Last month, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston spoke to a Tampa Bay elementary school. The schools’ hopes were for him to talk about students realizing their full potential. Instead of sending a message to everyone, his message was more addressed to the boys in the room.
“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong. We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys are not supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I am saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you will have a very, very deep voice.
“But the ladies, they are supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it.”
This represents such a problem with the way people look at women, especially in sports. When Winston told all of the young girls in the room to sit down, be silent, polite and gentle, he was speaking to little girls who have potential to grow up to be lawyers, doctors, surgeons, teachers, astrophysicists, WNBA players, female NFL coaches, college athletes, the future president and much, much more.
When you feed into the stereotype that girls and women are supposed to sit down and be dainty, you are going back to 1919, when women were expected to just sit down and be quiet.
So, here is my message to those girls. Stand up. Be loud. Be kind, because it is the right thing to do. Raise hell. Stand up for what you believe in. Do not give in to the stigma that you are supposed to just be a woman in a man’s world. If your favorite subject is math, become an engineer or a statistician. If your favorite subject is science, be a surgeon. If you want to shape small minds one day, be a teacher. Bottom line is, be whatever you want to be.
To the boys in the room, you stand up, too. Or if you want, sit down. If you are an introvert and prefer to be soft-spoken, be soft-spoken. The depth and tone of your voice is irrelevant to what you can accomplish one day.
The only thing Winston had to offer to the conversation was when he said the third rule of life is that you can do anything you put your mind to.
In recent years, the Cardinals hired a woman to coach inside linebackers during preseason and training camp. The Bills just hired the first full-time female football coach, and the NFL just also hired their first full-time woman’s referee.
Women are beginning to put a dent in social expecations of them, and we even had a woman on the presidential ticket. Women are lowering the glass ceiling every single day, and we do not need people like Jameis Winston to come speak about how we need to sit down. Girls need to be louder and taller than ever. So do not listen to Winston. Do not sit down, do not be silent and do not be gentle.
Instead of focusing on Winston and other athletes who tell women to sit down, young children should look to some of the great female athletes such as the Williams sisters, Ronda Roussey, Candace Parker, Lisa Leslie, Danica Patrick, Jennie Finch, Mia Hamm, Wilma Rudolph and so much more.
2007 was the first year Wimbledon paid male and female winners the same amount of money, which Venus Williams played a large part in. Both the Williams sisters are household names even in other countries and are highly regarded as two of the best athletes of all time.
The USA Women’s Hockey Team recently boycotted the IIHF Women’s World Championship in demand of fairer pay and benefits for being on the team.
There are several great female role models who exemplify standing up, not sitting down. These women are not dainty, but have broken barriers and stereotypes. These are the people who should be speaking out to young children about following their dreams, not someone who tells them that only half of them can follow their dreams, while the other half are expected to just go through life silent and still.