It is difficult to be a female in settings that are predominately male. For me this is most evident when I play soccer. At a young age I played soccer on all-girls teams and only when I hit middle school did I first play with boys. I remember loving it because of all the giddy hormones running through my body. I had such a crush on one of my teammates and any excuse to hang out with him and pile up together in our small sports bus for games meant that soccer had a whole new incentive. I remember in gym class also being really excited when the soccer unit began because I actually knew how to play and was one of the only girls in my class who did. I enjoyed showing my skills and going against the boys and being all tough. In my head that made me more attractive and less like a “girly girl”. It’s such a tragedy really that at that time in my life I saw being a girl as a negative thing.
When I first moved out to southern California, I was desperate to make friends and continue playing soccer, so I looked online for local pick up games. I quickly found several meetups in the area and became a regular player. At my first meetup I recall being really nervous that I wouldn’t be as good as everyone else or that I would just be an embarrassment to female soccer players everywhere. However, as the game began, I realized that I could take these guys. Despite the fact that I was almost always the only female and the only white person, I somehow was able to be part of this group and thus played with them twice a week for several months.
Some might think it would be lonely always being the one that is different. The only female surrounded by men. Truth is, I enjoyed the attention and frankly really got jealous when another woman would play as well. I liked the spotlight, at least in the beginning.
As time went on though, I began to see the true natures of the groups I was playing with. The guys would talk smack to each other by calling each other bitches or saying they played like girls. I remember one encounter in which someone from the other team was talking smack at an injured player on my team saying that he was playing like a girl. Having had enough I said,”Um excuse me, but is that supposed to be an insult? Why is playing like a girl a bad thing?” and he just stared at me and sort of chuckled. I however, did not chuckle. Then about two minutes later, as that very same player went to shoot for the goal, I jumped in front of hit, taking the ball smack to my face, the brute force alone causing me to fall backwards. My head was spinning and my nose bleeding heavily, but I wiped it and stood up and shouted “I’m fine! Play on!” as everyone was staring in concern. Then I proceeded to turn and look at the dick from before and said, “That’s how girls play.” After that I don’t remember him saying the sexist comments.
As badass as that was though, there have been countless times I have corrected men on the field for saying offensive things. There have also been many times I didn’t for fear that they would label me a crazy feminazi (as if they even knew what a real feminist was) or that they would insult me by simply laughing at me in a condescending manner. But at this point I have pretty much had it with staying silent. I am getting pissed off.
I have heard the men whisper “I’d tap that ass” or “Oh, Rose? Yeah I’d give it to her rough. I bet she’d like that,” and much more. In those moments I want to turn around, kick those assholes in their balls and then their nose and give them a piece of my mind. The reason I don’t is because I have a very vivid imagination that let’s me fantasize about all the ways in which I could get my revenge, and also, I sometimes really fear even getting close to those men.
See, for men, when they come to play they expect to put on their gear and kick the ball around for a bit and go home. For me, I expect to have to fight a full on battle just to have a little bit of fun. When I play, I face the extreme pressure of representing all female soccer players. Now I know any sane reasonable thinking person would say that that is not my responsibility nor is it entirely true, but at the same time it is. But whether you like it or not, when you are the only woman in a situation dominated by men, you don’t get the luxury of having your actions represent you. No. Your actions instead represent all females. If you mess up it’s because, well, you are a woman. What can you expect? If you do great, there is added surprise and shock because, again, you are a woman!If I mess up in any way whatsoever I feel like I am somehow reinforcing a negative stereotype about women. It is as if I can hear the other players saying “Yep I knew we shouldn’t have passed it to the girl.” And whether or not that is true, it is how it feels. Every game I play, every moment I have the ball, I feel immense pressure to perform perfectly and never make a mistake despite the fact that everyone else does from time to time. I worry that when I get to the field half the players are groaning inside because that girl is here again and she totally sucks and the other half are picturing me getting fucked by them.
It can be so hostile. I deal with groping hands on the fields which, when confronted about, are of course always “accidental”. So likewise when I foul them later, it is definitely “accidental” too.
After awhile I stopped playing with those groups because it was just getting obnoxious and tiresome, so I found a new group. Though this other group was filled with more mature and seemingly kinder men, their sexism came through microaggressions. For instance, despite the fact that there were other male players learning how to play and far less skilled than myself, after the games who did they come over to talk to about how to improve? Me. Always me. They would just stand there mansplaining to the point where I had just tuned them out and imagined myself punching them in the face to make them just shut up already. They failed to realize that I am already my worst critic and was silently scrutinizing any error I did make because of the perceived disappointment to all women I just made.
And yet despite all of these experiences and occurrences I face during every game, I continue to play and go back. I even enjoy being the only female and getting all that attention sometimes. Not because of any flirtatious reasons, but because I think I just enjoy being a blatant outcry against the stereotype that women can’t play soccer or that a cute, white, blonde woman can’t play. I like to surprise people and I like to take advantage of their sexist assumptions in order to kick their ass on the field. It’s fun and a sneakier way of shouting “In your face, patriarchy!” Do I wish I didn’t have to deal with all the added obstacles on the field? Of course, but I guess it is nice to know that in some ways my soccer skills and tenacity have given me an entirely new opportunity to beat the much larger and more important game.