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Jane Campion apologizes for comments made about Venus and Serena Williams

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Director and writer Jane Campion attends the screening and talk for Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog” at BFI Southbank on March 01, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Director and writer Jane Campion attends the screening and talk for Netflix's The Power of the Dog at BFI Southbank on March 1 in London, England.

Director Jane Campion has apologized to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams for her "thoughtless" remarks about the pair during a Sunday evening acceptance speech at the Critics' Choice Awards.

Campion, a white woman from New Zealand, was accepting the award for Best Director for her film The Power of the Dog when she made the comments.

In her speech, Campion — the only woman nominated in the category — praised the Williams sisters as "marvels" in their craft, but implied that the two Black women did not face the same battles in gender equality as women in film.

"Serena and Venus, you are such marvels. However, you don't play against the guys, like I have to," Campion said with a laugh.

Her remarks were met with swift backlash on social media, where commenters pointed out the years of racism and sexism the Williams sisters faced in their careers.

Others noted a degree of tone-deafness — the idea that a white woman from a socially privileged background had somehow had a more difficult route to success than the two Black tennis powerhouses — which some described as perfectly emblematic of white feminism.

"I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved. I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world class athletes," Campion said on Monday in a statement, according to media reports. "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 minimize remarkable women."

Campion's film, The Power of the Dog, has been praised by critics. The film is an examination of queer people in the American West and has sparked conversations about the history of gay cowboys and toxic masculinity.

The film had 10 nominations at Sunday night's award show, winning four, including Campion's Best Director trophy. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.