"Our society in general devalues the 'she' – qualities that are associated with the feminine that are found in all of us. As a result there’s this imbalance and this distortion and it’s hindering our progress." (Emma Watson)
Having been brought up overwhelmingly surrounded by boys (brother, family friends and nearby cousins), I have always felt I had to keep up with their pace, be tough enough to keep their respect and I never wanted to be worse than them at anything. I am competitive, driven, blunt and I approach things in an all or nothing way – and I cherish these qualities. But it concerns me that for a very long while I thought that I got these characteristics from being around boys and wanting to be like them. Surely a girl can display them just as much.
I have often had my lack of sympathy and empathy (character traits commonly stereotyped as being feminine) pointed out to me. But any lack of these traits doesn’t make me less female. Just a different type of female perhaps? I believe that our societal definitions of what it is to be ‘male’ or ‘female’ and the constraints they bring with them need to be addressed.
In line with the Emma Watson quote above, and the ‘Always #LikeAGirl campaign [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs], I would argue that society has portrayed many female qualities as inferior and as forms of weakness. I have frequently been told to ‘man up’ or ‘not be such a girl.’ These phrases are essentially saying that any form of weakness is feminine and that I should aspire to exhibit ‘male’ qualities of strengths.
As a strong female I don’t want to feel like someone is trying to insult me when they tell me to ‘stop being such a girl’. Being called a girl is something that should be celebrated.
2. What is the importance of sport in your life?
Without sport I would be missing all the qualities that make me the person I am today.
Dance has taught me about elegance and confidence, and about how to present myself. Through playing team sports I have learnt sportsmanship, teamwork and commitment. Watching sport has shown me the power it has on society in uniting people. Sport has taught me (repeatedly) how to able to deal with defeat and things that don’t go my way, but also how to behave graciously in victory. Sport has given me more life skills and provided me with more assistance in pursuing my goals than anything else.
3. What has been your best accomplishment since being in UYHC?
I have 4 significant achievements since being in UYHC:
I managed to maintain a united squad – and my sanity – when being confronted with an almost impossible situation in the Yorkshire League this season. I believe I have made the best out of a bad situation, stayed true to our UYHC values, and just continued playing hockey with the people I love.
I have helped someone, who is a close friend and who has supported me a lot this year, achieve something they really wanted and deserved – which was becoming the 2015/16 UYHC Female President. I was more nervous about helping her be successful than when I ran for captain the year before.
I’ve spent time coaching my friend for the last two years. Watching her understanding, playing ability and keenness to learn expand over that time is literally amazing. No one listens like she does, or absorbs information in the same way. I have never seen skills transferred in that way before and I’m proud to have seen under improve under my guidance.
I’ve helped to introduce and incorporate two girls from my school into the club; Sophie Warr (2nd year) and Lindsay O’brien (1st year). Hopefully I helped them feel welcome in UYHC and fit into the University. I certainly know that I loved the fact they came to York and that they have both had a huge impact on how much I have enjoyed my time here.
4. How has UYHC helped shape and develop you as a person?
In my first year in UYHC, I considered leaving the club on several occasions. I was not very settled at University, I did not have many friends within the club, I was not particularly sociable, and I just did not feel like I fitted in. But I loved hockey so stuck with it. Throughout my second and third year I have gradually become more confident and active within the club.
During the 3years in UYHC I have learnt a lot about myself. I discovered that I am quite shy and quiet, and like to feel confident and comfortable within a situation before I really show people the true me. But I also learnt that when I really care about something, I will stand up for myself, for my team and my friends. This season my team faced a huge injustice, as we were penalised for the same offence five times. This did not only go against the rules, but also against the sportsmanship values I so strongly believe in, and hence I tried everything to get it rectified.
Again, this season in Yorkshire League has been very challenging. But my team has risen to it and we have climbed over every hurdle (just). This bunch of girls have been amazing, truly professional, hard-working, and committed to their sport. And that is why UYHC has shaped and developed me. I knew I could play hockey and I understood the tactics and formations. However, doing things for my teammates and making sure they are okay and trying to keep them all happy and engaged has been truly life changing.
5. What does the word 'feminist' mean to you?
Firstly, being a feminist means that you want equal rights for men and women.
Secondly, Men; if you believe in equality between the sexes, then you are also a feminist. Feminism is a positive word.
Too many important men in my life at first mention refused to admit this because of the stigma attached to it. Ironically one said to me that if he was a feminist, then he was also a “meninist”. It alarmed me that he had had to quickly support his acknowledgment of being a feminist with also being a meninist. This doesn’t seem necessary to me when feminism means equality – but he wanted the word ‘man’ to be in the word that was identifying him, like it does in ‘mankind,’ ‘manpower’ and ‘man-made.’ This conversation brutally reminded me that, even in the very developed United Kingdom, someone – who I would say fully respects me – is still uncomfortable in admitting he is a feminist.
6. Any final remarks on gender and equality?
Yes I am female, yes I may not be quite as strong or fast as my male equivalent but that does not make me inferior. I may be physically weaker, I even may be mentally weaker than others at times, but stop putting me down for it. By the very nature of sport, some people are better or worse than others, that is just how it works.
I personally have always been given the opportunity to do sports, but not all girls have this. This upsets me as sport is a way for girls to feel empowered, to release endorphins, to find friends for life and a path to happiness. But sport is also there for girls to compete. And they can compete. And I am sick and tired of people telling me that girls just “aren’t as good as boys at sport.”
Two days ago a friend told me to watch a TV programme. Since then I have watched it three times, read articles on it and really not thought about anything else really. The programme is on BBC iplayer and it’s called Storyville: India’s Daughter.
There are two defense lawyers in the programme. One asserts:
‘A female is just like a flower. It gives a good-looking…very softness performance, pleasant. But on the other hand a man is just like a thorn. Strong, tough enough. The flower always needs protection. If you put that flower in a gutter, it is spolit. If you put that flower in a temple it will be worshipped.’
And the other states:
“If my daughter or sister engaged in premarital activities, or brought any other disgrace on herself… in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
To me, equality in sport means equal respect and equal opportunity to play – across the globe. But this will never be achieved until, worldwide, people view males and female as equals. The above two quotes horrify me. Hearing these two men in positions of power say those words in the matter-of-fact way they did it, ignited a fury of emotions.
We want equality worldwide.
My name is Katie and I am 21 years old. The reason I can’t do pull-ups is because I am not strong enough. Not because I am a girl. But I assure you, very soon, I will be able to do them.
"I believe that our societal definitions of what it is to be ‘male’ or ‘female’ and the constraints they bring with them need to be addressed."
"To me, equality in sport means equal respect and equal opportunity to play – across the globe."