by Meredith Syms

Hello my name is Meredith Syms and I’m a romcom-aholic.  Yes, this smart, strong, athletic, and fiercely independent girl has been known, on occasion, to flop on the couch and tune into softly lit cotton candy for my brain like 27 Dresses or The Wedding Planner.  How can I reconcile this with being a competitive athlete, serious scholar, and feminist?  After all, as Tom Hanks famously chastised his all-girl baseball team in A League of Their Own, “there’s no crying in baseball!”

Even still, I do love a good romcom that makes me laugh, cry, and feel good.  There’s been a lot of media around women in sports lately with some women athletes even withdrawing from competition for being hyper-sexualized rather than valued for their competitive success (see Olympic champion Madeline Groves citing “misogynistic perverts”).  It got me thinking about my own femininity and whether I can express that on the playing field and still be successful.

While I am fiercely competitive, I am also a bit of a girly girl.  I like makeup.  I like fashion.  I like getting my hair and nails done.  Does that make me any less of an athlete?  Does it make my teammates, coaches, or spectators think I am not as serious?

Fortunately, some champion women athletes these days are showing their feminine side and paving the way for young athletes like me to do the same.  Case in point, tennis champion Naomi Osaka making history as the covergirl for this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.  And who can miss champion sprinter Sha’Carrie Richardson’s full makeup, long painted nails and shocking strawberry hair?  Some even report that wearing makeup gives them a competitive advantage, making others underestimate them.

Track and field Olympic champion Michelle Carter, the “Shot Diva”, is taking it even further by speaking out and saying “girls shouldn’t have to settle for just being one thing”.  She started a program called “You Throw Girl” where she teaches young girls about sports but also grooming, etiquette, and leadership.  Instead of playing down their feminine side, Carter encourages the girls to view their femininity as part of their superpower.  She says, “we are women at the end of the day and being an athlete is just part of what we do and who we are.”

I like this approach.  I think I will stay the course and embrace my girly side as part of my superpower.  This romcom fan might even say, “it completes me.”

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