Mental Health Issues Affect Everyone, So Why Are We Less Accommodating To Women and People of Colour?

The treatment of Naomi Osaka and Meghan Markle is disgusting and speaks to the grotesque nature of journalism, which allows middle aged white men, to act appallingly. And wider society isn’t any better.

Naomi Osaka via Wikimedia commons

hen Naomi Osaka initially said that she wasn’t going to do press at the French open, the usual daggers, came out, severely criticizing her decision. The organizers of the French open, doubled down and threatened her with expulsion. And given the formidable person that Naomi Osaka is, she withdrew altogether.

The statement that she put out, in the aftermath of her withdrawal, in light of the events of the last few days was extraordinary.

The best thing for the tournament and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps my social anxiety.”

Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media,” Osaka wrote. “I find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can. I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament.

Usually those who ask the questions at these press conferences, tend to more often than not, white middle aged males, who take great exception to anyone who doesn’t fit into their narrative, in terms of aesthetics or personality. This is evinced by examples given below.

A few years ago, A British Journalist by the name of John Inverdale got into quite a bit of trouble and rightly so, due to his profoundly sexist and psychologically abusive line of questioning, captured in the footage below.

Courtesy of Dailymailjdd and YouTube

We shouldn’t forget the footage of Serena Williams being impelled to explain the reasons for not wanting to ask questions. The reality for Venus, Serena's sister, is just as bad or even worse.

Video courtesy of Sports and YouTube

In an article in today’s Guardian’s newspaper, by the brilliant award winning Jonathan Liew, he points to his colleagues in the journalism business as being a huge part of the problem. In search of the next scoop, the next story, boundaries are crossed, with scant regard for the well being of their subject.

Mr. Liew gave the example of the sorts of questions being posed to prominent players:

Question: “I noticed you tweeted a picture. Are you prepared that if you go on a long run you may be held up as a sex symbol, given you’re very good looking?” (Genie Bouchard, Wimbledon 2013.) Question: “You’re a pin-up now, especially in England. Is that good? Do you enjoy that?” (A 17-year-old Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon 2004.)

These line of questioning is bound to have a deleterious effect on anyone’s self esteem, never mind, a high profile athlete, who is critically engaged in self-flagellating and self loathing after having lost a pulsating game of tennis.

Princess Diana and Meghan Markle.

Prince Harry’s mother back in the 1990s, gave an interview to the now discredited Martin Bashir, in which she spoke of her struggles with bulimia, depression and self mutilation. Back then she received scant support from the royal family and the hounding press and paparazzi did her absolutely no favours whatsoever, right until she took her very last breath.

Princess Diana Interview courtesy of Irene Van Laar and YouTube

Meghan Markle, her daughter in law, has also spoken candidly of her mental health struggles and of her suicidal thoughts. Despite this, we have had the likes of Piers Morgan, hounding and gaslighting her at every given opportunity on twitter and elsewhere.

Looking at the names and examples cited in previous paragraphs, what they have in common is that they are women and people of colour. It’s almost as though, these journalists, who are predominantly white males, take umbrage at women and people of colour for daring to speak their minds and refusing to play their silly games.

Even though the Williams sisters and Coco Gauff have been quite supportive in their comments, it is not at all surprising that their male counterparts have taken a contrary view of Naomi Osaka’s position on speaking to the press.

Several hundreds of millions across the world will have gone through bouts of depression, anxiety and a general sense of inadequacy during the pandemic, with jobs fast evaporating as nations were coming to terms with the economic consequences of shut down.

I wasn’t any different, from most, as I had lost my senior management job and would have fallen through the cracks, hadn’t it been for the psychological resources, at my disposal. I had written about this, a few months ago.

There’s an urgent need to re-calibrate how society treats people who dare to speak up about their mental health and insistent on doing things their way, especially those, who aren’t white, heterosexual males. We must do better, we can be so much better.

Thanks very much for reading.

A lifelong bibliophile, who seeks to unleash his energy on as many subjects as possible

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