Megan Rapinoe is important, and here’s why.
Yes, she’s one heck of a soccer player (note – American player, American term). She’s scored the last four goals for the US Women’s National Team at the Women’s World Cup, and would no doubt be featured in a few headlines for that alone.
But it’s who she is as a person that’s shining an even more intense light on her on-field play.
Earlier this week, a video from January re-emerged on social media, in which Rapinoe scoffs at the idea of going to the White House, in no uncertain terms.
That angered Trump, and his supporters. It easy to understand why they’re upset. She doesn’t fit their definition of femininity. She’s good at sports (a common threat to dudebros), she speaks her mind (also threatening to dudebros young and old), and she doesn’t want to be in the same room as Trump. Throw in that she’s a proud lesbian with no qualms about celebrating that, and there’s almost no box she doesn’t tick in the list of Things Trump Doesn’t Like.
This woman needs to be kicked off the USA team immediately! She does not represent me!
US Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe says she’s ‘not going to the f—ing White House’https://t.co/k3Jn7ECAKh
— Pete Jones (@PDJ59) June 26, 2019
Alone, that makes her impressive, and she’s receiving mass support from many Americans and people around the world. Media are covering her because they know she’ll bring the clicks. Not liking Trump is as unifying a community trait as a common language, and it also brings his supporters in like raging bulls.
But there’s more to her than just not liking the President.
In 2016, she was the only white athlete to kneel during the American national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement. She joined the cause before games for her club team, Seattle Reign, and before an international friendly against Thailand.
Why? Writing for Player’s Tribune, she quoted Emma Lazarus – “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Perhaps as a member of the queer community, the marginalisation and battles facing people of colour in the States resonated with her. Or, perhaps, as a human being, she wasn’t comfortable with any person facing discrimination, even death, for the colour of their skin.
She’s also been a vital player in the equal pay campaign by members of the US National Women’s Team. They are the most successful nation at the Women’s World Cup level, the current champions, and looking good to defend that title. Compare this to the US Men’s team, who failed to qualify for the last Men’s World Cup, yet still earned up to four times as much money as their female counterparts. A group of female players is suing US Soccer on these grounds, and Rapinoe’s name is amongst the high profile players leading the charge.
As a queer woman, she’s been out and proud her whole international career. In fact, she was even quoted this week as saying “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team.” Happy Pride Month!
So why is any of this important?
It’s all about visibility.
For all girls, she’s a successful, talented female athlete living her dreams. That’s powerful on its own.
Especially in America, Megan Rapinoe is like no one they’ve ever seen before. In a world which pressures girls to conform for likes and comments, here is a woman who refuses. She has a confidence and comfort about who she is – as a player and a person – which is not often promoted in female sports. She doesn’t look like the athletes who tend to grace Sports Illustrated covers and Wheaties boxes. She’s part of a rare breed of openly gay current sportspeople, a population that is extremely skewed towards females.
She’s a break from the norm. She’s using her platform to speak up on the issues which matter to her – be it social justice or equal pay – and the extra attention isn’t deterring her from her game. Perhaps it’s even fuelling it.
In the words of Rapinoe herself, “Visibility is king. Or queen.” Get your daughters in front of the telly to watch her. And your sons as well.
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