Female Representation Frustration
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Today I’m going to start by taking things back to about….20 year ago. The year was 1999, and I was a female in the thick of a new and budding romance with my sport. Yes, in 1999 women have all sorts of amazing rights and freedoms allotted to them. Yet, there's still a sense of something missing. There's still a glass boundary that held us back from having access to things that we didn’t even know we were allowed to want. I didn’t know that’s what I felt at the time, but as I understand the current climate of female representation in gym settings, I realize I’ve always felt this glass boundary holding me away from accessing my highest female potential.
My experience with sports is not unique to me or my personality. I intend to share some of my story to display how things have changed, and how much more change we still have to make in order to create equal opportunities for women, specifically in athletics. So every person can feel access to sports and athletic development, and chose to want it or not.
I also share my story so that other women out there can relate or open their eyes to new feminine possibilities that may not have been accessible to them previously.
I consider myself lucky to have a father who encouraged me to play sports many times over. My dad encouraged me to try out for my high school’s new girls water polo, where previously there was not a girls team. Before that, girls only had access to water polo through a boys team. I was part of pioneering those first few seasons of a girls water polo team that has now led to a CIF winning team 20 years later.
The encouragement to play sports was all well and good, but ended when I verbalized my desire to play football. My dad gave a hard no to that one. I settled to try out wrestling, and although he didn’t like it, he allowed it. Ever since I started playing sports I had this chip on my shoulder to do everything that guys could do but better. I blame it on having brothers. It was like working alongside women was not enough. I was the first girl to scrimmage with the boys team. I was always striving to beat guys at their own game. It’s like they had an unfair physical advantage just by being a guy, and I just wanted to prove I could be better without the advantage. Sometimes I was successful. Most of the time I wasn’t.
I had always had male coaches, brothers, an encouraging dad, to set examples about sportsmanship and athletic development. That’s all I had to model myself into. I had some amazing female peers on my water polo team, but something that really lacked in my sport and in my era was strong, athletic, female role models. When I played sports, I tried so hard to play sports like my male role models. And they tried their best to teach us sports from a male perspective. Something always felt off for me, or missing in some way.
Fast forward 20 years to recent times. Six years ago I started CrossFit and had another chance to be an athlete and I latched onto it. I became a coach, and it has now become my career and life’s purpose. In the last 6 years I have been in gyms where I’m the only female coach. I have sat in multiple water polo coaching councils where I’m the only female in the room. I have walked into gyms as a patron where either the male to female ratio has a very wide gap, or I am literally the only female in the room. It has me looking around my life saying, where are the other ladies that want to lift?
It’s taken me a long time to accept this next fact, but it’s finally sunk all the way in….
I’M NOT A MALE!
That fact is probably obvious to others around me, but it has taken a long time for me to accept that I am not a man. Therefore, I do not have to do things the way men do. I do not have to beat them on their own turf. I do not have to change the way I want to do things in order to do it the way they want to do things. It’s not even about “beating” them. It’s about realizing I’m on different turf. Not good. Not bad. Not better. Not worse. Different. Instead of continuing to try to make it in a man’s world, I have finally accepted that I want to make it in a woman's world.
As I look around the women’s world, there's a lot of gaps and holes and as a result, sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into the women’s world either. Even as a young athlete discovering myself, I realize I’ve always felt that way. I always felt like there wasn’t a space for me in the women's world or the men’s world. So, I’m here to roll up my sleeves and work on contributing to the women’s world and breaking some of the glass boundaries to create a space for myself and others who may feel the same.
I want to be strong and aggressive, but not bitchy or mean. I want to have a strong opinion, and be inclusive of other’s ideas even if I don’t agree. I want to lift heavy shit, and I want to zen out with yoga. I want to love babies, but not feel like I have to have one to be a “real woman”. I want to help those around me, and not feel guilty for enforcing strong boundaries. I want to speak my mind without having to apologize. I want to be a leader and a strong female role model, but I’m also not going to hide when I cry and struggle. I’m going to be badass, and I’m going to suffer with mental health. Most importantly, I want there to be so many forms of athletic development available to the next generation that they are overwhelmed by their options.
If there are women out there that feel the way I feel, I want to meet you, I want to talk with you, I want to lift heavy shit with you, I want to change the world with you.
My 16 year old niece (who played co-ed flag football this year!) told me the other day that her female soccer coach took them into the weight room where she was bench pressing with a barbell. I shed a little tear to myself at what a beautiful opportunity that was for her. I wish that I had had that same opportunity at her age. I wish all the time that I had found barbell lifting at a younger age, because I love it so much. I can’t go back and change the past, but I can do my part to change the future for other women. I’m so grateful for other women who are doing this work with me, even if I don’t know them. There are so many more individuals and organizations out there working on this exact thing. I hope in your own way, you’re doing the same.
There’s one thing I know about women; we thrive so much better when we work together in a community. My life’s dream is to be surrounded with an uplifting, strong, female community in and out of a gym, and to create new and lasting athletic opportunities for the next generations to come.
I hope to see you all in the gym,