Real Talk. Real Life. – Why a Self Proclaimed Feminist Would Choose to “Race Like a Girl”
I am a single mother to an 8 year old boy, a business owner, an honors college and graduate school graduate and an athlete who chooses to embrace racing like a girl. I grew up during the time it was normal to play outside from sun up to rushing home just as the street lights were coming on. I remember feeling at ease, free and barely a care in the world. I embraced the childlike innocence of my youth never thinking it would end. Just being a girl.
Like most females, when I was younger, I was told I can do or be anything I wanted. Being an 80’s baby in America, I was provided with many more resources and opportunities than the females who came before me so this sentiment was believable, until it wasn’t. At some point, most females have their free spirits crushed by the harsh societal pressures and realities that girls/women are viewed as lesser than men. We learn that we are paid less for equal work, the size of our chest matters more than the size of our brains and if we wear certain clothing we are “Asking for it” instead of embracing our bodies.
As I progressed through my teen years and into adulthood, I had to constantly prove my worth as a female. No matter my self esteem or self confidence, I held the notion that I was less than for the sheer fact that I was born with different sex organs than my male counterparts. That sense of freedom, purpose and ease I had in my youth dissipated and I felt the weight of the world in my chest and on my shoulders. I was constantly searching for things to bring that sense of simplicity I once had. Some of these things led me to a place of isolation, secrecy and misery left me a hollow version of myself that was unrecognizable.
In my 30’s, I found the amazing power of endurance sports. Through racing and training (and therapy, AA, self awareness and becoming a mama), I slowly began to shed that heaviness I was carrying around and growing comfortable in my own skin. Training and racing make me feel like a kid again, where there is not a care in the world or a role I have to fill. But again, that feeling less than experience ran rampant across the endurance world. It was “cute” when I would run faster or cycle in the front of the pack because I was a female. All 3 sports were mansplained to me on a regular basis and I always had to vie for my spot to be “one of the guys.”
Wait, Do What Like A Girl?
2 years ago, I met Angela Naeth, a professional triathlete, at the pro panel of HIM Chattanooga. When answering questions about her sport, I could see her enthusiasm for racing and training but what stuck out even more was her drive to get females involved and inspired to excel in the realm of endurance sports. Her zeal lit a fire inside me until BAM! BOOM! CRASH! She said the name of her team was “I race like a girl”. My initial thought was HALT! STOP! HOLD UP! A girl?!?!?! Isn’t this the word females tried to hide and push down in society as we grew up. Isn’t being called a girl a complete insult and the most disrespectful thing to refer to a grown person as. The answer is and was, yes AND being a referred to as a girl can also be the most soul releasing compliment ever given, when used in the right context, because it smashes the stigma that girls are inherently less than. And that is what made me join Angela’s team.
Yes, there are haters out there who will use the term girl to demean the entire female population. We cannot change ignorance, instead we need to take back the word and reframe the negative connotation. If marginalized groups such as LGBTQ+ and POC, populations can take back, reframe and own some of the most vile, evil words spewed at them, females can too! What about Icons like Beyonce and Gwen Stephani using their platform to give the middle finger to the stereotypical use of girl , what is stopping you? I know, I know, it is hard to imagine that the word girl can be used for good once you become an accomplished woman, punching out glass ceilings like a boss, BUT hear me out.
As I described earlier, remember how awesome it felt when you were a child, you had very little responsibility, took on any challenge that was given to you because you had nothing to lose, had the ability to shed the shame and judgement of others because you had people in your life whose opinions mattered most and they showed you unconditional love. This is the mindset women like Angela are trying to get us to adopt when using the word girl. Being a woman is chronologically different, yes, but our mindsets don’t have to change from when we were girls, just adjusted based on experiences. When you make room for the word girl in your verbiage, it allows the chance to educate, re-frame and dismiss the consistently pessimistic view of being female; it allows for you to embrace your femininity as you see fit and not into some submissive social construct meant to be demeaning and keep you feeling insignificant.
Race Like A Girl!
I consider myself a competent, established and accomplished woman. I have made it my life mission to empower and encourage females to seek and be the best version of themselves. I feed into the notion of girl power because I believe that females, of all ages, races, SES, and religions can make a huge impact when standing together, united against our common enemies and adjust one another’s crowns. When we come together, we as females, can overcome any obstacle and barrier given to us. We cant help but pull from the strength of the sisters around us to attain the goals for our lives. We are role models for younger females who feel forgotten, abandoned or rejected by society if they contest societal norms of how a girl should be. This is what my team I Race Like a Girl represents to me and why I will always choose to race like a girl.
Disclaimer: This is MY opinion based on MY experiences. I understand and empathize that not everyone has had similar life experiences and hope any reader recognizes that my words are not meant to minimize their lives and experiences.