Every time I stumble on a line of inquiry, I discover “there’s a book for that!” With the “Season of Sports” opening on True Stories Well Told, I went a-googling, and found The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports by Mariah Burton Nelson (Harcourt Brace & Co, 1994).
If you grew up female in America: you heard this: Sports are unfeminine. And this: Girls who play sports are tomboys or lesbians. You got this message: Real women don’t spend their free time sliding feet-first into home plate or smacking their fists into soft leather gloves.
So you didn’t play or you did play and either way you didn’t quite fit. You didn’t fit in your body–didn’t learn to live there, breathe there, feel dynamic and capable. Or maybe you fell madly, passionately in love with spots but didn’t quite fit in society, never saw yourself–basketball player, cyclist, golfer–reflected in movies, billboards, magazines.
Or you took a middle ground, shying away at first but then later sprinting toward aerobics and weight lifting and in-line skating, relishing your increasing endurance and grace and strength. Even then, though, you sensed that something was wrong: all the ads and articles seemed to focus on weight loss and beauty. While those may have inspired you to get fit in the first place, there are more important things, you now know, than how you looked. No one seemed to be talking about pride, pleasure, power, possibility.
…What does it mean that everywhere, women are running, shooting baskets, getting sweaty and exhausted and euphoric? What changes when a woman becomes an athlete?
And that’s just page 1, chapter 1. I think I’m going to enjoy this inquiry.
So here’s the writing prompt:
You didn’t play or you did play or you took the middle ground. You were male, or female, or transitioning between one and the other. What was the role of sports in your life as a young person? What has the impact of that been on your life since?
See guidelines for submissions here. Play along and send your sports story for publication on True Stories Well Told?