Featuring: Jenny Riemer
Level Played: Collegiate
College: Elon University, Division 1
1. How strong are you? and how do stereotypical images of what the female body should look like make you feel? Do you think you would feel or act differently if those stereotypes did not exist?
One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is the discussion surrounding the “ideals” of our bodies as female athletes. Growing up with 3 brothers I can remember countless times when my younger brother would squeeze my stomach and make comments about my fat. He was just around 9 years old and already had a six-pack. Despite my lack of a six-pack I would still consider myself very fit. I played highly competitive soccer and went on runs often outside of practice. Within practices we often did abs, agility, and pushups. It was frustrating as I grew up as I experienced a storm of comments from peers about what my body was “supposed” to look like because I was a female athlete. Being a freshman in college now I can tell I’m getting stronger because of the lifting regime we have for our team. However, I still experience the storm of comments surrounding what my body should look like. Other than the “usual” comments about how fit we are supposed to be, how we are expected to look, and guys expectations for our stomachs to be flat. As much as those bother me, on the other side it’s so frustrating hearing all this about how fit we need to be but then have someone like Serena Williams be so heavily criticized for her body. If these stereotypes didn’t exist I think I’d feel very relieved and I think it would make everyone a little bit healthier and just improve one’s overall wellness if there weren’t these stereotypical images surrounding us at all times. It’s pretty clear that not everyone’s body is the same, that’s science. So why society keeps reinforcing these stereotypical images beats me.
2. How do you feel about the color pink commonly being associated with female athletic apparel?
This has always been frustrating for me. Growing up I thought of myself as a tom-boy, because for me when I thought of the stereotypical “girly-girl” I thought of some of the girls on Disney channels. I didn’t want to be like them. In high school I was one of the better athletes, I was playing at the highest level for club, and I grew up surrounded by guys so it made perfect sense to me to be referred to as a tom-boy. I think the biggest barrier I started to recognize was the masculinity and femininity structure that existed throughout our world, one that is only enhanced by associating the color pink with female athletic apparel. This association made me hate the color pink honestly. Haha as strange as that is, it really did. I refused to wear pink, because for me it was linked to “girly-girls.” I believed that playing my sport was getting down and dirty and I thought of myself as one of the guys ,which is why when I was little I always referred to myself as a tom-boy. Being older now and looking back on all of this. I think the common association of the color pink to female athletic apparel is extremely frustrating because I feel like it’s just trying to reinforce a barrier that already exists between female athletics and male athletics. I don’t think it’s fair at all to try to link a color to athletic apparel purely based on gender because what color do we have associated with men’s athletic apparel? I can’t think of one. I think by this common association it’s simply trying to separate the men from women and perpetuates all sorts of stereotypes onto female athletes.
3. Tell us about your life now and how being involved in sports has shaped who you are today.
I am a freshman at Elon University and I am playing division 1 soccer here. I see myself as someone who cares about school and I work my hardest to get good grades. Soccer has been a part of my life since I was born. I grew up watching my oldest brother, Andy. I started playing when I was 4 and fell in love with it. Andy is my idol when it comes to soccer because I’ve seen him go through it all. Even today, every time my team lines up for the National Anthem, I picture my brother and his Georgetown friends lined up as I watched them do countless times. This visualization always gives me courage for the game and also reminds me of my brother who I’ve looked up to since I was a kid especially when it came to soccer because I admired so much of what he did but his hard work when it came to soccer was incredible and inspiring.
Soccer wasn’t the only sport I played when I was younger though and I can’t forget the others because they also had a huge impact on my life. I played softball and basketball until around the ages of 11 and 12 I believe. In my senior year of high school, I decided to join the swim team and also play softball again. Being a part of team has always been my favorite part in each of my sports. The bond you build with people simply because you are on the same team is so strong. I’m not always best friends with people on my team but being teammates nonetheless you share a bond that can’t be broken and even though there have been teammates I don’t necessarily get along with I would never let anyone hurt them or talk bad about them because they are family. Sports have taught me so much and I really do believe it has shaped who I am today. You have to work with people who you may fight with at times, you have to work hard and take responsibility for your actions, you have to keep fighting when things are tough you can’t just give up, and you also have to deal with a lot adversity. You have to be a team player and a leader at times. You have to communicate with people of multiple ages and you have to be a great listener. There’s so much I can say about how sports has shaped my life but that’d be a whole book, a book that I’m still writing. I have no doubt sports are going to continue to shape who I am and I’m so thankful for having it be such a huge part of my life. The lessons I’ve learned, the friends I’ve made, the amazing opportunities I’ve had and are yet to come, and the amazing coaches that have brought me up along with my parents are all contributors to who I am today. They are my support system, my biggest motivators, the most amazing mentors, and the ones I owe everything to.
4. Anything else you would like to add.
I know I didn’t answer the question on female athletes and how they are portrayed in the media but that’s because I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. I would like to add that I think there needs to be more of a presence in the media but also in young women’s athletics everyday lives. There’s a lot of adversity that young girls have to face whether they are an athlete or not and I think having someone that’s a little bit closer than just a figure in social media is necessary. That’s one of the reasons I started and love coaching so much. I may not be the best athlete in the world and I may not play professionally or become extremely famous, but I played for many, many years and I have soccer to thank for so much in my life. Being able to share my experiences with younger girls (and guys) and being able to help them in any way I can is so satisfying. So I just hope that more women are looking at being coaches for both guys and girls. As a coach I’m often paired with the girls teams for these reasons, but every chance I get I also work with the boy’s teams because it’s just as important for them to have a female leader. I’ve watched multiple players on a now U15 boys team grow up since the age of 7 and I’ve had the opportunity to help train them a couple times and be a presence on their team. I think it was important for them not only to have the amazing male coaches, but also I think having me there was helpful for them because they learned to respect me and realize that they can be friends with a girl without all of that crazy middle school stuff I’ve seen so many go through. Basically, I just think it’s so incredibly important for young boys and girls to have leadership in their life, whether it’s someone a couple years older and/or someone twice their age. I know how much it means to have someone to look up to and how important that was to shaping who I am today.