We witnessed it back in 2009 when 18 year-old Caster Semenya dominated the 800 meters at the World Championships and was subsequently subjected to having her gender questioned and tested. Semenya’s masculine physique and “lack of feminity” prompted the IAAF to administer the test. The press got a hold of it and the whispers about Semenya that had been floating around on social outlets became screams. On Monday night, Baylor University Women’s Basketball star Brittney Griner exploded for a Big 12 single-game record of 50 points against Kansas State. She went 21 for 28 from the field and eight for 10 from the free throw line. She also slammed her 14th career dunk. By any other standards, college or professional, all of the focus would solely be placed on how well and dominating the player played the game. This isn’t the case with Brittney Griner and it has never been the case.
It’s a trend that occurs in women’s sports that has become too common. Whenever there is an athlete that skews the social norms, the questioning and humiliation begins. For Griner it’s always the same statements: the “it should be illegal for her to play with women” and “Griner’s adam’s apple this…” and so forth. Serena Williams would probably garner the same responses if it were not for her extra baggage in the back. Obviously, that has been deemed worthy enough for a pass even if she could out bench millions of dudes. Also, that Williams exhibits the usual “feminine” qualities surely relieves some of the questioning. Not to say anything about Williams, because she marches to her own drum fiercely and makes no apologies. And she and no other athlete should have to make any apologies. It should not matter how “deep” Griner’s voice is, or how large her hands are. She is a damn good ball player and that’s where the attention should be focused. The notion that no female athlete could be that good or dominate as such unless she is packing something extra, speaks to how small-minded we still are as a society.
It’s something that all female athletes surely have come across in their lives at some time or another. Answering why you would rather bounce a ball than shake a pom-pom gets old very quickly…trust me. It’s 2013 and people are still quite close-minded when it comes to women in general but it seems as athletes always get it a step further. With that being said, here’s what’s really good.
Brittney Griner is a rarity, no doubt, by today’s standards. This is a 20-something college student who is obviously comfortable in her own skin and loves her sport. I don’t know how she does it. I cannot imagine the mental toughness it takes to not only block out all the ignorant negativity that she and others like Semenya faces on a daily basis. All the while continuing to set and break records. Griner does this all WITH a smile on her face. True basketball fans look her for what matters the most when she steps on the court: her game.