Jane Campion Apologises After Telling Venus And Serena Williams They ‘Do Not Play Against The Guys… Like I Have To’

The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion has apologised to Venus and Serena Williams after comments made in her Critics Choice Awards 'Best Director' acceptance speech attracted widespread backlash.
The 67-year-old New Zealand-born director had told the tennis star siblings — who were in the audience as executive producers of film King Richard — "you do not play against the guys... like I have to".
Gender inequality in Hollywood has been a longstanding issue. And while Campion's victory represents progress for female recognition in the arts, her comments reek of white privilege, ignoring intersectional challenges faced by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour).
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Campion said on Tuesday morning that she "made a thoughtless comment" and "did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women".
"I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved," Campion said in a statement. "I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes.
"The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimise remarkable women. I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologise and completely celebrate you."
Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Netflix
Venus Williams and Jane Campion at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards
In her original acceptance speech a day earlier, Campion said, "It's absolutely stunning to be here tonight amongst so many incredible women. Halle Berry, you have already done my speech and ... really killed it — I loved it, you're absolutely brilliant."
Then going on to address the Williams sisters, she said, "Venus and Serena, what an honour to be in the room with you.
"I've taken up tennis, I truly have and, Will [Smith] if you wanna come over and give me lessons ... I would truly love it. I actually had to stop playing because I've got tennis elbow.
"I'd also just like to give my love out to my fellow ... the guys ... the nominees [for best director]. And you know, Serena and Venus, you are such marvels, however, you do not play against the guys ... like I have to."
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Campion quickly came under fire on social media by the general public and other industry members, including British actor Jodie Turner-Smith who was in attendance at the Critics Choice awards.
Smith wrote on Twitter that "jane taking time out of her best director speech to tell two Black women that she is more oppressed than them is PEAK white feminism".
It's also important to remember that Campion's family has an established history of success in showbiz. She's the daughter of Richard M. Campion, a theatre and opera director, and Edith Campion, an actor and writer. They both founded the New Zealand Players theatre company.
After the ceremony, Venus Williams was spotted dancing with Jane Campion and this tweet says a lot.
The reality is that Black women, Indigenous women and women of colour hear these comments all the time. A high-profile incident like this is just a firm reminder of the work that white women still need to do in acknowledging their privilege. The below thread explains it perfectly. After all, there should be room for all women and gender-diverse people to thrive.
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