Herstory – My Continuous Struggle for Equality

When I started down the road of training I was lucky on two counts;

1 – I didn’t think like the average female of my time

2 – I had a training partner and best friend who also didn’t think and behave as the average women of that time

What do I mean by this?

Well women of my era was taught and believed they could not compete or compare to men when it came to training, fitness or strength.

Although I’ve always been good at sports the advantages that are around for women now was not around for me when I was growing up.

Also as I didn’t come from a supportive childhood background I wasn’t encouraged to pursue it either, but I believe everything happens for a reason.

Sporting abilities came easier to me than the average person, I was a fast sprinter, good at competitive sports and was always picked for the school team, most of the girls in my school couldn’t compete with me when it came to physicality and only one girl could compete with me when it came to sprinting. 

I will say however long distance running was never my forte. I loved football and enjoyed the more physical games of the playground and because I was what they called then, very ‘tomboyish’, I spent my time playing with the boys in my school. I would join them in football as well as games such as British bulldog, if you’ve ever played it you know how physical it can be, I would be the only girl amongst my male friends. I discovered very early on in life that I could compete with the boys in my school and very few beat me and most were scared of me due to me being a bit unstable at that age and willing to fight anyone who upset or angered me. I carried this observation and experience through into my adulthood and always saw the strength in women that wasn’t unappreciated in society. We give birth after all.

In my late twenties I decided to do a course in recreational sports and playgrounds. At that time I met a women like me, before that I always saw myself as a misfit in society, and here was another women like me. We got on very well together and became good friends which has lasted even to today, she was my saving grace.

She introduced me to weight training and I also got into kickboxing. We used to push each other to be fitter, stronger and faster, we had healthy competition and didn’t limit ourselves like other women did. We had total belief in our abilities and was willing to compete with any men, both in the gym and our individual dojos.  

What I discovered over the years and through training is the only limitation to your abilities is your belief in yourself. 

Over the years I realised that I didn’t have to follow the patriarchal dogma the most women just accepted and that my differences were good and offered me a confidence that most women I met at that time didn’t have. The patriarchal dogma that kept women back and in their place, making us believe that as women we are not as physically strong as any man. As well as that there were things that women shouldn’t or couldn’t do because it wasn’t lady like, well I wasn’t lady like anyway, and although I may not be as strong as every man I was stronger both physically and mentally than most. I could compete with men when it came to fighting and lifting, I didn’t need to be as strong as every man but strong enough to compete physically and mentally and hold my own meant I didn’t believe in this dogma. I also learnt that strong men confident in their masculinity wasn’t intimidated by me and appreciated my abilities.

However what I have confronted all my life is men who perceived my physical appearance and lack of intimidation, as well as daring to put myself on equal footing or above them physically, would feel the need to challenge me or puff up like a peacock whenever they was around me.

On one such occasion a woman that I was dating took me to meet a couple of her male flat mates. We had met in a bar and there was female rugby on and they were laughing and being disrespectful about the women playing and how they were playing, insulting them and saying they could do better. So I challenged them on their comments and beliefs around female rugby players. They didn’t like this, it would seem they hadn’t been challenged like this before by a woman, so losing the battle mentally tried to win it physically and decided to challenge me by getting me in a bear hug from behind. So I stamped on his toe, I felt him flinch but he pretended that it didn’t hurt so I pretended to stamp on it again but stamped just by it. Let me tell you he promptly let go and flew backwards falling over a chair, the next day that foot was so bruised he was limping, then he tried to make out he was only playing and I took it too seriously, so my question to him was ‘what was you playing at, and why he felt the need to do it’. 

I have always found this with men who aren’t secure of their own masculinity and don’t like that a women may be more capable than them. What I should say is this is mainly heterosexual men and women, the gay community are already outside of these patriarchal norms so aren’t so willing to accept them. Thats why I’m so displease that gay women of today seem to have lost this privilege by being pulled towards heterosexual norms.

The moral of my story is I learnt to fight so I would not be intimidated by any male, as certain men don’t like to be challenged by women intellectually or physically. 

Even when I haven’t won the fight I don’t just put that down to gender but skill and they know I’ve been a good challenge and don’t take me for granted again and I use it to learn how to get better. Isn’t that what life about, facing challenges and learning from them, not fearing them. 

The history of women in sports wasn’t good, women weren’t encouraged to do sports because it wasn’t lady like and they weren’t physically built for sports. An example of this for me was being told to do push ups on my knees because proper push ups would damage my reproduction organs, while encouraging the young boys in the dojo to do full push ups. Once I pointed out I had been doing full push ups for years and have a perfectly healthy baby girl and telling the rest of the women in that class that this is designed to keep you weak and in your place, I walked out.

Nowa days women have come a long way with equality but not far enough, they are still controlled by patriarchal ideologies around training designed to keep them in their place and not on an equal basis to men. 

This is done through body design and muscle structure which affects women’s abilities, we see this with such sporting talents such as Serena Williams who was ridiculed for muscular structure for years and  Caster Semenya who has naturally high levels of testosterone and made to take drugs to reduce it before she can race, while at the same time allowing trans women who have had all the privilege of being born male can compete. Can we not see the hypocrisy here.

As with the fight we had to endure and still endure in educating girls and now we outshine boys in education, means we should not judge our abilities on myths and dogma but judge ourselves according to your abilities and wants. 

I am not saying that you have to take this on board but as a woman don’t denigrate me for not taking this false truth about equality on and not accepting the limited ideologies of femininity placed on us. This we see whenever women dare to enter what was previously seen as male fields like the army. It’s women who challenge the possibility of other women being able to function and excel in these roles. I would ask you not to limit other women’s capabilities because you limit your own.

I will always fight for my equality not only financial, educational or domestic but also physical. Just think how far we could get if we didn’t have these out dated beliefs around female body type, strength and muscle mass.