Serena Williams is one of the most successful and prominent athletes in the world. She has won 23 Grand Slam titles. However, when she was knocked out of the Australian Open in February this year by Naomi Osaka, there was speculation as to whether she would retire.

Following her defeat, coverage in the wake of the tournament made repeated references to Serena’s age and potential retirement. This was further fuelled by an emotional appearance at the post-match press conference, where Serena was pressed about plans to quit professional tennis

Contrasted with Osaka, 23 years old, young and vibrant, the tone of coverage 
immediately shifted to when Serena, 39, would hang up her racket. But why are these two very talented women being pitted against each other?

Naomi Osaka is a wonderful role model and a fantastic tennis player. With multiple wins, it is not hard to see why her public profile has risen. It is nice to see another woman of colour reach these heights. However her age should not be highlighted in the media as her key strength.

It is common knowledge in sports that, beyond 30, there are increased calls for players to quit and retire, so that younger alternatives can come into the limelight and brands have a media-friendly ambassador for years to come.

Of course, athletic performance changes over time. Players can lose a little pace, their reflexes slow down and their eyesight fades slightly. Injuries take longer to heal. But everybody’s body functions and works differently. Why are we so quick to give people a sell-by date, especially women?

Women are typically written off in their 30s. The reasons behind this are ridiculous. Our society’s obsession with celebrating young women has a devastating effect on the mentality and mental health of many of us. We often think that if we are not continuously achieving success at a young age we have failed. Even Serena Williams, a black woman who has broken down boundaries in her sport, being the best of the best is not enough. She must continuously be at the top, otherwise certain sporting pundits try to discard her like a spoiled carton of milk that has reached its expiry date.

At the start of the year, Ion Tiriac, a billionaire director of the Madrid Open made calls for Serena to retire. He told reporters: “At this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as she did 15 years ago … Serena was a sensational player. If she had a little decency, she would retire. From all points of view.”

For generations, women have been fighting for basic rights and liberties. We have had quite a journey in terms of equality, freedom of expression and socio-economic human rights. Even though we are still battling the unacceptable crime of discriminating someone on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation , there is still one form of discrimination that is practised so openly: Ageism.

It should not be acceptable to discriminate against someone because of their age. The sporting shelf-life may be a lot shorter than most careers, but ageism shows its ugly head, time and time again. It is seen so vividly in the media when sportspeople are pressured to retire. Especially tennis players who no longer fit the sexualised image of being young, attractive and charming women.
As a society, we must fight against this psychological form of discrimination. The first step is to speak about it. Women should not be forced to make themselves look younger. Age should be embraced for what it is, a sensational wonder of the life of a person. Every disparaging comment about a person’s age should be questioned. 

If we do not do this, we are dooming every single person to a lifetime of worry and shame. Forced to live in a society which is obsessed with youth, claiming older people bring nothing to the table. Where wisdom is not valued and talent is thrown away. Nothing good can come from ageism.

Temisan Atsegoh is an undergraduate student at the University of Glasgow. She is interested in youth leadership and representation issues. She is a member of the PassTheMic project