World Cup 2015: What Women Want

Read this thoughtful short essay in The New Inquiry today. It celebrates the Women’s World Cup athletes and takes a closer look at wanting something so badly helps us (and women in particular) transcend self-consciousness. The author writes:

At least a few times a month, I find myself giving a silent, spontaneous thanks that something shifted enough within me to start treating my body as a physical tool instead of just an inconvenient container for my head. What that shift tells me, though, is that there might have been something that could have flipped on that switch earlier in my life.That something, I suspect, could have been the face of Abby Wambach, or Christine Sinclair, or Wendie Renard, or any of the women whose faces have moved me in the past few weeks

Watching the WWC finals, I was thankful my parents encouraged me to play soccer as a young girl. I started playing before I hit puberty, which turned out to be important. When I did grow breasts and hips and became totally self-conscious pretty much overnight I tried to drop out but was gently but firmly discouraged from doing this, in part because my dad was my assistant coach. My teams didn’t win, though I did get my one and only yellow card as a midfielder for the Funky Chickens, but as I stopped recognizing my body and tried to retreat into my head in every other part of my life I continued going to practice. I hated it. Driving to soccer games would make me physically sick with anxiety, not over whether we’d win (we wouldn’t), but the prospect of being seen trying too hard on the field. I kept showing up not because I didn’t want to disappoint dad, but because I didn’t want to disappoint my teammates. They expected me, they were happy to see me, and occasionally on the field or in a halftime huddle, orange slices stuck between our teeth, the painful I was replaced by a powerful “we.”

Watching Lloyd give the captain’s insignia to Wambach in the last minutes of the game, I was struck by the joy they took in playing together, the prospect of winning multiplied tenfold, the idea that they pushed beyond themselves–fear, anxiety, physical limits–as much for each other as for themselves.

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