“I want little girls to grow up knowing that when they put their minds to something, when they work hard, that they can do anything regardless of those things.” – Jen Welter
Earlier this week, Dr. Jen Welter made history by becoming the first female ever to hold an NFL coaching position for the Arizona Cardinals. This comes just after Becky Hammon was hired last season as an NBA assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. To top it off, Hammon led the Developmental Team to the NBA Summer League National Championship. Women and men, everywhere are rejoicing in these ground-breaking steps towards gender equality.
We constantly tell young girls that they can do anything and achieve anything they want. We remind them that boys are not better than girls, and girls can do everything that boys can do. We tell them that there is no such thing as “only boys play that” or “that’s only for boys” because toys and sports and clothes, everything that is gender specific, shouldn’t be. And like Welter stated, anything is possible if you put your mind to it. And she proved herself right.
And yet, in the same sentence, we send girls mixed signals. The widely debated Princess culture has been criticized time and time again for that very thing. How can we tell our girls to be anything they want to be and then only show them films of girls being taught to be “lady-like” and shown in dresses and heels. As a college student I babysat and saw these conflicting messages resonating in the young girls. When a 4-year-old girl would ask me “Don’t I look beautiful?” I would respond by telling her she looked very strong or happy, focusing on her physical abilities and highlighting her emotional well-being.
As we continue to move through the 21st century, these slow yet positive advancements in gender equality are important in showing our daughters and sisters that they truly can achieve whatever they put their minds to. We need to emphasize how strong and determined girls are allowed to be and capable of being. These women help pave the way for all girls’ futures by showing them that the possibilities are endless and no one can tell you what you can and cannot achieve. Partly because no one knows how far women are capable of going since there is so much room for growth. Welter perfectly portrayed this when she admitted she never imagined herself becoming an NFL coach, because it had never been done; she didn’t know it was an option. Although all of this is great news, and we are so excited for Jen Welter, this also brings attention to the striking reality that it is 2015 and women are finally being given the opportunities and positions that they deserve as equal members of this society and world.
If there’s ever a time to highlight and emphasize the importance of girls being able to do anything they want, it’s now. Let’s use this moment to show girls that we aren’t just all talk. Part of Girls in the Game’s mission is to show that girls deserve the same opportunities as boys. And as so, have the same access to sports and after school programs that promote and reveal this go-getter mentality that so many athletes exemplify. Welter is not afraid of being pushed around, both physically on the field and verbally in the locker rooms, which allows her to push back and reach the sky. As Welter so perfectly put it, “Until we pick up and show [young girls] women that are doing things because they’re awesome and not just because they’re pretty — how else will they judge themselves?”