“In wrestling, girls have an advantage. The guys think less of you until you are face-to-face with them!”
– Rachel, age 11, quoted in Strong is the New Pretty.
That’s quite the quote, isn’t it? The longer I look at it the more complex it becomes. On the surface, it makes me happy. This young woman accepts that people can be dumb and that the world can be sexist, and she’s going to use that to her advantage.
Rachel is not oppressed by the guys who think less of her, instead she’s able to build strength from their ignorance.
On the other hand, that sort of deep prejudice, the sexism that would lead a boy to “think less of” a girl, that doesn’t make me happy.
But clearly, Rachel has other people in her life who know that women and girls can be formidable athletes. And that is something to rejoice in. In fact, I just got a message from Kate T. Parker saying, “Rachel is not related to me, but her mom and dad are awesome athletes.” My guess is that Rachel’s dad is not one of the “guys” who “thinks less of” her. In fact, he is likely sending her the other message. The correct one. The one that tells her that if she is passionate about wrestling and trains hard/smart she will excel, even after the boys have had their growth-spurts.
This seems like a sexism-crushing-trifecta, doesn’t it?
- A young woman with insight, grit and character.
- A mother who also excels and provides a role model of a woman who is not limited by gender stereotypes.
- A father who is aware and supportive.
I guess, our hope is that Rachel continues to be around people who reaffirm her knowledge that she is capable of using her struggles to make her stronger and who love her for who she is.
Our other hope is that sexist prejudices continue to be crushed. It would be much better to be respected and to be able to respect others, than to be disrespected and use the ignorance of others against them.
As a father myself, this all reminds me that it’s my job as dad to teach my son that ‘throwing like a girl’ isn’t always a bad thing.
Unless you, my boy, are the thing she’s throwing.