Throwback Thursday: Female Firsts
Lately, the media and social media have shed a lot of light on pro-feminism and antifeminism movements. With the help of UN Ambassador Emma Watson, the UN Women helped stand up for women’s rights to laugh in public when the Turkish deputy prime minister said in a controversial speech that women should not laugh in public. On the other end of the spectrum, BuzzFeed brought to light the Women Against Feminism movement, where women claim they don’t need feminism for “reasons” such as feminists “play victim,” and only value one gender.
The truth is that the numbers don’t lie. Women still make $.82 on the dollar to men and have to deal with sexists comments in the workplace that men don’t. That’s why brands produce ads like Always’ “#Like a Girl” and Verizon’s “Inspire Her Mind” challenging how society both sees and portrays women.
Only less than 100 years ago, women did not even have the constitutional right to vote. Without that right, women were omitted from “We the people” and even the inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness because they had no say in the democracy. The government had to amend the constitution in order to start moving toward gender equality in the US. While the US is ahead of most countries, the facts and social commentary supported in today’s ads suggests that we as a society have not achieved that equality yet.
That’s why when something does happen to narrow the gender gap, society should celebrate the events. Earlier this week, the reigning NBA Champions (and dethroners of the Miami Heat), the San Antonio Spurs, appointed Becky Hammon as the first full-time female coach in the NBA. Hammon played as a point guard in the WNBA for 16 seasons until a knee injury sidelined her. During her injury, she formed a relationship with the Spurs, offering insights to the team. What’s most important about this event is that Hammon wasn’t hired because she is a women, but she was hired because she’s the right person for the job. The Spurs looked past gender.
At the end of the day, being seen as a person and not a gender is what’s important, right? That’s when society has truly reached equality. While society still has a long way to go, in honor of Hammon, let’s take a look back at five women (or groups of women) who’ve helped bridge the gender gap through female firsts in sports for this Throwback Thursday.
2014: Sochi Olympic Women Ski Jumpers
According to team USA’s Women’s Ski Jumping website, “women have been ski jumping for over 100 years,” but it wasn’t until this year that women were allowed to represent their countries in the sport. Getting women into the Olympics was a tough feat that required years of lobbying, and in Sochi, all the female competitors made history by competing in the event.
Visa highlighted the historical significance of the event in an ad and used an Amelia Earhart (another female pioneer as she was the first person to make solo flights across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans) speech as a voice over.
2013: Mia Hamm inducted into the World Football Hall of Fame
Perhaps anyone who remembers the 1999 Women’s World Cup remembers Mia Hamm. While her goal in the shootout helped put USWNT on the global map, it was perhaps her teammate Brandi Chastain’s celebration that caught the US attention. The fact of the matter is that the 1999 World Cup winners should be remembered a lot more for their contributions to soccer than the one moment when a team member ran around in a sports bra in front of a global audience. During her 17-year-career with the USWNT, Hamm had 275 caps and scored 158 goals. The World Football Hall of Fame recognized that, and in 2013, Hamm became the first women inducted into the Pachuca World Football Hall of fame.
2013: Shore to Shore
Aside from politics, 100 miles of sea water is all that separates Havana, Cuba from Key West, Florida. Yet, before 2013 no person had ever successfully made the swim from shore to shore without a shark cage. In 2013, Diana Nyad, at the age of 64, became not only the first woman but the first person to swim that distance without a shark cage. Fighting off the wind, cold waters and jellyfish (all of which were obstacles that held her up in her four previous attempts), Nyad swam for 53 hours before arriving to Key West beach.
1997: Putting Women on the Board in College Football
Liz Heaston, a placekicker for Willamette University Bobcats, helped bridge the gender barrier when she became the first female to play and score in a college football game. Heaston paved the way for other female football players including Katie Hnida, Ashley Martin and Tonya Butler.
1975: Conquering Mount Everest
What better feat than human verses nature? In 1975, Japanese mountain-climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to climb the world’s tallest mountain. Standing at four foot, nine inches, Tabei was able to make her way up the 8,848-meter peak, and when she climbed to the Summit of Mount Everest, Tabei climbed into the history books.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how far women have come, and it helps give society a push to keep moving forward.