Director Jane Campion faces backlash for ‘disrespectful’ remark about Serena and Venus Williams

Film director Jane Campion is drawing criticism on social media for a remark she made about Serena and Venus Williams at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards on Sunday.

The New Zealand filmmaker was accepting the award for Best Director for her film “The Power of the Dog” when she made reference to the Williams sisters, who were in attendance for their involvement in the film “King Richard” — a film featuring Will Smith who plays Richard Williams, their father.

“Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels,” Campion said. “However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”

Campion’s comments were warmly received by the audience at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. However, the reaction on social media struck a different chord, with many saying it diminished the accomplishments Serena (23 Grand Slam singles titles) and Venus (7 Grand Slam titles) have achieved in the sport.

Together, the Williams sisters have 14 Grand Slam Women’s double titles.

“There was no need to disrespect and diminish Serena and Venus Williams,” tweeted journalist Stephanie Guerilus. “Is the ‘win’ better because Black women didn’t get it?”

Sports writer Tamryn Spruill highlighted the fact that the Williams sisters faced many forms of discrimination on their journey to becoming some of the most accomplished athletes in tennis history.

“From the moment Serena and Venus turned pro, they had to fight against anti-Black racism and misogyny (misogynoir),” she wrote on Twitter. Complaints about their hair and clothes, abuse from fans, mockery from opponents.

Others felt that the comment was particularly unfair coming from a white director who occupies in a privileged space within the film industry.

Feminist writer Roxane Gay also chimed in on Twitter:

Campion has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for the Best Director, and is the first female filmmaker to receive the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes. Her films of hers include “The Piano” (1993), “Holy Smoke” (1998) and “Bright Star” (2009).

Here’s how others reacted to the moment:


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