To the old standard of beauty,
You told young girls like me to make sure we wear makeup, do our hair and wear the perfect dress, while we wait for a guy to change our whole story. The women you told us about include Cinderella and Snow White. No offense to Snow White, but she just laid there until some guy kissed her and woke her up.
You projected this idea that we had to be thin and polished to be beautiful. By your standards, pretty was defined by not only what you looked like but also what you did. Pretty girls weren’t on the math team. Pretty girls did not play aggressive sports. Pretty was more than a look, it was an entire image. These strict rules for beauty made me question my reflection. While I thought I could be cute, I would have never called myself beautiful.
I always loved sports. At first, I played tennis because I saw women playing on TV. As I grew older, I started engaging in team sports: softball and soccer. But it was at 22 years old when I signed up for football that I found the magic that ended your spell.
When I started playing football I thought that meant I needed to be big, wear black and look tough. At 5-2, that wasn’t an easy mold to fit. One time I was on my way to a game with my coach
Some guy goes to him, “How did you get so lucky to ride to the game with a cheerleader?”
He responded, “That’s my linebacker and she will kick your ass.”
I realized it made opponents mad that I was small and feminine. So, instead of trying to create this football persona, I decided to be an extreme version of myself. I threw out my black undershirt. I stopped trying to look tough. On the field, I’d sport makeup, pigtails and a pink undershirt. I couldn’t get in someone’s face at 5-2, but I could blow kisses to them on the sideline while telling them that I would be all over them the next play. While teammates thought I was hilarious, I threw off my opponents, giving myself a competitive edge.
Suddenly, I owned who I was – a woman who loved and played football. It worked for me and allowed me to embrace being a girl who didn’t fit the mold. I felt comfortable in my skin, as I didn’t have to choose between this unrealistic standard for women that you created and my passion for athletics. I could get my hands dirty but still get my nails polished. This revelation not only made me a more confident person but also a better football player.
I could get my hands dirty but still get my nails polished.
I embraced being small and used my ability to get low and be quick to my advantage. Ultimately, I mastered the game and I became the first female coach in the NFL. Now, I travel the country teaching other young women the sport, while instilling in them the idea that their biceps can be bigger than their boobs and they can still be beautiful.
I am personally making sure our world gets farther and farther away from you. But I am not alone. Companies are featuring more models with different shapes and sizes. Young girls are playing sports at record numbers. Women are embracing their unique body types.
We are no longer defining beauty by our image, but rather setting standards with our attitude.
As a football player and most certainly as a coach, I am honored that I shattered the glass sideline, but I am even more proud that I am a part of a generation that is shattering the glass slipper.
Living happily ever after,
Coach Jen Welter
About the author:
Dr. Jen Welter is the first female to coach in the NFL. In the summer of 2015, she served as a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals. She currently travels the country giving motivational speeches and hosting football camps for young girls. She is also part of Orly Beauty’s campaign for their line of nail polish.
Repost, react and give back:
Steve Nelson is donating $25 to Girl Up in honor of the first 25 shares of Coach Welter’s story. If you like her story make sure you donate. Girl Up is a global movement of empowered young women leaders who defend gender equality.
The Unsealed will match the donation if they get 100 new subscribers to their newsletter and 100 new Facebook followers by 9-25-19.
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Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.