targeted at us just because our work isn’t someone’s idea of success. We have the right to define our own success.
Honest work matters. It’s time we acknowledge that for ourselves. No one’s career is perfect, but even if it is, even if we’re a rock star like Serena, there will always be someone judging us harshly. We can work on being more comfortable in our own career so that petty comments like McEnroe’s roll right off us. And we can work on amplifying each others value.
Rock on, Serena. And McEnroe? Good day, sir.