Words by John Peter Himor
Growing up, I never really understood the meaning of “you hit like a girl.” When I would play dodgeball with some boys from our neighborhood when I was younger, their older brothers would often tell them, “ang hina mo naman, babae ka ba?” They meant this as an insult, and to possibly motivate their brothers to throw better. My friends would then try to prove they’re “man enough” and throw the ball so hard that their arms hurt.
I remember thinking to myself and looking for the truth in those words, having in mind the women in my family. My two sisters were performers, and they would come home exhausted from 10-hour practices but would still find the energy to help me with schoolwork. My young aunt would work two jobs so she could save enough money to buy a house of her own. And my mother, well, with all of the sacrifices she’s made, is the strongest woman I know.
All of the women I know are strong individuals, both physically and emotionally. In the business scene, in medicine, or in being the humble breadwinners of the family, women are present and in charge. On innumerable occasions, they have proven themselves and excelled at their respective fields, including sports. And especially recently, there have been a lot of great news and breakthroughs for women in the sports community. It has been a long time coming, but Filipina athletes are finally getting the recognition that they deserve.
Female athletes get the gold.
One of the more recent examples of Filipina excellence in sports was during their performance in the Asian Games 2018. The bulk of the medals that the Philippines received were won by Filipina athletes, including all of the four gold medals from the games. There’s Hidilyn Diaz for the 53-kg weightlifting event, where she lifted a whopping 207 kilograms. There’s the golden girl team of Yuka Saso, Lois Kaye Go, and Bianca Pagdanganan, who won first place in the team event in women’s golf, with Saso also winning gold in the individual event. And finally, there’s Margielyn Didal, winning the Philippines’ fourth gold medal with her amazing finish at the women’s skateboarding street event.
Asian Games 2018 women’s golf gold medalists, (from L-R) Yuka Saso, Lois Kaye Go, and Bianca Pagdanganan.
Aside from the stint at the Asian Games, Filipina athletes have consistently shown greatness, sometimes under the radar. To name a few, there’s “Asia’s fastest woman” veteran sprinter Lydia de Vega, three-time Olympian long jumper (and MOM!) Marestella Torres-Sunang, and international auto racing driver Michele Bumgarner. The list goes on and on, but the point is that Filipina athletes are amazing and they have the championships to prove it, and they deserve the hype just as much as what their male counterparts often get.
In the international scene and even outside of athleticism, women have been dominating the previously boys-only club of the sports community. We often hear about tennis legend Serena Williams and gymnast pro Simone Biles, but women have been standing their ground in various other areas in sports as well, such as in coaching, sports administration, and sports brand management.
Fatma Samoura of Senegal, for example, became the first female Secretary General of FIFA and thus in charge of the World Cup and the world’s most popular sport. Her first mission as SecGen? To open the male-dominated FIFA to more diversity.
Fatma Samoura is FIFA’s first female Secretary General.
All of these women’s achievements are proof that sports is not a boys’ club and it should be made more accessible to everyone. Just like men, women are also strong, smart, fast, and capable individuals. Biology may say otherwise, saying that males are biologically stronger than females, and so it may be, but the strength of the woman comes with the additional effort, discipline, and determination to prove that she should be regarded as an equal in a male-dominated population. And that deserves the biggest respect.
But women still seldom get the glory.
Despite the recent breakthroughs of women in the industry, there is still a long way to go for women to be fully regarded and respected by the sports community. There are still several cases of discrimination, sexism, and harassment that women in sports have to endure, and only a few of them are really given action.
Some of our Filipina athletes find it hard to find much-needed sponsorship because they do not necessarily fit the stereotype of a female athlete. The Philippine Women’s Softball Team qualified for both the 2018 Asian Games and 2018 World Championships, but team captain Cheska Altomonte said that it was hard gaining exposure and support because they were strong, “big girls”.
Violet Palmer, breaking gender barriers by being the first female referee of the NBA, was once told to “go back to the kitchen”. She said that there have been several backhanded worries that, as a woman, she wouldn’t be able to handle the stress and rigors of the court. Despite all of the sexist insults and the naysayers, Violet Palmer still officiated in the NBA for five years and paved the way for other female referees into the NBA.
Violet Palmer, the first female NBA referee, paved the way for other aspiring officiators.
Despite all of the hardships of being a woman in sports, it is commendable how our female athletes remain to thrive in their different courts. Up until now, I still find it funny how some men would use “you hit like a girl” as an insult for weakness or frailty, because women in sports (and women, in general) tend to be strong, driven, and bring home gold medals. The next time somebody tells you “you hit like a girl”, be flattered and say: “Thank you.”
What are your thoughts on women in sports? Share them with us below!