Athletes Who Are Women
In the era of #metoo and #timesup, there is constant conversation regarding what it means to be a strong woman. In order to intervene online, I created the Instagram page @athleteswhoarewomen to reach out to any and all types of female athletes with an Instagram platform. This ranged from “yogi” profiles to Olympic athletes, to CrossFit athletes, to Legends of Football players. I asked them to explore their vision of themselves as athletes and as women. As a platform, Instagram allows people to share photos and brief text with anyone in the world that also has an Instagram account. I followed over 300 accounts that were exclusively female athletes across my three Instagram accounts, and I sent three questions to approximately 100 women. I was honest with these athletes: I gave them my full name, explained that I am a female athlete artist at Carnegie Mellon University, and requested that they share their experiences of strength (See Figure 1).
The motive for this project began with my interest in the psychology of women athletes, particularly those in the Legends Football League. I was curious as to why these women would play this objectifying game, and what kind of women they viewed themselves to be. I wanted to hear what these women had to say about being an athlete, and what it means to be a strong woman. Because their answers were so compelling (See Figure 2), I then decided to go further and ask a wide array of athletes who are women, in order to compare and contrast the answers of a wider variety of women athletes.
In order to launch the platform, I featured many female athletes who I know personally. These preliminary posts provided an example of the photo-conversation I hoped to produce, and these posts helped to generate responses from women athletes I did not know. All of the responses that I received were thoughtful, honest, and inspirational.
Personally, as an athlete who is a woman, I was moved and inspired by all the responses I received, regardless of whether I knew the athlete personally. The responses suggest that the love of movement and thirst for challenge is shared by women athletes regardless of the sport they play. A common belief in perseverance and resilience defined the respondents as athletes and as strong women. Interestingly, many focused on the need to support, teach, and inspire others, suggesting that the community of women who are athletes is just beginning. I will maintain and continue to build this site up to 50 or more responses as my part of this community.
Figure 1: Instagram Message and Survey Questions
Hey (Name of athlete)!
My name is Keegan Barone, I am a Student Athlete at Carnegie Mellon University.
I am so inspired by women like you, I have created a page dedicated to @athleteswhoarewomen
With your permission I’d love to include a photo of you on my page along with your answer to a few questions, and/or anything you would like to include about yourself.
Figure 2: Initial LFL Responses
Michelle Angel (Mini) LFL Nashville Knights
“To me being a strong women just means setting a good example and breaking barriers so that one day young girls won’t have to identify as a strong woman, it’s just who they are and no one questions it and they have the opportunity to do or play whatever they want!”
Alli Alberts-Dickson, LFL Chicago Bliss
“What does it mean to be a strong woman: Being a strong woman for me means having the integrity to stand up for what’s right. Not even just woman, but person—man or woman. Don’t let your ideals go just because it isn’t making you popular, or making you the most money, or it’s uncomfortable. Be uncomfortable. Do you. Everything will fall into place if you are your true self.”