Instead of honoring a male figure for their Man of the Year issue, GQ chose to honor tennis star Serena Williams as Woman of the Year. Although they were attempting to try something new, the magazine evoked a wave of backlash for the Woman of the Year cover design, which featured the phrase “Woman” of the Year. Social media users have demanded to know why the magazine chose to put quotation marks around “woman.”
Next to a beautiful photo of Williams wearing a black bodysuit, doing a power pose with her hands on her hips, were the words Man of the Year. Using a felt marker-type font, GQ crossed out the word Man and wrote Woman above it and added unnecessary quotation marks around the word.
Often times, quotations marks are typically used when a word is questionable or sarcastic, and there is nothing questionable or sarcastic about Williams being a woman. Throughout her very successful tennis career, she has been criticized for her athletic build, which makes her appear stronger than many other women. For this reason, people have started rumors that Williams was born a man, but those rumors are untrue.
GQ did note that the handwriting on the cover of the magazine was that of Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s creative director, who designed Williams’ sportswear. Abloh is known for giving quotation marks to words that don’t really need them—“Shoelaces,” “Sculpture,” and “Website” are a few examples. According to High Snobiety, Abloh’s unorthodox use of quotations is a way to “take [words] out of context, and question their seriousness.”
So, essentially, Abloh’s quotation marks are a creative style choice to provoke thought in the viewer. However, questioning the seriousness of the word “woman” in this case is a bit insensitive, given Williams’ long battle with being misgendered.
This is, in fact, the second year in a row that GQ has honored a female in this issue of the magazine. Last year, they chose Gal Gadot as Woman of the Year. Eagle-eyed Twitter users have posted the covers side-by-side and pointed out the difference between the two—Gadot’s Woman of the Year title doesn’t have any quotations. Gadot’s headline also reads “Wonder Woman of the Year,” while Williams’ simply reads “The Champion.”
Williams has not yet commented on the cover.
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