Being good at something ‘for a girl’ is equal to that of a man.
Do you remember the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you? Something that validated you, and built your confidence? Something like, “You are exceptionally talented. You might be the fastest player I’ve ever seen, with so much potential …”
What is yours? Keep it in your mind. Now add this to it – “For a girl.”
This is one of the most patronising and degrading qualifiers. It deflates and negates whatever precedes it. And yet this is what we hear.
Sport is an integral part of Australian culture. But within our attitudes, there is a stigma for female athletes. Media coverage and focus differs greatly between women’s and men’s sports, and gender comes into play more often than seems necessary.
If you Google ‘female athletes’ one suggestion that appears near the top is ‘wardrobe malfunctions’. This is not where the focus should lie. Athleticism and skill make no such appearance.
If you click on images, an entire search section is committed to showing you the ‘ass-es’ of elite females in sport. Never mind that these women are showcasing the incredible capabilities of the human body, let’s see what they look like from behind.
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There are women who exceed all expectations in sport. There are women that, even when compared to men, are setting records previously unset. Ellyse Perry is a prime example of the differences between male and female athletic attitude. As one of the most amazing and versatile sports people to emerge from a new generation, Perry has shown unmatched talent in an elite level for two Australian sports. And yet, in attempting to find sponsorship, she has struggled.
I have played hockey since I was 14. I was quickly realised as a young talent in the sport, receiving awards for Junior Player of the Year, Best and Fairest (in both junior and senior competitions) and was consistently named as a representative for statewide competitions. I was met with congratulations of course, and recognition for my skills. I was also met with hostility and advice that was definitely not offered to my male counterparts.
“Be careful not to get too muscular.”
“How will you get a boyfriend if you play sport?”
“Why are you training with the boys?”
These are just a sample of the inconceivably inappropriate things I was told and asked. Some were innocent questions from mothers of other girls. Some were coaches’ advice to me. These are the things we are telling young women that excel at something sporty.
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I attribute a lot of the things I learnt to training among males, as it gave me skills other young girls didn’t possess. I was given the opportunity to be strong and fierce, quick and selfish, and tough. I would not have been given these things among other female teams, particularly as a teenager. Because they are not feminine traits.