Like a Girl: The Pride In Being a Female Athlete

Like a Girl 1

Like a Girl: The Pride In Being a Female Athlete

“Back of the line,” the scruffy-headed blonde boy barks at you, shoving you away from the lane with a sharp elbow to the ribcage and a harmony of laughter. It’s time for swim practice, which means it’s time to pick a lane to swim in. You look down at your freshly painted toenails, and your heart sinks with every male swimmer that jumps in line ahead of you. 

“We’re starting with 6x50s kick,” your swim coach chirps with a flashy white grin. He twirls his stopwatch around his wrist and waves to a lanky boy about to jump into the lane next to you. While you swim, you try to recall the last time your coach even looked at you, when your thought process is interrupted by a pounding foot in your face. You carefully touch the feet of the guy in front of you, letting him know that you need to pass him.

“Can I go?” You ask him once you both touch the wall. He laughs, pats your shoulder, and pushes off the wall in his original spot. 

Women in a Man’s World

Being a girl is hard. Being an athlete is hard. Life as a female athlete is the hardest of them all, combining the impossible standards of a girl in modern-day society with the belittlement of girls in sports. The world of athletics looks down upon us, especially in swimming. Here is a list of reasons why female athletes are empowering and, honestly, super freaking cool. 

We Break the Rules

Think about the way society views women, just for one moment. Too often, words like “weak,” “fragile” and “soft” come to mind. We ought to be interested in the arts, right? Cooking, maybe? Wrong. Female athletes break all of those expectations, all with a clever little grin on our faces. 

In 2015, Always unveiled a groundbreaking feminist advertisement in a Super Bowl commericial. The company interviewed strangers, inquiring what the phrase, “like a girl,” meant to them. The question was asked to a group of adults, and then to a group of little girls. The experiment demonstrated that these stereotypes of women being “weak” or “soft” are taught and learned as we grow up, as the group of little girls demonstrated knowledge of girls being strong and capable, which contradicts society’s stereotypes. 

Female athletes are powerful. We are living, breathing controversies in all the best ways. Doing something “like a girl” should contain no implications of weakness.

We are Strong

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Photo Courtesy: Todd Montgomery

Growing up in a female body is an everyday struggle. There’s constant depictions of unattainable beauty standards thrown in our faces every day, in the form of advertisements and photoshopped Instagram posts. These images in the media are difficult for young girls to compare themselves to.

Female athletes get the short end of the stick in this battle. As an athlete, it is important to fuel your body properly in order to perform to your best ability. That requires immense amounts of carbohydrates and protein. Not to mention the countless hours in the weight room, only to find yourself with massive triceps that barely fit into your prom dress. It’s incredibly difficult for female athletes to digest impossible beauty standards in the media, especially when we look in the mirror and see our broad swimmer shoulders. 

But these shoulders get us places. They allow us to swim mile upon mile. These shoulders enable us to touch the wall, look up at the board, and see that time we’ve been aching for. It is a simple body part, but they make chasing our dreams possible, no matter what it takes. We are strong, and strong is beautiful.

We are Tough

The social stigma around female sports and the comparison with male sports is gruesome. Men are more masculine making them “more fit for sports,” according to popular stereotypes. Because of this, male sports receive significantly more attention, creating a lack of respect for women in sports. Women just aren’t tough enough.

In fact, seven out of 10 girls feel as if they don’t belong in sports. 

 Every day, we contradict this concept. Plenty of women have found great successes in athletics; Katie Ledecky, for example. Women may not be physically as strong or as muscular as men, but we demonstrate our toughness in other ways. Female athletes are fit for sports. We are athletes.

We are Confident

The confidence we find through sports is infinitely rewarding; the everyday grind, the struggle, the fight for greatness. It’s always worth it. The mental battle against the world telling us we can’t do it, and doing it anyway. Females experience an immense confidence plummet during puberty. Teenage years are difficult, especially for growing women. During such a vulnerable time, it’s difficult to maintain high levels of confidence.

However, the female athlete community is inspiring. 70% of young girls believe they would be more confident if they engaged in sports. Athletics is where women belong, because women are powerful. Life is hard, but sports help us make a name for ourselves. They help us find that confidence that is so often lost as we grow up. 

We Aren’t Afraid to Fail

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Photo Courtesy: Todd Montgomery

85% of women have proven that, after participating in sports, they are more likely to keep trying after experiencing failure. Societal pressure to be perfect is extremely demanding and unforgiving, especially for women. The ideal woman has no flaws, and this is intimidating for young girls. Sports give us the upper hand. It’s almost like we’ve been given a superpower; even if we do fail, we learn our lessons and we get back up. We fight back even harder.

Failure is inevitable in sports. Nobody has a perfect track record, even the best of the best athletes. Falling down is how we learn, grow, and improve. Women feel the pressure to maintain perfection, but sports teach us to find comfort in our failures.

Falling down is only a failure if you don’t get back up again. Female athletes know how to get back up again.

We are Female Athletes

And we won’t apologize for it. 

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Tim Teachey

    Wow wow. Wow what an article. You have definitely decided on the right career. We are so very proud of you, beautiful, smart, talented in the pool and out just like your peepaw. Love you , peepaw

  2. avatar
    Edward McNett

    Hello Kristen,
    I love this article. It’s clear, convincing, and powerful! I knew you’d go on to do big things, and it’s looks like you’re already there–while inspiring others to follow. Most Impressive!

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