I haven’t thought much about this word since I was 11 years old and it was practically my middle name.
And I have history with my middle name.
When I was younger, people thought I was good at soccer and that I was athletic. This was a source of pride for me. I thought it a compliment. I felt empowered to prove I could play with the boys.
When I got a little older, my feelings changed. When I played on a boys’ team, the other teams would laugh that we had a girl on our team. I was the tomboy at school because I played soccer with the boys at recess.
Sometimes I wore it like a badge, proudly displaying that I wasn’t afraid of the boys. But sometimes it made me feel like I was less feminine; like I was less of a girl because of it. As if femininity and masculinity could be categorized so easily. There were days I would sit and talk with my girl friends or play hopscotch because I wanted to seem like a normal girl.
Today, when people comment on my athleticism, it sounds like what they’re really saying is: “Wow, I didn’t expect a woman to be any good but you’re actually okay!” A man would never seem as surprised at another man’s athletic ability in the way men are surprised at a woman’s athletic ability.
So I have a letter to all these men.
To the Soccer-Playing Men of the World:
Yes, I can kick a ball.
No, it’s not that amazing.
Yeah, I might kick your ass in a game.
Please don’t get annoyed and frustrated with me.
Or think there must be something wrong with you that you can’t beat a girl.
We’re both athletes, right?
Yes, I am a woman.
No, you don’t need to go easy on me.
I certainly won’t go easy on you.
I’m too competitive.
And I wouldn’t insult you like that.
The word tomboy continues to sound like:
I’m not feminine.
I’m not normal.
I’m a boy.
You can roll your eyes when I ask to play.
I’ll just roll the ball through your legs.
I hope you’re secure enough in yourself
To handle that.
You can say “no one cares about women’s soccer”
But maybe you will
When a woman scores on you.
“I’ll do it better. Know why?
Because I’m a boy.”
You’ve never played soccer.
But you already know you will be better.
Well then I guess I already know I’ll be better at cooking and cleaning.
Yeah, sometimes I cry.
At least I’m brave enough.
And sometimes I bleed.
But I don’t fake injury.
Or blame the ref.
Or stop playing.
I take it like a woman.
I’m not that good.
When a man says he’s better than any woman,
A fury unleashes inside me.
And then I hate myself
When he’s better than me too.
I couldn’t be the woman
Who shut him up.
The one who could tell him
Women are here
We are strong.