pinit fg en rect gray 20 Womens Football Sacks Stereotypes

grey Womens Football Sacks Stereotypes

By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly

I have played all sorts of sports throughout my lifetime: soccer, basketball, softball, etc. But when it came to football, women had no place on the field. We did have our one day at the end of the year where we were allowed to come out and play football, but it was called “Powderpuff Football” – a truly insulting title insinuating women are the weaker sex, and should perhaps start with a Nerf ball because as we might break a nail. Women couldn’t possibly play a game like football.

Football is still typically considered a male sport and is one of the last remaining boundaries for women to cross. In fact, many people still question why women would want to play contact football. I think the better question for women wanting to play football is “Why not?” Women who choose to play the sport do so because they are athletes and love the game. They see no reason why they shouldn’t be taken as seriously as men.

But since my days of Powderpuff, women have been making progress in the area of equality in football. There are now three women’s professional football leagues in the US: the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), and Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL). Together these leagues have more than 120 teams participating. The Portland area proudly claims two major teams: the Shockwave and Fighting Fillies.

Just like their male counterparts, the women’s leagues have to endure long, extremely grueling workouts and games plus exhausting travel. But unlike male football players, these women also have to battle sexism and more often than not, financial strains.

“Most people don’t even know women’s football exists,” says Simone Shepherd, Shockwave tight end and 2012 IWFL All Star. “When they do it’s not taken seriously. They scoff or laugh thinking its women trying to play a man’s sport. We’re not seen or respected as athletes.”

Ashley Kondziela, full back and linebacker for the Fighting Fillies agrees that gaining respect can be an uphill battle.

“I think some people are still skeptical about how hard we may or may not play and if it is going to be an exciting game…. it’s convincing everyone that we’re more than worth watching,” Kondziela says. “Off the field, it gets annoying being asked if you play for the Lingerie League. We play real football, period.”

In addition to the time commitment these women make in order to play football, most have full time jobs and families. Some are mechanics, doctors, or teachers while others are students or business owners, ranging in age from 21 to 47. Rebecca Brisson, Shockwave owner and wide receiver wide receiver, works a full-time job and raises her 3 and a half-year-old son.

“I need to make sure my son and I are spending quality one-on-one time [together], as well as with my partner, and still focus a great deal of time and energy on my actually full-time job,” Brisson says. “Learning to juggle all of those things to make sure that everything runs smooth is by far the biggest challenge.”

What is clear after speaking with numerous players from rookies to veterans is that no matter what they have to deal with – be it sexism, homophobia, traveling, or financial stress – they all absolutely love the game of football and the authentic camaraderie it brings.

“[I] love getting to know my teammates and building a bond with an unspoken mentality of protecting one another on the field and having that translate off the field is extraordinary,” says Lauren Harms, Fighting Fillies defensive end and wide receiver.

Though the Shockwave and Fighting Fillies are rivals on the field, they are allies in the struggle to even the playing field for contact football. They share the desire to empower and promote all women who want to play football and are committed to proving that women’s football is just as thrilling to watch as men’s.

“Pound for pound we hit hard, we run fast, we bring a very exciting game to our audience. Once people give our games a chance they are always blown away by the level of skill and athleticism they see,” Brisson says.

In today’s society, women are still expected to do it all – raise a family, have a career and stay physically fit. The women of the women’s football leagues are proving that not only can they do it all, but with tenacity and teamwork.

For information about tryouts, sponsoring a team or buying tickets, contact the Shockwave at [email protected] and the Fighting Fillies at [email protected]

Shaley Howard is a sports writer for PQ Monthly as well as an athlete, sports enthusiast, and organizer of the annual HRC Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament. She is also is the owner and operator of Scratch N’ Sniff Pet Care, which she considers the best job in the world. Shaley can be reached at [email protected]

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