posted on May 27, 2021
“Good” Athlete, “Bad” Girl
Let me preface this blog by saying that I have been this same height and size since about middle school. I am a grown 22-year-old woman and I have had this same stature for about 10 years *cue bigfoot sighting*. Nope, just me. In all seriousness though, I am not absurdly tall, but for a middle schooler I was a giant. Trust me, the photos do not do it justice. My identity as both an athlete and a female were something I always found difficult to intertwine through my adolescence for a laundry list of reasons, but we will talk about just a few.
The main reason for this was because I have always been rather athletic and involved in sports one way or another. My whole identity was an athlete because I simply did not feel like a normal middle school girl by the standards of, well, basically everyone. Most of the sports I played required me to be exactly the opposite of what I wanted to be; big and strong. Sure, everyone wanted me to be on their team in gym class, but nobody wanted to take me to the school dance. I was gangly, awkward and had no idea how to dress myself. Hell, puberty is hard enough and now we throw in some insane height and a haircut that made me look like Billy Ray Cyrus when he had his mullet and you have yourself a hot mess. I was just dripping in swag to say the least.
The point of this blog is not to relive my peak moments in life, but to bring light to how I think a lot of young girls feel as athletes. When you are an athlete, you are told that it is good to be big and strong and dominating. However, that contradicts itself when you step off the court or field or any other modality for athletics. Somehow you are less of a girl; your femininity is non-existent. You are expected to be petite and soft spoken; you are expected to make yourself less than you are. Now, I am not saying that this was ever spoken word or a rule that society abides by. I am simply stating that girls are expected to be two different people, two different identities based off what society deems appropriate. Let me give you a little example. In middle school I started “dating” this boy who was one of my best friends. I put quotes around dating because, you know, young love. This other girl that was in our class was small, thin, blonde haired and blue eyed. She met every beauty standard and she was adored by everyone for no other reason than that. She just could not believe that he liked me over her. I overheard her talking about us once and she said, “Why is he with her? She is twice his size.” Well, maybe he liked me better because I don’t have the personality of a witch… just a thought.
I think it is extremely interesting how the majority of all of you, including myself, thought to yourself, “Wow, what a nasty girl”. But, we never stop to think about the fact that her acting like that is not entirely her fault. There are so many underlying societal factors that went into that one comment she made. So, because I am bigger than him, he isn’t allowed to find me attractive? Because you are smaller and thinner than I am, he should automatically pick you over me? It blows my mind how we nit pick every little thing people say about us, but neglect to look at what is causing them to say those things. They don’t just come up with it; it comes from what is drilled into them from an early age. As a middle school girl, she did not even give that comment a second thought in terms of gender norms and the mental impact that can have a young girl’s identity as a powerful athlete. All she cared about was that she didn’t get the boy and little miss sasquatch did. Sasquatches deserve loving too.
Back then, I had absolutely no idea who I was or who I was “supposed” to be. I was a great athlete who felt good until I stepped into the real world and I was not looked up to because of my height or strength. I mean I was literally looked up to, but you get the point. A “good” athlete, but a “bad” girl. Somehow, these go hand in hand. You can’t be good at both, you must pick one or the other. As I grew into myself, I slowly began to realize that I do not need to hide the fact that I am big and strong. I will take big and strong over small and frail any day of the week. A lot of girls hold back from their full potential in athletics or strength because of this constant gap between what is expected in athletics versus real life. I know because I was one of those girls. I tried so hard to fit in until I realized that being myself and owning the only body I am ever going get is where I found my true identity. All that matters is treating my body with the respect that it deserves because it has gotten me through so much, including my glory days that we strolled through together. Being cute and girly is overrated when you can be undeniably you and feel so much more powerful doing so. Own it and never feel bad about being a big, strong badass. Me and your body love you way more for being the best form of yourself and working hard to find your own identity. Try it out, see what happens.