(Non)Toxic Masculinity

Naomi Osaka: When Enough is Enough

Robert Monson

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

By now, I am sure you have heard that Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open [Please take some time to research her full background before coming to strong opinions on her…some of the loudest voices have done the least amount of research]. Her name has appeared all over social media and various news publications for the past few weeks. Citing mental health struggles in relation to meeting with the press, Naomi was forthcoming with the organizers of the French Open about her life with depression and anxiety.

Well, apparently Osaka’s transparency wasn’t enough for them, and she was fined $15,000 for failing to meet the terms of her contract, which included appearing at press conferences. Osaka eventually withdrew from play altogether. 

She wrote a lengthy note detailing why she decided to withdraw from playing. Something that she wrote in her letter grabbed me. She said, “I never wanted to be a distraction, and my message could have been clearer.”

Here is a woman going through a mental health crisis and one of her first thoughts is to police herself, to apologize for taking up space, and to place the onus for clear communication on herself. 

Let us sit with that. Let us feel the demands of that. 

As the days have rolled on and the takes have rolled in from across the globe ranging from She has a job to do! to Maybe she was right, I think that the most painful part of it all is that Naomi’s voice and agency have gotten lost. People have made her personal stance larger than life. Suddenly, she bears the weight of everyone’s struggle with mind and work balance, toxic workplaces, when to say no…

Can we let her breathe?

Does she have to be all those things?

Can she just say enough is enough, and that be the end of the conversation for her “employer” and all who would try to commodify her message?

I struggle with a world that can’t see this woman Naomi beyond being a tennis player. I struggle with a world that reduces her to merely being young so that she is worthy of protection. I struggle with a world that needs her to be anything extraordinary to be deemed worthy of rest. 

Enough is enough whenever someone says it is.

Naomi decided at some point that no amount of money, contractual obligations, public pressure, or anything else could bind her to remain in that tennis competition. Even under the weight of global scrutiny, she rose up with the power of her agency, and she made a decision for her own good. It is alarming to see the ire that her decision has caused people who have the feeling that they endure all manner of ills so she should have to also. Rather than try to force Naomi to endure and “suck it up,” why don’t we dismantle a society that would demand inhuman strength and resilience from us?

Naomi Osaka doesn’t need us to interrogate how she chooses to spend her time. Instead, she deserves the ability to say “enough is enough” and to be believed.