A few days ago I saw on social media an ad that featured a young woman running and preparing to pass a football, dressed in that brand’s football practice gear. Cool, I thought. But then I made the mistake of looking down at the comments.
My goodness are there a bunch of … ahem … snowflakes — let’s go with that — out there, reacting with hyperbolic vitriol to a female football player. The degree to which they decided to try to tear down not just the young woman in the ad, but every young woman they’d ever seen play football (and some of them branched out into female athletes in general) was just disgusting.
One has to wonder what deep-seated insecurities these folks must be nursing if they are so thrown off by a strong, athletic, talented young woman capable of playing the sport she loves. There were comments along the lines of “I’d like to see her take a real hit,” indicating a few of these troglodytes wish injury upon any woman playing football.
Let’s remember plenty of men can’t take the hits that are dished out regularly in today’s version of the game. There are dangerous injuries, yes. Their gender does not protect them from that.
Meanwhile, a few commenters were honest enough to note that, well, she’d probably take a hit as well as Tom Brady does. At least those people seemed to be having a little fun with the conversation.
But, bless their hearts, one has to wonder why the idea of a woman playing football is such a threat to these people. What on earth could justify their lashing out so nastily? (One also has to wonder how many of the people making ugly comments have actually ever played football.)
If you were paying attention to West Virginia high school football in late August, you may have heard of Layna Grassi, the Philip Barbour High School kicker who in one game went 7-for-7 on extra points, nailed a 30-yard field goal, and then after a fumbled snap, threw a touchdown pass. Then she ran in a cross country meet and played three soccer games before heading out onto the field again for the next football game.
Just a shot in the dark that most of the people crying about female football players never managed that kind of athletic involvement.
After her touchdown pass, video shows Grassi’s teammates celebrating with her. She calls them “her brothers.” Thank goodness those young men aren’t as poisoned as the trolls on social media.
This brings me round to another item I saw last week. It was a 1967 photo of Kathrine Switzer trying to run the Boston Marathon as the first officially registered female competitor. During the race she was assaulted by a man trying to grab her bib number, harassed by a pack of other men and made to feel not just unwelcome, but as though she was in danger.
One of those manly men was John Semple.
In her memoir, Switzer says after she realized someone was trying to rip off her numbered bib, “Instinctively I jerked my head around quickly and looked square into the most vicious face I’d ever seen (Semple’s). A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!’”
What’s the threat? What are these people afraid of?
Semple was attacked for running with the men 55 years ago. It seems a certain breed of men (and, let’s be honest, some women) has not evolved a bit since then. They’re the kinds of people who watch a WNBA game and claim they’d stomp all over those women if they were playing one on one. (OK, Bobby Riggs, good luck with that.) They’re the kinds of people who criticize a woman for looking too athletic and strong. Not feminine enough, they say.
It’s a shame, truly. Not a single thing about their lives is diminished when a young woman excels at — or even just participates in — a sport she loves. Nothing. But they attack her anyway, just as they have for generations.
When will it stop?
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]