I idealised my father.

It took me years to accept that his provocation one evening long ago lit a rebellion that I'd one day call feminist, though then it was blind fury.

I couldn't go with him and a male cousin to shoot rabbits, he said, laughing at me, because "You're a girl". The searing injustice of it meant I'd barely speak to my cousin for decades; it was easier to take it out on him than my dad.

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It's not that I wanted to kill animals. The issue was choice, that I couldn't even if I wanted to, that my world was becoming hemmed in with rules and expectations I had no say in, and which made no sense to me.

At school, I had to wear a hat and gloves if I ventured beyond the grounds, like a dumpy little middle-aged woman. I cried when I first saw the grey interlock knickers I'd be made to wear for the next five years of my life. Even my appearance had to meet expectations I had no say in; changing my hairstyle was unthinkable.

There was nothing so unique in any of this then, but the criticism of Serena Williams this past week brought it back. She may be the greatest female tennis player of all time, but a man – a nonentity in that scheme of things – could call her to task for not being, oh, feminine enough I guess.

For being furious, which men hate in a woman. For being big and scary, rather than meek and small. But not, of course, for being all of these things, plus black.

Top sportspeople are emotional. There's no gender in it. But seemingly there should be, because Williams smashed her own racquet, which cost her a point, because her coach was signalling to her, and because she called the umpire a thief for fining her.

I may have got this wrong, but it seemed strangely familiar, the pattern of a furious woman being wound up by a provocative male "in all innocence". I mastered this strategy myself, as a kid, with a teacher who loathed me. But at this level of sport Williams should be honoured, not given a succession of trivial penalties, and be cut some slack. If you want gods you've got to treat them right.

Remember Christine Rankin, her too-short skirts and her jiggly bosoms? She was publicly humiliated, losing her top job, because men were telling her what to wear and how to wear it. They were affronted that she chose her own self-image, yet I'm not aware that any man in public life here has been held publicly to account for his dumb jokey ties, for not wearing deodorant, for offensive shoes. Where would it end?

Williams returned to tennis in a black cat suit, modestly covering most of her post-baby body. This was controversial because nobody had done it before, not because it was unbecoming. French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli says this would no longer be acceptable, "You have to respect the game and the place."

A tennis great choosing her own costume should have asked the boys for an okay. Anyone else see a problem here?

And then, inevitably, there was that cartoon in a Brisbane paper; Queenslanders have a special relationship with native Australians and coloured people in general. Mark Knight, the cartoonist, published an equally offensive cartoon earlier this year of "African" teens fighting and causing destruction on a train platform.

Only they weren't Africans, but n-words, drawn as offensive racial stereotypes, as was Williams, an athlete whose body type and style must be too magnificent for comfort.

How that must rankle with weedy white men.