I was 11-years-old when Brandi Chastain shocked the world with her six-pack abs and black Nike sports bra. The US women’s soccer team had just captured America’s heart by winning the 1999 women’s World Cup. Excitement and joy for the future of women’s sports filled my heart. I wondered, maybe now things would start to change. I guess they did. Nike created a small women’s soccer line, it was pink.
In my adolescent eyes, women were equal to men. My parents worked and chores at home were equally divided. I was taught I had power and there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish as a woman. In my eyes, I was equal. Stories of women protesting for equal rights weren’t the news headlines of my youth, but simply a small overlooked chapter in my history book. Women finally earned the right to vote in 1920 after nearly 50 years of fighting. Women were equal in my youthful eyes and I didn’t see how my life would be any different from my male counterparts. I grew up with the knowledge I could vote and hold a career of my choosing. Aside from crappier athletic gear, I believed we were equal.
As I grew into an adult and actively joined our society, the rose-colored glasses quickly became clear. I began to not only witness the inequalities but felt them as well. I watched friends become incredibly vulnerable to life’s hardships simply because they were pregnant. I saw coworkers return to work 9 weeks’ postpartum where they struggled to make it through the day. I felt helpless as they wrestled with emotions far beyond their scope. I watched women spend their 20-minute lunch break hiding in a closet just to pump breast milk in privacy.
When my playing days were over and I joined the local co-ed rec league, only to not be passed the ball from my male teammates. Maybe it was unintentional, but it didn’t feel like it. As I navigated the post-college life I learned about glass ceilings and wage gaps. I thought the women’s liberation movement happened 50 years ago, why are we still living with limitations on women? When I became a soccer coach, I was handed men’s clothing baring our club’s logo. After many attempts to get proper gear, I was finally given a women’s shirt. I shouldn’t have to ask for a women’s cut shirt in this day in age. Not being given my correct gender’s clothing was an insult. When my fellow female coaches and I sat across a table from an Adidas rep and informed him, his women’s line sucked, we were simply told: “Well, it just doesn’t sell well so we don’t invest in it”. He didn’t get it.
In school, we simply learned the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. We never heard the stories of women who fought for us and what they did for us. They fought so we could have better and we don’t even know their names. When the women’s march on Washington took place, I was met with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was proud to see women come together for a cause, but I couldn’t figure out what the cause was. Equal pay? Rape culture? Pro-life? Not pro-life? Anti-Trump? Give celebrities a microphone day? Just wanted a pink knitted hat day? I don’t know what women were marching for and we need to change our tune.
While I watched the news coverage of the event, the 11-year-old in me who just wanted to play ball met the 22-year-old who didn’t want to wear men’s clothes. They were both hopeful a new page was being written in women’s history. Hopeful we would link arms with one another and demonstrate to the world how to make change for the better. To show the world we can ignore racial and religious divides and link arms woman to woman. I hoped this march wasn’t a one day deal, but movement we can all rally around. The list of injustices toward women is long, but we’re not going to get anywhere if we all march to a different tune. Just because Kate Hudson can prance around our TV screen in fashionable athletic wear doesn’t mean we’re equal.
Let’s pick one injustice facing women today and start there. Let’s all put down our own personal agenda and look toward the generation behind us, just as the women who fought for the 19th amendment did for us.