By Allie Morrison, Editorial Intern

For generations, cultural norms have put men and women into boxes. Women could only be sweet and submissive, while men were raised to be strong and demanding. But now, for girls of my generation, things are changing. We have many female role models who are strong, tough, assertive, and they show us how to be the same. They show us that we do not have to give up our femininity to be the kinds of women who excel at sports. This year was full of women reaching feats previously unheard of, such as Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to head coach in the NBA summer league (and win the championship) and Breanna Stewart winning her 3rd national championship with UConn. Women like Hammon and Stewart are redefining toughness.

“She should not feel guilty for watching a sport she loves, but the sport itself should not have a sexist connotation.”

In an article published by ESPNW, “A Feminist’s Internal Conflict of Watching, and Loving, Football,” Katie Barnes discusses the struggle that feminists go through when watching sports that are meant for men. Barnes expresses a moral crisis with enjoying a sport where the athletes seem to be constantly disrespecting and abusing women. She says, “Distilled to its essence, masculinity in football is strength, toughness, and not anything our culture typically associates with femininity, such as weakness.” Culturally, we tend to see women as the weaker sex, forever bending to men by being submissive and unassertive. Women are expected to fit society’s image of beauty and give in to social expectations that perceive us as fragile and inferior. Barnes closes by expressing that she should not feel guilty for watching a sport she loves, but the sport itself should not have a sexist connotation.

Many women athletes are stepping up to lead the way to new ideas about femininity. Women like Serena Williams, who recently became the first solo woman to be named Sports Illustrated Sports Person of the Year, are showing that women with muscles and an unrelenting determination are beautiful too. “Fearless #strongisbeautiful Just do it,” she wrote on an Instagram post of her doing perfect splits between two rings. Serena is one of many women who are showing us that being athletic and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. Women athletes are teaching young women that their toughness and their work ethic can be part of what makes them beautiful. Resilience, grit, and strength are beauty themselves. In 16 Reebok Women Share What #TOUGHISBEAUTIFUL Means to Them, women share how they use the gym as a safe place to express their inner exquisiteness, using the phrase #TOUGHISBEAUTIFUL:

“That phrase is about somebody who can overcome anything, somebody who can grit their teeth and get through something – that’s tough, that’s strength. It’s about fighting through adversity and fighting to get better, because putting in max effort is so beautiful.” – Becca Voigt

Becca Voigt, cross-fit games
Becca Voigt, Reebok athlete & CrossFit games competitor

As a young athlete with lofty aspirations, I feel empowered to do great things, and to conquer any challenges that I might face. After all, as President Obama expressed earlier this year, in praise of the World Champion, U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, “Playing like a girl means you’re a badass.”

Toughness is not a male trait; it has no gender. Toughness, grit, work ethic, and strength are mine to own, as a young woman, and for others to own for themselves. When girls approach that moment in the game when it is time to grind it out, where all the conditioning and strength-training come in, or when they are trusted to take that last shot when they have not been shooting well… Girls can prevail in that moment. Over and over again.

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Each month, one of our high school interns will research and gather articles written by or about women’s sports. Our mission is to spread awareness of women’s voices in the sporting field, to help tell the stories of our community, and to inspire her own understanding and voice. Check out our Sports Round Up series.