By Katrina Liu
Before I begin, let me be clear: I am terrible with any sort of ball sports and cannot run for my life.
For most of my life, I didn’t consider myself to be very athletic. That’s because it was reinforced to me at a very young age that dancing and figure skating were not sports. Both verbal and non-verbal reactions from various people made me believe that, in general, I wasn’t an athlete.
Even though I wasn’t considered a conventional athlete, I still put the same amount of physical and mental work into these activities as someone who was on a varsity team in high school would. I’ve danced since I was four, and throughout my middle school and high school years, I practiced at least eight hours a week. I considered figure skating my “side sport” during that time, devoting at least two hours a week to the ice.
Because I didn’t play a contact sport like soccer or basketball, though, my sport wasn’t recognized on TV as a source of entertainment for people or as something for fans to rally together for. As a young girl, the lack of exposure to my sporting events on any major platform really did something to me, and as I got older, I realized how messed up my perception of it became as a result.
But I am an athlete.
I may not play with any sort of ball, but my sports require me to use a mix of balance, flexibility and core strength to make fluid, easy-looking body movements. The amount of conditioning and stretching I had to do on a daily basis would probably surprise anyone who isn’t a dancer themselves. And it is not easy.
Both dancing and figure skating are female dominated fields. But no matter which sport is involved in the conversation, women are not receiving the support and attention they deserve — whether on the high school, collegiate or professional levels — even though their physical and mental strength is no less strong than those in men’s leagues.
On 2019’s International Women’s Day, just months before they were set to compete in the World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation of being paid less than their male counterparts, as well as overall poor treatment.
The details of the trial, which is ongoing, are tedious and confusing for a non-law student like me. But, from what I understand from the depositions that I’ve read (and during self-quarantine I have a lot of time to read), the lack of respect and dignity that the Federation appears to have for the women’s team is appalling; its latest argument focuses on the fact that men and women have inherent differences in their style of the game.
But the fact that that’s where the Federation’s main argument rests just, frankly, annoys me. It annoys me because that is an obvious fact.
Men and women are physically built differently, so of course playing styles are different in the same sports. But that doesn’t mean the four-time World Cup Champions don’t deserve the same pay for the work they’ve done.
As this lawsuit continues and as women in the world continue to face obstacles and the reinforcement that men are somehow superior, I will proudly stand right by their side. Because unfortunately, I think this inequality will exist for years to come.
But I cannot wait to see the day when badass women are respected on all turfs.