Fierce, Fearless, and Female: 7 Athletes Who Challenge Gender Disparity in Sports
Throw like a girl. Kick like a girl. Punch like a girl. Run like a girl. Even, drive like a girl.
Growing up, we may have heard these phrases, repeated these phrases, or internalized their meaning. Why does “like a girl” still have such a negative connotation, even in 2018? The dictionary has a thing or two to say on the subject:
a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.
synonyms: sportsman, sportswoman, sportsperson
By its very nature, the word “athlete” is gender neutral. Why shouldn’t we be?
You might remember the groundbreaking (and controversial) “Like a Girl” advertising short from the 2015 Super Bowl by feminine care product company, Always. It featured an array of men and women, diverse in age and ethnicity reflecting on the inherent negativity of the phrase. Then, the spot proceeded to tear down the stigma using a handful of spunky and confident adolescent girls and the Twitter hashtag #LikeAGirl.
There’s a lesson to be learned here: the stigma remains standing, but there’s strength in numbers. When individual athlete or team player, there’s a huge community of incredible, strong, and inspirational athletes…who just happen to be women.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, let’s take a moment to celebrate current U.S. professional female athletes who are minimizing the gender parity gap just by being strong, confident, and unapologetically awesome.
Athlete: Serena Williams
Serena Williams might be the greatest female player, ever. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has repeatedly — 8 times to be exact — ranked her No. 1 in the world in singles over 15 years. With a consistent track record of athletic excellence, she has also earned the titled of oldest female professional tennis player to hold a number one rank. With too many titles to count, Williams and her sister, Venus, have been credited with ushering in new era of power and athleticism. Game, set, match!
Athlete: Rhonda Rousey
Rhonda Rousey hits where it hurts. The dictionary definition of fearless, Rousey is a professional wrestler, mixed martial artist, and judoka — and she dabbles in acting! Rousey was the first American Woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo. A force to be reckoned with, two magazines have ranked her the most “dominant” active athlete, defying gender stereotypes everywhere. If you want to punch like a girl, Ronda Rousey’s your role model.
Athlete: Lindsey Vonn
Sport: Alpine Skiing
You’ll likely remember her from recent victories in South Korea: she’s a speed demon on skis. Vonn has won 4 World Cup overall championships and 8 World Cup season titles in the downhill discipline. In addition to be exemplary on the slopes, she has a few major firsts. Vonn was the first American woman to win the Olympic gold in the downhill and is one of only 6 women to have won a World Cup race in all five alpine skiing disciplines: downhill, super-G, giant slalom, and super combined.
Athlete: Hope Solo
Solo plays goalie – and she doesn’t let opportunities pass her by (literally). Solo is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup Champion. Regarded as a top female goalkeeper in the world, she holds the record for most “clean sheets”. In soccer, it means she prevents the opposing team from scoring any goals during a single match. Her last name might be Solo, but Hope is a shining example of what it means to be a total team player.
Athlete: Simone Biles
Sport: Artistic Gymnastics
At only 4’9”, Simone Biles makes up for what she lacks in stature in sass and style. Biles began her gymnastics career on a field trip at the age of 6 and has since become the most decorated of American gymnasts. Most recently, Biles medaled at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in individual all-around, vault and floor, and balance beam, and Team “Final Five”. If you’re looking for a champion, she’s one through-and-through.
Athlete: Diana Taurasi
Named#WhiteMamba by Kobe Bryant himself, the native Californian is a professional American basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia. Taurasi has won 3 WMBA championships, 4 Olympic gold medals, five scoring titles, and other impressive accolades such as Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Rookie of the Year. Taurasi is a household name at the University of Connecticut (UConn) and holds the WNBA all-time leading scorer record with 7,494 points.
Athlete: Katie Ledecky
Everybody’s heard of Michael Phelps. Now, there’s a new kid on the block and she’s vying for best swimmer in the world. At only 18 years old, Katie Ledecky is a five-time Olympic gold medalist and 14-time world champion. She holds the world record for women’s long course freestyle races (400 m, 800 m, and 1500 m). More than once, she has earned Female Athlete of the Year (2013, 2016, 2017). If athletic success is sink or swim, Ledecky chose the latter.
Play soccer. Play volleyball. Play lacrosse. Play basketball. Play tennis.
But don’t play like a girl. Don’t play like a boy either. Give it your all as an athlete — and let us help you gear up for whatever challenges lie ahead!
Regardless of gender or identity, UN1TUS has a singular purpose: we are committed to the empowerment of the male and female athlete of all ages and levels by giving them what they need to excel.