Girls and women have always played sports.
Before Mo’Ne Davis pitched in the 2014 Little League Championships surrounded by boys, before Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in The Battle of the Sexes, and even before women were first allowed to participate in the Olympic games, girls and women have been lacing on their shoes, picking up bats and throwing balls like champions.
But only recently have girls been empowered to truly dedicate themselves to sports. Parents rally around their daughters’ soccer games every weekend, and dads today love a game of catch with their daughters. However, the representation of girls and women in sports is still lagging.
Magazines like Golf Digest have famously ignored the talents of women golfers, and the gender wage gap in professional basketball is startling. Things get even worse when you consider the over-sexualization and painful underrepresentation of women in extreme sports like surfing. In the 2015 Billabong Pipe Masters surf competition, for instance, the purse for the men was $525,000, but only $10,000 for the women. Whoa, dude.
But one photographer is trying to change that with a gorgeous project called #ShePlaysWeWin. Christin Rose came to a point in her career where she was looking for inspiration, something that would make an impact on the world. She thought of her own girlhood in sports, and how much it boosted her confidence when she received a compliment, especially when she was wearing a dirty jersey and a pair of cleats.
Forbes reports that “women and girls who participate in sports are less likely to take drugs, engage in abusive relationships, or have unwanted pregnancies. And they are more likely to graduate from high school, receive post-graduate degrees, and earn more money.”
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says, “Sport is a powerful platform to foster gender equality and empower women and girls.”
“One of the key missions of the IOC is,” he continued, “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels based on the principle of gender equality. Women athletes and Olympians can serve as inspirational role models for young girls around the world.”
Looking through Rose’s photographs, it’s striking that these little girls don’t seem to be performing “girlie” or “pretty” in most traditional ways, but the confidence and power they exude is stunning. Rose says, “You can tell by these images that these young girls believe in themselves and what they’re doing. That is the most beautiful thing of all.” She also notes that for these girls, “pretty” is whatever they want it to be.
But #ShePlaysWeWin is about a lot more than sporty girls looking cute. Rose knew going into the project that the girls were talented, but was continually surprised by the athletic power many of them possess.
When she went with Sky, a 7 year-old girl, to the Venice Skate Park, which is notorious for being dominated by men with no interest in making room for little kids, let alone little girls, she noted that the pint-sized phenom “completely dominated [the skate park]. Everybody there (kids and adults) were like, ‘Who is that?!’”
As much as Rose wants the world to know that little girls can kick serious butt in all sorts of sports, she also wants to make clear that these girls won’t be pinned down to just one thing. There’s no reason a girl who rules the baseball diamond or fearlessly blocks slap-shots in hockey, can’t also love animals or even dolls.
Rose explains, “My favorite quote so far is when I asked 7-year-old Sky, ‘When do you feel the most beautiful?’ and she replied ‘When I just landed a trick clean or when I’m dancing. Or doing makeup and stuff in front of the mirror.’”
Rose explains, “Here you have this little girl with skinned-open knees and a backwards trucker hat, yet she’s still a little girl that loves to dance or play with makeup. It’s the exact sentiment I want people to consider with this photo project.”
Girl athletes today are ready to define sports for themselves and refuse to fall into the pre-packaged or stereotypical expectations of them. #ShePlaysWeWin shows how that determination makes them truly beautiful.