I am a fervent tennis follower in all its forms. I both play and watch tennis. That is, perhaps, why this story caught my eye. As I’ve written before, I am also a survivor of sexual assault, so these #metoo stories are personal.
On Nov. 2, Peng Shuai, a member of the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), charged a high-ranking Chinese official with sexual assault via social media. Her post was taken down in under 30 minutes and for 2 weeks she was not heard from at all by any independent person. An uproar ensued with major tennis stars speaking out including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic. Peng, a 3-time Olympian herself, has been ranked as high as #1 in doubles and #14 in singles.
Could this be the case where there might actually be consequences for silencing a woman who has credibly charged abuse? It appears, at least for now, that the WTA is doing the right thing. After some initial dithering, the WTA is, as of this writing, standing strong saying they will withdraw tournaments from China until there is a satisfactory resolution to this situation. This is a billion-dollar industry with 11 tournaments scheduled to take place in China yearly. In other words, its a big deal.
To add to the international attention and complications, the Beijing Olympics take place in 3 short months, beginning on February 4. At this point, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has only put out some anemic statements and was party to a video conference call with Peng that was tightly controlled. That call is not allaying concerns for those who work internationally in this field.
In the past, money interests have won out over standing on principle time and time again. While the WTA is saying they are willing to sever relations and take the financial hit, that might not be so easy. The WTA has financial partners who may not feel the same way. These include Porsche, Volkswagen and SAP, a German software company. They have not commented as of this writing.
Institutional racism and institutional misogyny are all of a continuum where monied interests are always looking to consolidate power. If people get killed, abused, hurt in the resulting maelstrom of chaos and anger it is not even seen as collateral damage. It is part of the equation.
We recently saw this in the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. There is a portion of the population that felt the victims in this case had it coming. During the trial, the prosecutors couldn’t call those who were murdered “victims,” but they could be called “rioters” and looters.” In other words, in certain eyes they were acting against the monied interests. If you remember, Rittenhouse originally claimed he was in Kenosha to protect a car business and, for that, he was welcomed warmly by police.
We have fought wars in this country over who would gain the financial spoils over other people’s labor. We have a court system that places financial and business interests over that of workers. In fact, according to the Supreme Court, the US Constitution is a document that protects business interests. There was a case involving the company Amazon in 2014. It involved workers who sued because they couldn’t leave the warehouses immediately when their shifts were up. Company policy was that they had to be searched. They were not paid for the time it took even as the process regularly took extended periods of time. The workers sued to be paid for this extra time because it was a workplace requirement. Their lawsuit went up to the Supreme Court in a case titled Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. The Court not only sided with Amazon, but it was a unanimous decision (meaning that all the so-called liberal judges concurred). Amazon didn’t have to pay its workers because it was not considered productive work time.
Colin Kaepernick, by all accounts an outstanding athlete, was never allowed to play professional football again, after he challenged the system by kneeling for racial justice and police reform. And now we have Peng Shuai challenging the system from a completely different angle. But will the outcome be any different?
How this situation develops will let us know if we’ve made any strides at all. This is a fast-changing story but the quality of independent verification of Peng’s safety, if there is any adjudication of her case, as well as the choices made by those in power will tell an important tale.
I will close with Peng Shuai’s own words. It is from a screenshot of that post of hers which had been removed so quickly. It is at once heartbreaking and courageous beyond measure. It deserves a wide audience:
“I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you’ve said that you’re not afraid. But even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.”
BIO: Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a Shaman, When Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods.