For the last time – yes, you can be feminine and play sports!

While reading my tumblr dashboard last week, I came across a quote from Jessica Simpson that left me trapped in a cycle of *headdesk* and *facepalm.* In a recent issue of Elle, she announced she was having a baby girl, and then she went on to elaborate:

“I swear, I will croak if she asks me for a pair of Nikes instead of Christian Louboutins!” the Fashion Star mentor, 31, says of the baby she’s expecting this spring with fiancé Eric Johnson.

“Eric is so athletic — we’re gonna have this athletic girl and I won’t even be able to take her shopping, ’cause all she’s gonna want is sports bras and Nikes!”

Oh no!  The horror of a girl who wants athletic shoes instead of $700 designer heels!  How will she ever survive the trauma?

I know, I know – it’s Jessica Simpson, a woman whose career was almost single-handedly launched into the stratosphere by the fact that she didn’t realize that Chicken of the Sea was actually tuna fish.  I am aware that we are not exactly dealing with a Rhodes scholar here.  But at the same time, I thought that maybe at some point in her life she had developed a kind of critical awareness about these things, based on the fact that she was behind The Price of Beauty, which was all about looking at different ideas of beauty around the world.

Truthfully, I’m not really in the habit of dissecting dumb things celebrities say – after all, if I was being interviewed all the time, I’m sure I’d rack up my share of dumb quotes in no time flat – but the thing that stuck out here was that she’s basically summarized the anxiety much of our culture feels around women who use their bodies in strong, energetic and powerful ways.   She’s horrified at the idea that her daughter might grow up to be like her husband, because that means that the little girl won’t be feminine in the same ways she is, and hence that means they won’t be able to bond over the things she likes.

Putting aside the ridiculousness of deciding your child’s personality while still in utero, can we talk about how tired I am of hearing people talk about the unfeminine nature of athletic women, as if the mere act of throwing a ball means we will all grow mullets and wear flannel shirts and ask that we be called “Moe”?*  It’s not only reductive but it reeks of homophobia.

And really, when I hear shit like that, all I can wonder is if I hallucinated the 1990s, when it seemed like every young feminist was proudly proclaiming that she could be a feminist and wear lip gloss, too!  And have I totally managed to miss all of the female athletes over the past couple of decades who have made it pointedly clear that they love to wear make-up and heels and dresses when they aren’t on the field?   I’m pretty sure that Olympian Jennie Finch wrote an entire book on the subject.  This is not exactly new territory we are covering here.

Can we all agree that, yes, you can still be “feminine” and be an athlete already?  Can we move beyond this boring, tired conversation?  Because you know what I’m more interested in?  I’m much more interested in that aforementioned anxiety people experience when confronted by someone who does not perform gender correctly.  I mean, it really freaks people out!  Almost like it destroys their sense of the universe as an orderly place!

I want to know why people find it so unsettling when they encounter a boy who wants to dress up like a princess or a girl who wants to cut her hair short and wear baggy pants.  I want to understand why people are so horrified by trans* people and gender-queerdos.  I want people to explain why they react so negatively to anyone whose gender expression fails to align with the expected markers.  Can we talk about that?  Can we talk about how a society that prides itself on freedom can come down so hard on the people who choose to actually exercise that freedom?

So not only would I like to ask that people stop acting as though athletic women  are single-handedly perverting the natural order of things, but I’d also like to request that people stop it already with the obsessive gender policing.   How about instead of focusing on whether or not people are good at being “men” or being “women,” we care more about whether they are good at being a decent human being?   Can you imagine what this world would look like if people took half of the effort they put into caring whether they and others are performing gender according to the arbitrary standards of our culture, and instead put that into being ethical, compassionate, and caring?  My god, I’d think we’d have something close to paradise on earth if that were to happen.

*Edited to make it absolutely clear that I have no problem with women who wear mullets and flannel shirts and call themselves Moe.  Viva la difference, I say.  Rather, it was a clumsy attempt at humor, as I was trying to make fun of the kind of people who think that women playing sports automatically equals butch lesbian.  Next time I’ll try to keep the jokes to a minimum while dosed up on Nyquil.

15 responses to “For the last time – yes, you can be feminine and play sports!

  1. You’re so right! I also find it interesting how the media is targeting Angelina and Brad’s little girl Shiloh as wanting to dress like a boy and therefore might one day want to be transgendered, etc.

