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Serena Williams' GQ cover may have been myopic, but it wasn't deliberately malicious

“That’s the only “message” behind it.”

BACK IN 2003, GQ decided to include women in their annual Men of the Year list.

In this December’s edition of the publication, Michael B Jordan, Henry Golding and Jonah Hill are joined by Serena Williams.

The four honourees have had an individual cover dedicated to them, and Serena’s is currently at the centre of a social media storm.

And it all comes down to the use of quotation marks.

Accompanying Serena’s covershoot is the standard caption ‘Men Of The Year’ but in this instance, the word ‘men’ has been crossed out and replaced with the word ‘woman’ in inverted commas.

This particular aesthetic is the signature style of designer Virgil Abloh, who styled the cover, regularly features quotation marks in his work, and perhaps most importantly, has collaborated with Serena in the past, having designed her tutus for the U.S Open this year.

gq Source: GQMagazine/Twitter

However, given the fact that Serena has previously made reference to the frequency with which her feminism is brought into question in both mainstream and social media, it’s not surprising that the quotation marks caused some fans to draw breath.

Social media users have argued that a great number of readers may not be familiar with Abloh’s aesthetic, and will automatically assume that GQ has willingly fed into a problematic narrative that has surrounded the female athlete.

If that is indeed the case, then GQ certainly need a crash course in what it means to honour someone.

But let’s play devil’s advocate here; how likely is it that a publication will decide to denigrate an individual they have simultaneously chosen to celebrate?

How probable is it that a publication will openly disparage a person they have heralded among their people of the year?

And how realistic is it to assume they would slight a star on the very cover paying tribute to them?

Put simply, the move was myopic, not malicious.

Mick Rouse, Research Manager for GQ Magazine, has responded to criticism, by providing context for the cover.

It was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena’s US Open apparel that he designed). 

Elaborating on this, he added:

It quite literally has tags/quotations around it because that’s Virgil’s own style/branding, including in his partnership with Nike and Serena herself. That’s the only “message” behind it.

Context was important here; there’s absolutely no doubt about it.

But if providing context for the style was essential, considering the context of the cover was equally important.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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