More than a century ago, the idea of women taking part in any competitive sports was considered laughable and unfeminine. But that was in 1986, during the first Olympic Games of the modern era. Slowly but surely, women began to make progress around the world. They achieved a massive victory in 1900 when eleven women stood beside more than a thousand men at the Paris Olympics opening ceremony. Then, women’s participation in Olympic sports started with just tennis and golf, which the officials referred to as “suitable for women,” but finally, they moved on to accommodate more women in sports with each passing Olympic year.
Playing American Football as women in the 1930s
When a November 1939 issue of LIFE Magazine announced that those who believed in the dignity of womanhood and nursery rhymes were in for a rude shock, that was the beginning of more awareness about women who were interested in playing American football. This shock was from the Southern Californian league where all-female teams like the Stars, the Rinky Dinks, and the Amazons were playing in front of thousands of people. Women like Shirley Payne of the Stars and Lois Roberts of the Amazons showed that they could play amazing football as they outran Mickey Rooney and punted 50 yards barefoot, respectively. Although it was apparent that they could play good football, most men still shared the sentiments that they would be better off sticking to softball, tennis, and swimming. They faced discouragement from lots of people who believed that football was an overwhelmingly physical sport that would be too brutal for women. However, these league members represented just the most visible women out of an increasing number of female football players. Yet, girls’ enthusiasm for participating in football was still deemed as unusual.
Barriers against women in sports
Although we can’t ignore the giant stride women have made in professional sports so far, there are still tons of underlying issues that make it almost impossible to dream of a team sports career as a woman. Women trying to break through in the world of sports are still met with a lot of barriers, including low pay, lack of support, and limited opportunities for competition. This especially rings through for women interested in American football, where there are not enough infrastructures available to women. Combined with a schedule that is rarely conducive for an active sporting career, more women end up sacrificing their dreams on the altar of family obligations. On several continents, women are often discouraged from being active in sports as opposed to their male counterparts. And when a sporting career starts to pick up, inequalities in pay and media coverage rear their ugly heads with women earning less than half of what an all-male American football team would make. This is similar to how bad women had it in the 1930s when they first started showing interest in playing American football.
Taking the lead
Despite all the odds stacked against women, who says you have to give up on your career in team sports as a woman? You can join the increasing numbers of women playing active roles in the sporting world. As they become more visible, active and assertive, you realise that winning in sports is more than that momentary rush of accomplishment that you feel. It is also about winning the race towards combating the social stereotype surrounding women playing American football. Sure, there are still hurdles, but a significant part of them have been overcome with women increasingly levelling the playing field by taking the necessary actions. One of the big moves that have played a considerable role in helping women take up a career in American football is the creation of the Queens League in 2017.
No one would have seen it coming, but it started with a woman who watched online as some women played American Football with a lot of enthusiasm. She realised that there was a need to bring this vision to life. The birth of this movement brought to life the Amsterdam Cats that same year. The first team was symbolic as women who had a passion for American football came together to make their dream possible. It started with the Amsterdam Cats, and before long, the 0’30 Wolverines, Flevo Foxes and Rotterdam Ravens joined to form what is now known as the Queens Football League. To these women, playing American Football for the Queens Football League allowed them to play an active role in a team sport, challenge themselves and also be part of a second family that gives them the chance to be instrumental in something big.
All around us, there are female promoters, trainers, and athletes who are going the extra mile in changing the absurd cultural norms prevalent in the sports industry. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, women are making giant strides and continuously training to break past the current limitations to playing professionally. The Queen’s Football league is made up of women who are not just fulfilling their dreams but also making history. Of course, women playing American football hasn’t gained enough popularity, and there are still other factors that make it almost impossible to dream of a team sports career as a woman. Still, there is nothing like an unattainable dream. We still find the strength to endure and persevere despite the overwhelming obstacles in our paths. Women who love what they do and are willing to make this a considerable part of their lives as champions and mothers have been able to accomplish this with the Queen’s Football league.
All around us, women who wish to make their mark in American football but do not have ready access to the right opportunities look forward to the day when these barriers will become a thing of the past. There are positive signs all around us, and with time, we hope that women will play more active roles in professional sports as more supportive platforms come to life.