I went to watch my friend Scarface's soccer match the other day. I find most sports boring and have never felt the compulsion to play or watch them, but it was a slow day.
Next to the field, on the courts, were some members of the girl's volleyball team, training.
The boys playing soccer wore knee-length, baggy shorts, and loose, airy shirts with their names or nicknames on the back. I never once saw one of them have to stop playing to adjust their uniform.
The girls playing volleyball wore short, tight shorts; more like swimwear than sportswear. Their shirts were short enough to show off their bellies, and tight enough to show off their breasts. They had to take continuous mini-breaks to tug everything back into place (flattering place, of course).
Before playing, the boys in soccer stood around, talking loudly, excitedly, kicking the ball around amongst themselves, showing off their m4d 5killz.
The girls giggled and made attempts at cheerleading routines. Seriously.
One could argue that the reason for this gap was that the girls were just silly, just vain. That they didn't take their sport seriously; you could even argue about how the cultural preference for soccer in Latin America is what causes other sports not to be taken as seriously, nothing to do with gender (I've heard that one more than you'd think, actually).
But then I remembered NH. She's been part of the girl's soccer team since I can remember. I remembered watching her during breaks in the afternoon classes, seeing her do every little inane warmup, guard the goals like her life depended on it, chase the ball with a vengeance. She plays in the afternoon sun, at temperatures over a hundred degrees when the rest of the team complains about the heat and the dust. She will not roll down the waistband of her shorts or tie her shirt into a knot at her midriff. Her uniform is not several sizes too small. On her, it is a uniform, clothes to compete in, not a fetching little Sporty Spice ensemble.
Like only a very small handful of the teenage girls on any team in school, she is there to play, even causing some of the boys to condescendingly admit to me (because of course, they have the last word in all sports-related matters) that she could give them a run for their money.
Considering that she is this way on and off the field, being brilliant, outspoken and transgressive, it's no surprise that she's deemed unfun, unfuckable, and unfemenine. Escaping categorization in the sex class, even if only within certain contexts has made her the object of taunts by the boys and girls who feel threatened by her.
The patriarchy is insidious, deceptive, and doesn't cease its indoctrination of every human being because of something like age. Many girls join sports teams to be part of a club: they love the idea of being a woman excelling in a man's world*, being tough, special, nonconformist; when in fact, they're just playing along, pandering to the status quo that that defines them as nothing more than slabs of meat.
But she strives to be the best, not limiting herself to "the best of the girls", or "the best I can be without appearing too competitive or masculine". Even if I can't get into sports myself, her one-woman struggle against the behavioral and social standards of "women's sports" impressed me before I even knew her. She runs hard, kicks hard, and doesn't mind looking ugly, dirty, sweaty or sunburnt. She is my hero of the day.