Kerri Walsh Jennings isn't only a champion Olympic volleyball player—she's also a champion troll-slayer. On Sunday, she struck down sexism on Twitter with the precision of an ace.
First came the tweet from a Twitter user named James Carroll who wrote (and has since deleted), “Why has NBC decided that beach volleyball is fascinating? I’ve seen enough of Kerri Walsh’s side boob. Scantily clad=big ratings? Please.”
Shortly thereafter, Walsh Jennings took it upon herself to reply:
The fact that women’s beach volleyball players sometimes choose to compete in bikinis garners conversation every freaking summer Olympics—as does the necessary reminder that the uniform guidelines for the sport offer a range of options, and players can choose to compete in whichever they feel most comfortable.
Walsh Jennings has competed in both bikinis and long sleeves both in Rio and in many Olympics past—and Doaa Elghobashy, a practicing Muslim and member of Egypt’s women’s beach volleyball Olympic team, drew significant attention this year for competing in leggings, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hijab.
But the tweet directed at Walsh Jennings, a 38-year-old with three Olympic gold medals and three young children, highlights more than just annoyingly routine commentary about female athletes' apparel. The tweet discussing Walsh Jennings’ “side boob” highlights an infuriating paradox women face regularly in dealing with casual sexism: First we are objectified and defined by our body parts—then we are diminished by the objectifiers, faulted for possessing bodies to begin with. What do Walsh Jennings' breasts have to do with her achievements?
Which is why her reply is so great. She doesn’t engage—she just shuts it all down, reminding fans that the awe we feel watching athletes achieve the impossible has nothing to do with side boob and everything to do with respect for what hard work can achieve.
Jen Gerson Uffalussy is a regular contributor to Fusion. She also writes about reproductive and sexual health/policy for Glamour, and television for The Guardian. She lives in Atlanta.