This week is about women in sports who win: mothers (USA’s only mother in its World Cup winning women’s soccer team, Jessica McDonald), proud lesbians (Megan Rapinoe of the US Women’s Soccer team and World Cup campions), unapologetic teens (Coco Gauff), glass breakers (Dutee Chand, first Indian gold medalist in track-and-field at World Universiad).
Skin colors, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religions be damned. They show up. In hijabs, skirts, shorts, pants. And they slay.
Winning. In this day of “everybody’s a winner” culture, it can be easily forgotten that indeed there are winners and losers. Losing isn’t the end by any means nor does it not mean you put in the fight of your life or are talented. But.
Winning means something. Especially in sports where it is all that counts in regards to progress. It automatically commands respect, which is why cheaters are even more despised than any other industry.
Athletics allow for us innately biased humans to get the closest we will ever get to meritocracy in ways no other profession can. fans and audiences know this.
When I was a dancer, it was one of the rare professions in which it was tough to discriminate. At the time, I was also a journalist where my “categories” — woman of color, immigrant, non-Christian — were hard to find.
Not in dance. For one, there were certain personalities that make up the dance profession. It’s hard to be a disciplined athlete using your body as a mode of expression where you must come into literal contact with every type of person and still remain fundamentalist or any other -ist except artist.
More important, dance is a meritocracy because either you can do a combination, which is hard AF, or you can’t. Who gets to audition in contemporary or Broadway dance wasn’t based on your family or money or where you went to school.
Sure, it depends on body type but like any sport, that’s a given and people are weeded out or tracked quite early on. In commercial dance now, even body type is negligible.
Caveat: my experiences in my specific two genres of dance (contemporary and commercial) are different from say, ballet, which is steeped in a white, Western tradition where the path to prima ballerina, which as Misty Copeland’s journey in classical ballet reflects, is still heavily full of bias .
Also, the path to global domination is also outside my purview because that entails national policies, like Title X, that can prioritize and allot budgets to train athletes to be world-class winners.
But even within a country, on a national or local scale, when someone keeps winning, someone keeps getting standing ovations, someone repeatedly blows away competition, they are hard to ignore. A country as much as judges and audiences embrace athletes and their beloved artists like no other profession with zero strings attached except: Win! Shine! Move us!
That’s why this is where women can take center stage. Most countries often have trouble permitting women to shine, even more than their minority men, in positions of power. If anything bonds the powerful and the most marginalized of heterosexual men, it’s the solace of patriarchy.
In sports, if you are allowed to play, then you have a shot at winning…then there is no stopping anyone.
This “Chicago Trubune” column on Serena Williams captures the essence of what winning truly means beyond the sports field:
Rarely will change be embraced…Rarely is a group who has held a lion’s share of the power, occupied most of the seats at most of the tables, made the decisions, made the money, made the rules going to welcome the folks who want a shot. Who deserve a shot. Whose presence and ideas and talent would improve the world, if only they were given a shot.
Keep going, that Williams quote says. If they won’t listen to your words, convince them with your winning.