Growing up, I loved playing soccer and wanted to prove to all the boys at recess that I was just as good as them. I would get told every single day that I couldn’t play with them because I was a girl and I wasn’t as fast or as strong as them. And being the feisty and determined Greek girl I am, I willingly accepted that challenge.
In order to prove myself, I needed to dress and act the part before the boys would even think of taking me seriously. This meant trading my Justice t-shirts for Nike, exclusively wearing my hair in a ponytail and definitely not liking the color pink.
For years I believed I had to act and dress in the least feminine way possible so I would look like an athlete and like I was capable of “being one of the boys” on the playground. I really liked the color pink but felt it was too girly and didn’t suit me as this “star athlete” I was trying to turn myself into.
In high school, the girls and boys soccer teams were compared all the time, and I felt an even stronger compulsion to have “athlete” as my only personality trait. So, when it came time for graduation and my soccer career to come to an end, I had no idea who I was without soccer. Despite the fact that I didn’t have to prove myself on a team, I was still trying to prove myself and work 10 times harder to get half as far.
This might seem like a weird thought process and like I was being dramatic, but this idea of girls having to prove themselves and act a certain way so they can be taken seriously was the reality for myself and countless other women who have had this experience in many different settings.
The more important issue at hand here is that girls are constantly put in a position where they need to prove themselves or hide who they are in order for boys/men to take them seriously.
It’s honestly so weird to reflect on why I never liked pink before because in elementary school, I just thought I was trying to be as sporty as possible so I would look the part. But then that thought process kept continuing and it turned into me being scared to express other parts of myself for fear of losing that athletic part of myself and not being taken seriously anymore.
I’ve bounced this idea off of some of my friends who were also athletes and they agreed with me and felt as if being a female athlete and proving ourselves came hand in hand. This also goes to show that how female athletes are portrayed in the media does have an effect on younger generations and governs social interactions.
Unfortunately, myself and millions of other girls have had to grapple with the weight of being told they couldn’t do things because they were a girl and had to learn how to navigate obstacles that shouldn’t have been put in front of them in the first place.
If I could travel back in time I would tell myself to keep wearing whatever I wanted, always hold my dreams close and keep pushing those boys around on the playground.