Women Have Always Been Doing Things

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

I just read something in which a male writer explained that the US women's soccer team is better than the men's only because women's football is "relatively young." (Not, for example, because women are shut out of professional football and baseball in the US, so there is a higher concentration of better female athletes in one of the professional sports open to women.) Women's soccer is "relatively young," so the US women's team just seems better by comparison.


Not only is that demeaning to the women who play professional soccer, but it also erases the fact that female people have been playing soccer for a very long time, even if they weren't allowed to play it professionally.

This is a theme I have seen over and over in my life. Like: Women are cooks; men are chefs.

Or, growing up in a religious tradition in which only men can be ordained as ministers, I was repeatedly told (by men) that was because only men can interpret and teach the word of god. Except for the (unpaid) Sunday School teachers, who were all women. And the (unpaid) Prayer Chain members, who were all women. And all the women who did (unpaid) home ministry. It's not that women couldn't and weren't interpreting and teaching the word of god. They just weren't getting paid for it.

Or like all of the many, many, many conversations I have had about history, in which a dearth of documentation of women doing something, from being blacksmiths to warriors, is held out as "evidence" that women simply never did those things.

(This, as an aside, is a narrative that is not exclusive to women. It happens to all people of color, queer people, and other marginalized people, too. We are erased from history, erased from doing things, erased from existence. For instance, if you listened exclusively to OBESITY EPIDEMIC! rhetoric, you might come away believing a fat person never existed before 1970.)

Women have always been doing things. Whatever things there were to do, women were doing them.

That we were denied the right to do them doesn't mean some of us weren't. That we haven't been paid to do them doesn't mean we weren't. That we have not been recognized and rewarded and celebrated for doing them doesn't mean we weren't doing them all along.

Women and girls were playing soccer long before some of us were allowed to do so on a visible, international level.

Women's football isn't "relatively young." Female people did not just start spontaneously playing soccer the moment that women's organized professional football came into existence.

And, yes, of course it matters that women were long (and in many places, still are) denied the opportunity to play organized professional football, because consistently playing with a team at a high level affects competency and ability.

But let's stop talking about women's football, or anything that women do in any established pursuit, as a new development.

Women have always been doing things. Let's not mistake men not paying attention to women doing things for women not doing them.

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