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Once again, it would appear the internet flew off the handle before it had all the information about something. Surprise, surprise. This time, the target of the fire and fury was GQ magazine for its Men of the Year issue. The men’s magazine defied norms and included Serena Williams in the issue, lauding her as Woman of the Year. That wasn’t the problem. The point of contention was the four tiny lines around the word “woman.”

Upon first glance with no context, yes, putting “woman” in quotation marks is a pretty suspect move. What is that supposed to mean? That she’s not a real woman? Or is it an improper use of quotation marks for emphasis like various places have been known to do? Regardless of the reason, people were instantly outraged on behalf of their tennis hero. Hasn’t Serena been through enough this year?

If you look at the fine print on the Serena cover, the reasoning behind the quotation marks becomes clear: it’s not supposed to be an attack on her womanhood, it’s a reference to designer Virgil Abloh and his “Queen” collection which Serena famously wore after she was forbidden from wearing her black full-body catsuit by French tennis officials. The Off-White designer uses quotation marks in the naming of his designs and often on his pieces, including Serena’s lavender US Open outfit which read both “LOGO” and “SERENA.”

Serena Williams US Open
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Mick Rouse of GQ explained as much in response to the backlash, pointing out that the word “WOMAN” on the cover was actually written by Abloh himself. He added that there was no ulterior “message” to the stylistic choice.

While that explanation satisfied some people, others pointed out that the connotations can’t be ignored, especially with the career-long struggles Serena and sister Venus have had with their womanhood being called into question, often with racist under- (or over-) tones. Perhaps the intentions with the quotation marks were not malicious and were even meant to be progressive, but there is just too much history there to make it appropriate.

Looks like we have yet another internet controversy that can’t be easily settled in 280 characters.