Humxns of UCT: Emily Daries

What makes Her Campus UCT so special and unique from the other chapters is that our members, writers, and students are incredibly diverse. Each person has something beautiful and interesting about them – a story to share, a talent, or an outlook on life. We’d like to celebrate our diversity by zooming in on individual’s stories, speaking to them about what they’re most passionate about and letting them shine on our platform. Whether it be just for a chuckle or to actually share some wise words, we’d like to introduce a new series to Her Campus UCT: Humxns of UCT.

This Humxn of UCT is Emily Daries, a second year med student, and a pro at basketball. Curious about what her experience was playing what is normally a male-dominated sport and absolutely owning it, I interviewed Emily as she spoke to having to “earn respect” on the court, finding acceptance and solidarity in her sisterhood of womxn athletes, her views on men and womxn, and the breaking boundaries of gender norms. Emily’s unique views on binaries and gender norms have come through a lot of experience and hardships, as well as triumphs, and therefore, are incredibly interesting and worth a read.


What do you play, what position are you, and what team are you in? 

I am a shooting guard and play for the 1st team


Why basketball?

When I started high school none of the summer sports that I played initially were offered. I decided to try and play basketball with no knowledge about the sport and instantly fell in love with the game. My team and I always say that once the game has you it will never let you go.


What's your experience being a womxn playing what is usually seen as a male dominated sport? 

As a womxn playing sport you are always being compared to men. Your strength, ability, skill, speed and even your knowledge of the game is constantly being compared to that of men too. Whether you are playing or even reffing a game. I have experienced men not wanting to play with or against me (and my teammates) because we are womxn. Any man can step onto the basketball court and be invited to play whereas womxn have to “earn respect” first. I am, however, surrounded by really amazing athletes who play for the UCT men’s first team who treat us as athletes, uplift, and encourage us on and off the court as womxn.

How have you navigated this space and thrived in it despite obstacles and stereotypes? 

I think what we need to understand as womxn is that we are not men. We are not built the same and we don’t think the same so inevitably we don’t do things the same- and doing things differently does not mean that we are doing it wrong or inferiorly. I am a womxn, and I am an athlete representing my university like many men at UCT too. I embrace my womxnhood in all aspects of it. I’ve come to love the phrase “you play like a girl” because I do, and I do it really well. 


Tell us about the community and sisterhood with your fellow teammates?

My teammates are some of my best friends. I have never experienced that type of celebration of womxn before that experience within my team. I think the biggest motivation for me as a womxn basketball player is the love and motivation I get from my team. They inspire me with their strength every day and I’m honoured to call such beautiful womxn family.

Why is it important to see female basketball players? 

I think that it's important to show other womxn that they can challenge male-dominated sports and excel at it. 


You recently cut your hair quite short to what is usually considered a hairstyle for men. Have you had any backlash? 

The day I cut my hair I had people immediately questioning my sexuality. I got asked if I was lesbian or bisexual just based on the fact that my hair was cut short. 


What is your response to people who believe hair is essential to expressing womxnhood? What is your response to people who believe hair is symbolic of your sexuality? 

I would say to those people that basing womxnhood on something like hair would be a very narrow-minded and naive viewpoint to have. The characteristics that make you a womxn start from inside and have absolutely nothing to do with your physical appearance. The way I wear my hair is just the way I wear my hair. I want to encourage people to fight the structural norms of society that we’ve been bombarded with our whole lives, and rather develop a new fresh way of thinking. Learn more about people and learn who they are without you deciding for them.