Being a woman in sports

Let me start with how unfair the biological and genetic differences between men and women sometimes feel. My brother can do 5 push-ups a month and you can basically see his biceps growing (which is ridiculous since push ups don’t even target the biceps that much), me, on the other hand, if I don’t do some every second day, I will get worse at them. It can be so frustrating, even when you know that’s just because of a chromosome that’s a tad bit longer, and there’s not much you can do about it.

The first time I was catcalled ever was on a run. I was probably 14 (yes, it is so creepy, especially if you know I hit puberty really late). It has happened a few times too when I’ve been running with my mum or other girls, which is somewhat fun, because it will lead to a bonding moment over generalizing about men. But behind that laugh or that eye roll that makes you see the back of your skull, catcalling makes you feel so scared, vulnerable and exposed. I will never understand catcalling: I can be redder than a tomato, sweaty and sticky, smell like the locker room of a gym, and still there can be an idiot (to be polite) passing by honking on his car. Like what is your point dude?

In my life, I’ve had to explain multiple times what biathlon is (“no it’s not cycling and running, that’s called duathlon”). You’d be surprised how often someone has tried to explain to me what biathlon is and how I should train. I hate to generalize, but something tells me (call it anecdotal, intuition or experience), that it wouldn’t happen that much if I weren’t a woman. It’s amazing to see how some people go from “what is biathlon?” to expert at it in a minute. And I thought I was a fast learner, but that is really impressive. In the same category, many times random people have come to explain me how some exercise I’m doing at the gym is wrong or bad for me (the irony is that these people are usually far from being examples themselves, but you don’t see me going to explain them the things they are doing wrong, do you?). I’ve been doing strength trainings since I was 16, under the eye of multiple coaches, I’m studying health science, I’ve had multiple classes about training science, so dude, as Kimi Räikkönen once said so well, “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”. Speaking about gyms, being a woman is also being used to be the sole representative of a gender or the gender minority at a gym, especially in the free weight area. Seriously girls, lifting weights is really cool and it makes you feel like a total badass, so what are you waiting for?

I’ve always hated shopping, and one of the reasons for it (the main ones being hating crowded spaces, having no fashion sense or whatsoever and having more important things to do), is that I rarely find something that really fits. I was kinda fine with it when it happened only with non-sports clothes, but a while ago it happened with some leggings of a famous sports brand I’m not going to name. That sucked. And yes, that is totally a first world problem, but it is annoying. Imagine you find that perfect dress (you know the one you could totally picture yourself wearing at a fancy cocktail party, while sipping champagne with class – because I always have to go to fancy cocktail parties, you know, livin’ lavish, and I don’t even like champagne), then you try it on… And yeah nope, let’s put it back. Guess me and my “wrong” body proportions are going to go for a run instead.

Frustrating is also how al lot of newspapers (but not only) seem the focalise more on the body than the performance of female athletes. Have you ever gone on the profile of a famous or not necessarily even that well known female athlete and read the comments? A few of the comments are full on sexual harassement and could actually lead to judicial proceedings (quick reminder, just because it’s on the internet, it does not make you above the law). Just some general advice: don’t tell me I’m pretty, I can’t really change how I look. Tell me I’m driven, hard-working, passionate, ambitious, … If you ask me, compliments on what I do are so much better.

I’m studying health science and technology, so research in sports has always interested me. Men and women are physiologically different and women aren’t just small men, as obvious as this sounds, research in sport science is done mostly on male athletes. As cliche as it sounds, the typical probands in a research in xc-skiing or biathlon are 20 Norwegian guys competing at a national level. Which raises the question, if the results of those studies can be applied one-to-one to female athletes. It’s great to see there’s always more and more research done to find out how the gender affects training, nutrition, etc. For instance, there’s a lot of interesting research on how the menstrual cycle and hormonal changes affect performance. And even if for a random person these differences may be insignificant, in elite sports, where every second counts, more optimal training methods could make a difference.

Looking forward to a future where we won’t need to fight for gender equality

So the whole point of this article is obviously not to blame men (if that’s what you understood, seriously, you have to work on your reading comprehension, no offense), I don’t think all men are garbage, some are, but so are some women, it’s not a gender-specific trait. On this international women’s day, I simply wanted to point out and raise awareness on some fun or annoying facts and inequalities that still exist in 2020. And I’m also aware that some of the things I pointed out apply for men too (clothing sizing for instance), but I can’t really speak for them. I also didn’t speak about some other inequalities, because I didn’t feel like I could contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way and/or because luckily I have not experienced them myself.

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