On Womanhood and Sports

Linda Bebeau

Photography and Digital Media by Jess Scott

All of us, especially women, perpetuate and live actively within the bounds of manhood. We are not just bystanders who fall victim to the culture of society, but rather, we are individuals who push it forward. I, too, was not just a bystander to masculinity but rather an active participant in it. I have been skating since I was three years old and have been playing competitive ice hockey since the age of six. Besides my home in Danvers, Massachusetts and the school I attended for eleven years, I undoubtedly spent the majority of my childhood in an ice arena. My hometown did not have a girls program when I began playing, so naturally, I played with the boys. I was one of them, and I loved it. I loved people’s reactions, especially as I got older, when I told them I played boys ice hockey. It proved that I was talented and unique, and in doing so, it validated me. 

Four years into my career, my town added a girls program, though it never even crossed my mind to join the team. I looked down on the team, believing that the girls were not strong enough, fast enough or skilled enough to be worthy of my attention. I held this view against girls hockey until I was forced in eighth grade to make the switch when the boys  began checking. It was only once I had begun to play with my own gender that I gained respect for the girls’ game as a separate entity and work of art. Almost immediately, I was hit by a wave of guilt. How had I allowed myself to perpetuate manhood for this long? I had not only disrespected myself, but the entire community of women in sports. If we cannot respect each other and ourselves, how can we expect to create a society that respects women as their own beautiful and separate entity? Not only as women in sports, but merely as women, we must, at a minimum, support one another. In a field that is disproportionately dominated by men, it is crucial for women to allow other women the space to explore and thrive athletically. In doing so, we must stop comparing girls hockey to boys hockey, girls soccer to boys soccer, girls lacrosse to boys lacrosse, etc. The games are separate entities, inhabited by different groups of people, and this difference is something to be celebrated not shunned. 

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