    You know what?! I think we should leave the little girl alone! To me, she’s just a cute little girl who is looking to find herself in this crazy world. Leave the children out of this! They are going to pave the way for the future, so why are we teaching them how to judge themselves and others… it makes me sad.

    Ps: don’t let Jessica Simpson get under your skin. She is ridiculous!

    • Ha! I know, she’s a goofball. It wasn’t her as much as it was that her statement just hit a nerve that has been rubbed raw and bleeding by this point.

      Oh man, don’t start me on poor little Shiloh. I love that her parents are so supportive of the way she wants to dress and wear her clothes. And if she grows up to realize she’s trans, that’s cool too! I don’t get these people who act like Brangelina should be forcing her to wear dresses, just to save them a moment of confusion when they realize that the cute little boy they were admiring is in fact a girl.

  2. I love your last paragraph, it would indeed be close to paradise!

    I am lucky that I don’t get a lot of comments along this vein, but I do have one coworker who JUST. CAN’T. get her head around the fact that I am not super aggressive at work, I prefer skirts and dresses, and yet I play roller derby. ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It just doesn’t make sense in her world.

    • It has got to be difficult to approach the world with such binary expectations about everything, because you are constantly running up against things that confound those expectations. I mean, it happens all the time! It’s so much easier when you can accept it as part of the beautiful multiplicity of existence instead of insisting that everything that deviates from the narrow definitions is somehow wrong.

  3. Wow, I just found your blog and I am blown away by you! I think we share many of the same philosophies. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there and I am looking forward to reading more!

  4. “can we talk about how tired I am of hearing people talk about the unfeminine nature of athletic women, as if the mere act of throwing a ball means we will all grow mullets and wear flannel shirts and ask that we be called ‘Moe’?”

    Can we talk about how tired I am of hearing people talk about women not presenting themselves as sufficiently “feminine” like there’s something wrong with them?

  5. So true! I also loved your last paragraph and just wish we could move on from this old tired conversation. There are so many other things to focus on.

  6. I’m just tired of the “either/or” nature of this debate. Why do I have to choose between being athletic or feminine? Why can’t I be both?? (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.)

    And let’s not forget Flo Jo, who kicked everyone’s ass on the track while wearing lip gloss, fluorescent nail polish, and fabulous custom tights! OMG, feminine and athletic…. at the same time! Another shocker!

  7. On the subject of girls wanting to dress like boys, when did tomboy stop being an option?! I grew up knowing that, ok, not wanting to wear dresses and make-up meant the popular clique wouldn’t like you as much, but no way was it an end of the world calamity! it was viewed as a thing I would probably grow out of but even if I didn’t, that was cool too.

  8. as someone who is assertive and femme, THANK YOU.
    as someone who has worked with young women who feel alienated from their own gender because they are not “girly”, THANK YOU.

    Gender is so unimportant to daily existence but for some reason we take it So Seriously these days.

  9. I’m sick of comments like this. I remember the week before I went on Christmas break my senior year of high school I wore nothing but sweats, t-shirts, and a pair of uggs. My mom looked at me Friday before we went on break and asked me, “Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked her what she wanted to hear and she asked me, “Is this my way of telling her I like women.” I was sooo hurt. My mom, my BLOOD mother, asked me if I was gay because I wanted to wear sweatpants instead of skin tight jeans and tight revealing shirts. My mother knows I’m an athlete. She felt just because I wasn’t in season I should try dressing more feminine. I LOVE BOYS! I’m your average girl when it comes to guys. Getting all goo-goo eyed over a really hot guy and scribbling my crush’s name all over my notebooks. Yeah I’m THAT girl! But for people to think that I’m not like that because I prefer to wear sweatpants over tight jeans? That’s crazy. The reasons why I don’t like squeezing into jeans or mini skirts or tight tight dresses is because most of the time I’m sore as hell! Working out is no joke! I have knee problems and I prefer to be comfortable than to look “bad” as they call it nowadays. I recently had a conversation with a boy I go to school with over twitter about this. He thought it was okay to tweet “#MoreFemalesShould put more effort into lookin good everyday” I responded “Why? Being comfortable>looking “good” any day.” Then he went on to say “that’s something a lil girl would say women look bad everyday” and I laughed and said “lmao that’s weird…” I HATE WHEN BOYS SAY SHIT LIKE THAT! What if I tweeted #MoreGuysShould give up the whole sweatpants and t-shirts look and dress like MEN and wear jeans and a nice button up. I honestly think men look amazing when they wear a nice pair of jeans and a button up. But noooo its okay for guys to dress how they want.

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