Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why Girls Should Play Sports (and a rant on Rush Limbaugh)

By Lauren:

I’ve been forced into some downtime lately from triathlon and seeing that the "The Slog" was launched as a “triathlon” blog, apparently I thought that meant I must remain silenced. I find it really easy to write about epic training and racing, as does the entire tweeting triathlon population, but difficult to write about all the other stuff that really frustrates me. As Matt will tell you, I am easily riled.

Anyway, I recently overheard a story in the bathroom of my club pool and felt the need to break my silence.

Here goes…

While busy lathering up with my Aveda shampoo after an“epic” 3k pull set, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of some 12-year-old girls. In the high-pitched cacophony that only pre-teen girls can make, I heard them discussing their love interests and recent trip to a mall to buy new outfits for some dance. Much to my chagrin, one of the girls, who was about as skinny as a stork, announced that her boyfriend had suggested she lose 5 pounds before said dance. The other girls (none of them weighing more than 50 pounds) then started an entire discussion about their dieting, and the rest of the conversation was drowned out by my rage.


What 12-year-old boy would suggest that a highly underweight girl LOSE five pounds?

Overhearing this chat brought up so much from my own past that I spent hours seething over it. It is hard enough growing up in a society that idolizes airbrushed models and personal trained and then drugged to death actresses, but to have young boys suggesting skinny girls lose weight just blows my mind. Where did they learn this? As a parent, what would I do to protect my daughter from such ridiculous, yet vicious and biting words?

When I take a step back, though, why does this even surprise me? We live in a world where it is (almost) perfectly acceptable for idiotic, blowhard political pundits to call a girl “slut” for taking a stand on women’s health. Despite so much progress for female equality, women are still made to think that their value is in how hot they look or how to please the opposite sex. You can see this on any reality show out there (hello bachelor pad). It’s enough to make me pray I only have boys.

What can we do about this besides hide under a rock? How do we as women protect ourselves and our children and friends from this? As I found out, once we have been exposed to these lies, it isn’t easy to get rid of the accompanying thoughts. In my own life, I realize that involving myself in sports from high school volleyball and tennis, early 20s professional elliptical machining (yes, I was an expert), and finally to professional triathlon has really helped me combat the negative thoughts that come up. Sports has given me a way to find value in myself beyond what a 60 year old former-oxycontin addict with a radio show thinks about my intelligence and purpose as a female.When I’m more focused on daily training, I am less focused on the outward crap. I eat to fuel myself and am more confident with my strong body and mind.

For this reason, I think it is so important to continue to encourage female involvement in sports at a young age. I see people like Lindsey with her swimitude (see below) seemingly not bothered by what others might say about her and I attribute much of this to her dedication to swimming beginning from the womb itself. I am so happy when I see the young kids of our friends sweeping the podium at the Wildflower kids triathlons each year. I applaud all of those organizations out there that really focus on getting girls involved in sports, such as Girls on the Run. Hopefully by growing these organizations and continuing to help girls in their developmental and impressionable years, we’ll be able to help them learn to protect themselves from noisy jackass pundits, as God knows this crap will continue on as long as we have 24 hour news shows and a misinformed population.

CHEERS to all the girls out there who are learning to play sports and all the parents out there who carpool their girls to all of these practices. AND, while I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs in my short period of forced off season, feel free to harass me and I’ll share the carpool burden after work or take your girls on a run bike or swim if you live in my hood.

Wildflower Kids Triathlon Domination
+swimitude: (noun) an attitude of invincibility (not necessarily steeped in reality) developed from years of swimming in the pool;exemplified by any kid who has developed through age group swimming in the United States. example: see Lindsey Jerdonek.

My first and unfortunately last swim meet. I wasn't too proud of that green "participation" ribbon but hey, winning requires training.

My first bike - rocking the dress because I wasn't yet into spandex.


  1. So, I was like looking into this for a research project i was going to do and girls have a tendency to benefit a lot more from sports involvement than boys. Which, it seems, is largely because girls sports tend to be ignored at a higher level and have little promise of fame, money or excess. Therefore, girls actually learn lessons about self-confidence, hard work, etc, as opposed to learning lessons about making it big. (See also women's gymnastics and little girls.) Just thought it was interesting that the same things that make frequently make womens' sports unequal are what can help them.

    Also, 12-year-old girls say a lot of stuff just to fit in. They may not even believe what's coming out of their mouths.

  2. Great "rant!" I am totally with you on this one and it really gets me mad when people like Rush can dominate the news with their stupidity!

  3. I'm glad you broke the silence- and I'm in complete agreement with you on this issue. Thanks for posting this, I regularly hear the "fat talk" from the girls in the changeroom and am shocked to see how young and usually teeny-tiny the girls are, and then like you I take a step back and I'm not really that surprised. In the body image literature, it's actually called, "normative discontent" because disastisfcation with one's body is considered to be normal, females who have a positive body image and are satisfied are considered to be the "abnormal" part of the population.
    I'm in complete agreement with you about sports and girls participation in it. Once I started swimming varsity in university, I swore that my kids will never set foot in a ballet studio like me, but will be joining swim team as soon as they are allowed.

  4. Excellent.

    I was a professional ellipticer for a while too.

  5. Hello,
    I have a question about your blog, do you think you could email me?