The Beauty of Sweat

In our quest to break down gender roles, it is essential to be able to offer young people who identify as female more scripts to choose from.  When my mother was young, she had very few script choices.  She honestly felt that the professions she could choose from were nurse, teacher or social worker.  She became a social worker.  As a heterosexual woman, she had one script: she would marry and have kids.  My mom moved from her dad’s house to her new husband’s house at age twenty-three.  After paying my dad’s way through dental school, she quit her social work job and raised five children.  Yes, she picked her script, and yes, she has enjoyed her life.  But we often talk about how many more opportunities and paths I was offered thirty years later.  She was jealous of my sports career, as her athleticism was never applied to competitive sports.  She expressed regret as I grabbed opportunity that she never had to travel, live on my own, date through my twenties, and choose from a plethora of career options.  Yet, young women still need more scripts to choose from.  There is still pressure of women to only dream of marriage and raising children.  Media, mirroring reality, still portrays doctors, CEO’s and principals as men while women are nurses, secretaries and teachers. There are more and more women denying the scripts offered and writing their own.  Don’t misunderstand.  There is nothing wrong with women being social workers and raising children.  These two lifestyle choices are beautiful and powerful.  Yet, it is not for everyone, and women deserve to have access, opportunity and choice as well as men.

Watching the Olympics has surprisingly given me hope about scripts.  Yes, I see race and class issues saturating the winter Olympics.  And yes, it bothers me greatly that while male Nordic skiers give interviews with snot in their beards female alpine champions wear tiaras and make-up, clearing planning out hairstyles for the podium. But I also see many scripts.  Young girls are watching mainly wealthy, white women succeed.  But they are also seeing women be strong and powerful.  Young girls can dream of being women who are rewarded for training and using their bodies as tools as they celebrate empowered and embodied playing.  Their bodies, instead of being at the will of the male gaze, can be pushed to do amazing things.  Female Olympians are more often appreciated as amazing, hard-working physical specimens, an alternative to seeing our bodies sexually objectified.  In addition, young girls can dream of becoming Olympic hockey players or figure skaters, snowboarders or speed skaters.  We see different body types, personalities and expressions of the female form.  A young girl can dream of putting on pads and a jersey, baggy snow pants and boots or nylons and glitter to strive for an Olympic medal.  When watching the Olympics, I saw many celebrated options of powerful femininity, and that gives me hope.