As a ballerina, I’ve dealt with bleeding toes, messed up knees, and a dislocated ankle. For four years of varsity crew, my bands were ripped up and callused from the oars. In soccer I shoved and got shoved, slamming into hard-packed dirt on fields without enough funding to be fully covered with grass.
Female athletes have it rough. We get the same knocks as guys, but unfortunately, we sometimes need a façade.
We have to be “women” when we’re performing on the field. Since male behavior has been the public standard for so long, to mimic that would be considered acting like a man instead of acting like an athlete. It can be unlady-like.
The worst is that expectations for female athletes are that we shouldn’t worry about pursuing the highest level of performance. That can be everything from lack of support for women’s professional sports, to people (not just men) constantly being surprised by a woman’s athletic ability.
I can still remember the look of shock on the defenseman’s face when I challenged him during a co-ed soccer game.
We are even wanting for more female sports role models. When there is a great role model, often she’s amazing because of her individual talent, not her position in a team. Think of the Olympics, we remember Lindsey Vonn but do you remember the names of the US Women’s hockey starting lineup?
Is there a glass ceiling in women’s sports the same way there can be in business? We remember individual powerful businesswomen like Ivanka Trump, but less than 15% of global corporate executives are women. It’s about the individual and not the team. And after all this time, it’s still a surprise if women surface to the top.
The double standard comes into play on the field and in the boardroom. Think about it, a lot of the same assumptions apply: If you cry, you’re weak. If you get angry, you’re a bitch. If you’re tough, you’re a ball buster.
This is human behavior! Everyone cries, gets angry, and can be tough. The spectrum of behavior isn’t divided by gender.
We should want to play like humans. Playing “like a girl” has embraced girl power, but it brings that double-standard baggage to the table. If the approach is to play like a human, the expectations may change. You can be a woman, but don’t have to fake being an athlete. You can lead organizations without hiding who you are. Team Woman stops being about us vs. them.
We are all equals, and that’s what it should be about.