Topic: Which sports seem acceptable for girls today?
We know playing sports is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, especially for girls:
1) Higher self-esteem
2) Better grades
3) Fewer eating disorders
4) Lower rates of teen pregnancy
5) Better physical health
6) Learning important life lessons, such as how to be on a team, how to lead, and how to set goals
Why is it, then, that there are still some sports that are considered socially acceptable for girls, and some that are not? Parents are often happy to put their girls in sports and physical activities that seem more feminine, like a dance class, gymnastics, soccer, or volleyball. However, more seemingly masculine sports like hockey, football, and rugby get far fewer girls signing up to play. Whether this is because parents assume girls do not want to be aggressive, or whether girls are taught from birth that they shouldn’t be aggressive, the fact is that girls are missing out on feeling certain kinds of physically powerful because of stereotypes.
Further, physical activities that focus on appearance instead of solely on what your body can do, can actually be more harmful than helpful to girls. A ballet class that teaches girls not to eat because someone might have to lift them over their heads, or a gymnastics class that forces girls to be as small as they can be, can lead right to eating disorders at alarmingly young ages. We love gymnastics and dance, and we also realize they need to be coached in a specifically empowering way in order to be beneficial.
Sports that do not focus on being skinny or looking good allow girls (and boys) to feel how powerful their bodies can be, which boosts their self-esteem. However, girls who choose to play traditionally masculine sports often seem to have to prove they are still feminine and can look good on and off the field. One early example of this trend is women playing professional baseball during WWII, and having to do it in skirts! Today we see female athletes being forced to wear bikinis to play beach volleyball, women wearing makeup while they play fastpitch softball, and the creation of disgusting things like the Lingerie Football League. A few girls, those pictured above, have done brilliantly in football! However, along with her invitation to the Super Bowl, Sam Gordon was presented with a designer dress to wear on Sunday. She said she hardly ever wears dresses, so why would anyone assume she’d want to be in dresses all the time, even at a football game!? Boys and men are not held to the same standard of needing to be conventionally attractive to be valued as athletes, and girls shouldn’t be held to that either!
Our hope is that girls are allowed to be themselves in whichever sports they choose, in whatever form they come. Girls who truly do love playing sports and wearing dresses should go right ahead! And girls who gravitate towards football and not wearing dresses should be valued just as they are, not forced to prove how well they can conform to the type of girl we are used to seeing. There are many, many different ways to be a girl!