Social media and the politics of gender, race and identity: The case of Serena Williams

Chelsea Litchfield, Emma J Kavanagh, Jaquelyn Osborne, Ian Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates issues of gender, race and identity, as enacted through social media, focusing on the abuse experienced by tennis player Serena Williams during the 2015 Wimbledon Championships. A netnographic analysis of discriminatory or abusive comments relating to Williams were collected from 24 sites on two social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter. These platforms are popular sites commonly used for fan/athlete interaction. Williams identifies as female and African American, therefore inter-sectionality is adopted to examine the representation of Williams in social media spaces. Several pertinent themes were uncovered relating to Williams including 'Gender questioning', 'Accusations of performance enhancing drugs use' and 'Racism'. Such themes showed a simultaneous overlapping of multiple forms of oppression encountered by Williams, reinforcing the notion of the black female athlete as 'other' in virtual spaces. Such oppression is perpetuated by the online environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-170
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal for Sport and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2018

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