Warriors aren’t nice. In my solo show, Shield Maiden, our main character Ingrid states emphatically “Nice was never in my job description.” Ingrid is an elite warrior, a leader. However, she feels a behavioural expectation encroaching into her professional domain that doesn’t square up with the definition of who she is and what she’s expected to accomplish at her job.
So let’s talk about Megan Rapinoe, @mPinoe is an American professional soccer midfielder/winger who plays for and captains Reign FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is also a member of the United States women’s national soccer team which won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The team also won gold at the 2012 London Olympics. She co-captains her national team with Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan.
Rapinoe is an elite athlete trained to strategize and win. But not just win. She and her teammates have been trained to dominate. That’s what elite sports is about. Winning. All that money, time, energy, effort does not go into an individual and ultimately a team without expectation of winning. It’s not just a feel-good exercise at this level.
The terms the sporting world uses to describe sporting events are the same terms used to describe war. “Slayed”, “Murdered”, “Destroyed” “Devestated”. This is not accidental.
These athletes are warriors.
The analogy of battle on the playing field is a literal analogy. High level athletes are warriors. And warriors aren’t nice. Warriors are ruthless, focused, triumphant in their victories. Rapinoe is ruthless in her job. That is what makes her and her team successful.
When the #USWMNT obliterated (another war word) Team Thailand 13-0, they were called out for reveling in their victory. These women sent a scorchingly clear message that this US Women’s team showed up at the World Cup to dominate. Team USA stomped their opponent leaving absolutely no doubt what they planned to do to the next teams they played. Their strategy was brilliant and clear. This was NOT nice. And they took a lot of heat for it. The Washington Post even wrote and article with the headline ” US Women’s Team Soccer Team Stirs Up Debate About Celebrating Too Much”
The Washington Post article states that good sportsmanship should be the goal for all athletes male or female and that the US Women’s Team modelled bad behaviour for young athletes. This was my initial response when I first heard about the game and in fact, my husband and I even used it as a teaching moment for our daughter. I think we said something to the effect of “You can succeed, but do it with grace and humility.” I do believe this. Furthermore, I want my daughter growing up with this awareness.
But when I dig a lot deeper, I’m completely turned on by watching these women win without apology, without taking our feelings into consideration. I don’t actually want Rapinoe to be nice.
Women warriors get to be brutal and ruthless. It’s their job.
Who Megan Ranpinoe is on the field is what she’s getting paid for. She is hired to lead her team to victory. As long as she doesn’t break any rules (which she doesn’t) she gets to be ruthless and unapologetic. She gets to rub her opponents into the field and take a beautiful and perfect victory lap. I don’t know what kind of a person Rapinoe is in her personal life but in the public eye she’s an advocate for women and the LGBT community. She fights for pay equity for women athletes. Rapinoe uses her voice as a public figure to stand up to politics and policies that directly contradict what she’s fighting for. On the field, she’s ruthless.
When men are ruthless and brutal at their jobs they are classified as successful. Full stop. They are given a wide berth on their behaviour because they get the job done. They give their investors high returns. Their company sells the most widgets.
In this World Cup, I see many male sports commentators praise some of the women soccer players for “playing nice” after rough play (intended or otherwise). Specifically, women get praised for apologizing. I agree with the WaPo article in that just because men have behaved ruthlessly for centuries doesn’t mean it’s right. I’m not even getting into the historical proof of this ruthlessness.
I am teaching my daughter grace and humility. It’s a harder lesson for me personally to teach her that she doesn’t have to apologize for who she is. That lesson was burned into me and most women I know. I am so grateful we get to see women warriors out there in their full power without apology.