In today’s society, a girl who plays basketball is usually considered as more masculine than feminine. This is an inherent problem that is rooted in the way that we – as a society – socially construct gender. There is an intrinsic difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ that many people seem to forget. In terms of biology, there are males and females. However, masculinity and femininity is the way in which we as a society associate these sexes. Furthermore, an example of a masculine gender norm is one of athleticism, strength, aggression, and power. On the other hand, a feminine gender norm encompasses women as nurturers, domestic, overly emotional, and weak.
Unfortunately, women who are very talented at athletics are seen as freaks of nature. This is a commonly held stereotype that many people posses. Thus, when I was 13 years old and starting a new middle school, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to try out for the girl’s basketball team. In 7th grade, I wanted to ensure that my new middle-school reputation was perfect in order to become a member of the popular girls. At my school, the popular girls embodied what I interpreted feminism to be. For example, they solely wore pink clothes, gossiped about boys, wore a full face of makeup, and stylized their hair perfectly. Most importantly, this Mean Girls type of group would never think twice about playing a sport – especially not basketball.
Throughout elementary school, I was the star player on the girl’s basketball team. In elementary school, all of my friends were also on the team and I did not think twice about being perceived in a masculine manner. It was almost expected that I would go on to play basketball at my new middle school because of how talented I was.
In early September, my mom drove me to school and wished me luck on the first day of girl’s basketball team try-outs. I decided not to tell my mom that I was unsure of whether or not I would try out because I knew she would be angry with me for trying to be someone that I was not.
That same day, the popular girls invited me to sit with them during lunch and I had the best time. After that lunch, I decided against trying out because I wanted to fit into my new group of friends who would never be caught dead playing basketball. I sat through my next two class periods in a quandary. Should I give up doing something that I love to fit into a group of girls? Or should I be myself and not care what anyone else thought?
Fortunately, I listened to the little voice in my head telling me to try out for the team and continue playing a sport that I loved. I tried out for the team and was extremely happy with my decision. The next day, I came to school and my new group of friends congratulated me on making the varsity team. I was shocked. I thought I would be dropped from their friend group immediately.
I learned a lot from this experience. Although many members of society do not feel as though they could break social norms and construct gender, I proved them wrong. By playing a sport that is considered more masculine than feminine, I broke with society’s rigid classifications of men and women and I couldn’t be happier about it.
However, I think that I was only able to be accepted as a girl’s basketball player in my small private middle school because I lived in a bubble. This bubble was not part of the outer world and I was sheltered from opposing viewpoints and people regarding me in a different way. This is a problem in and of itself. How could we enforce this same type of social contract in the outer world? In my bubble, I was living in a Locke centered state of nature in which there was no harm to others and most everyone lived in a peaceful state. How can we make the outer world operate more like my Locke centered bubble? Locke believed in a state of nature in which “all mankind being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” A world that centered around this type of thinking would benefit all members of society.