Megan Rapinoe recently hosted a funny and poignant roundtable discussion with her twin, Rachael, and fellow football players Carmelina Moscato and Lori Lindsey about growing up as “tomboys,” and their perspective on women in football.
Is that the story of our childhood? Because it sounds eerily similar. Like Megan Rapinoe, we grew up playing with the boys and getting ourselves into all kinds of sports. We were scraping our knees and rocking skater bowl cuts, the height of 90s fashion.
During the roundtable, Megan Rapinoe recalled a dark time that was the year 1996. K-Ci and JoJo were on the radio. Everyone wanted a pair of Air Jordan XI. She was a sixth grader at the time and loved playing sports outside with the boys. But puberty hit over the summer vacation and everything changed overnight. She felt the same but she could no longer connect with her other girl classmates who were now more into Jonathan Taylor Thomas than kicking a ball.
“I went from having all these friends, from knowing how to act and carry myself, to feeling really alone.”
It was in football that Rapinoe finally found her acceptance. She grew up into an American sporting hero and a World Cup Champion. Despite her fame and success, she realises that women are still objectified in sports.
“I think we should do a study on how many girls wear makeup when they play soccer.” Her friend and retired American women’s soccer player Lori Lindsey commented on the trend of a growing number of sportswomen wearing make-up while competing.
Throughout last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, world champion USWNT has shown that women can be “strong, and fierce and badass”. The way we market women needs to be more sophisticated to fit an increasingly diverse group of sportswomen out there . You won’t market Cristiano Ronaldo and Richie McCaw in the same way, so why ad companies think that only sex appeal sells?
“Little girls who grow up playing soccer shouldn’t feel pressured to have a ponytail and put on makeup. That’s not what should be on every poster or commercial,” added Lindsey.
Common sense dictates that scoring goals in a football game should be a priority as opposed to which the eye shadow colours will match stripes on the football. And the last thing when you are sweating profusely is to worry about mascara running into your eyes, even with waterproof ones. How can you kick a ball when you can’t even see? There were many problems surrounding women in sports and Rapinoe is an advocate for standing up for yourself and changing the standard.
“There’s definitely times in photo shoots where you really do have to be your own advocate. It shouldn’t have to fall on your shoulders, but unfortunately it does, and you have to say something. I think it is the athlete’s responsibility to change the conversation, and to demand a higher standard.”
When Rapinoe came out publicly a few years ago, there weren’t a lot of athletes like her and there still aren’t many today. But she has never felt isolated and alone, thanks to all her friends from the game who accepted her for who she is. It’s all ever she wanted since sixth grade and she would “trade her World Cups for that”. On that note, she ended the roundtable with a beautiful tribute to all the tomboys in her life.
Here’s to all the tomboys indeed. We love our tribe and we couldn’t agree more with you, Megan Rapinoe 🙂
h/t: The Players Tribune