A Team of Our Own

Mediocre Athlete Looks Back on 40 Years of Title IX

Thinkstock

By Elissa Strauss

Published July 03, 2012, issue of July 06, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Watching sports matches feels to me like seeing the same movie over and over again, and I can’t say that working in teams of any sort has ever really called out to me, hence my career choice as a freelance writer.

But this isn’t to say that those early morning practices or soul-crushing lost playoff games had no impact on me. They may not have imbued me with an everlasting love of team spirit, but they did give me a way to think about my body that was an alternative to the messages surrounding me.

As a Jewish girl, you inherit two separate legacies of supposed weakness. Jews, as 20th-century European anti-Semitism portrayed it, were an anemic, hunched bunch, not beacons of strength. (Of course Zionism did all it could to reverse this image, by using only the brawniest, sun-kissed images of our people in its propaganda materials.)

As for the girl part, it seems silly even to belabor the point, but physical strength is not something that is necessarily encouraged in girls. And this is still largely the case today. When we think of a “feminine” physique, the image is of someone dainty, not of Madonna’s roped arms.

In fact, not only is toughness not encouraged in girls, but frailty actually is. Anyone who has seen any advertisement from the past 50 years featuring a woman can testify to the fact that thin is in when it comes to how we should look. Teenage girls are not ignorant of these messages, and many of us spent our high school years roaming the school hallways, never quite feeling attractive enough.

But then every day, at 2:00 p.m., I would step into the gym or on the field, and a whole new set of expectations was put on me. Suddenly my body was judged not by how it looked, but rather by what it did. My coach would push me to run faster, jump higher, hit harder — and when I did it, all I could think is, “Damn, I am strong.” It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the fastest or strongest.

And I am not the only one. Studies show that girls who play sports are more likely to have a better body image and to do better in school.

While I have not participated in team sports since high school, I still chase that particular high. When pushing myself to finish a 5-mile run, or balancing on my head for a few minutes during yoga, it’s all in the name of feeling strong.

Elissa Strauss is a frequent contributor to the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.