Society has a long way to go in terms of its representation of women. From Jessica Chastain calling out Cannes’ less-than-complex portrayal of its female characters to Andy Murray correcting a reporter that neglected to acknowledge Serena Williams’ accomplishments, it seems that the world still has a difficult time accepting and supporting women in nontraditional roles. When I watched Wonder Woman, it literally moved me to tears because it was so empowering - and so rare - to see a lady with a mind of her own kick ass better than the men. And the influence that seeing these kinds of women has on the girls and women of the world is significant - when you see a person that you identify with accomplish something great and outside of the norm, it opens your mind to the possibility that you can, too.
So let me introduce some of the baddest bitches in sports from Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky.
Tennis pro Billie Jean King just fucking slays. After winning the Wimbledon doubles at age 17 and singles at 22, she started her own pro women’s circuit, The Virginia Slims, when she was fed up with making less prize money than male champions at competitions. She was the first female Sports Illustrated sportsman of the year in 1972, and when sexist tennis pro Bobby Riggs challenged her to a battle of the sexes, she cleaned up shop, winning all three sets. She came out in 1981, becoming first openly lesbian superstar athlete. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom “for her career and work toward gender equality and LGBT rights.” She advocated, “Everyone of us is an individual, a human being with a beating heart, who cares and wants to live their authentic life.”
After calling off her arranged marriage to pursue martial arts, Keiko Fukuda became one of the few women to be promoted to a 5th-level black belt in Judo in 1953. After she remained at the 5th level for 20 years due to a Kokodan rule that prevented women from being promoted further, she petitioned the Kokodan to drop their sexist practices and was the first woman to be awarded the 6th level. At age 98, she became the highest ranking female judoka in history, achieving the top level of 10th dan.
If you were a ‘90s kid like me, you know the name Kristi Yamaguchi. This ice skating queen was fierce and fabulous. In 1992, she was the first American to complete the “Triple Crown” of skating — winning the National Championship, World Championship, and Olympics in the same year — since her idol Dorothy Hamill in 1976. Kristi went became th first Asian-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, a victory for her family and her heritage — her grandfather had been unjustly confined at a Japanese-American internment camp after fighting for America in World War II,
Marion Ladwig, dubbed the “The Queen of Bowling,” became a legend after she won the National All-Star game five years in a row (winning 8 total) and bowled a record-breaking 247.6 (out of 300) in 1951, higher than any male or female tournament player before. She was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1959 and helped start the Professional Women’s Bowling Association, the first of its kind. Even at age 64, she was at the Seoul Olympics demonstrating bowling like a boss. She won 8 U.S. Women’s Open titles, a record that still stands today.
You’re looking at Mithali Raj, the face of women’s cricket in India. At the age of 14, she was already first standby for the World Cup and by age 24, she led her teammates to victory at the First Test Series, a first for India. She was the first woman to win the Wisden India Cricketer award in 2015 and was also awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors. She fights for equal opportunities for women in India, both on and off the field.
Officials tried to ban our girl, Madge Syers, from competing in the 1902 Ice Skating World Championship because it was traditionally only men that competed. She kept pushing, and when they realized there wasn’t actually a rule forbidding women, they were forced to let her compete. She took second place and then went on to win the first Olympic gold medal in solo women’s figure skating. Talk about an ice queen.
Sue Sally Hale played polo in a time when the United States Polo Association barred women from playing professionally. So, naturally, she tucked her hair away, bound up those titties, and donned a fake mustache to play as the mysterious Mr. A. Jones. For 20 fuckin’ years. When the USPA still refused later on to open tournaments to women, she threatened to reveal that she fooled them for decades. Not wanting to look stupid, they gave women membership cards and made polo a co-ed sport.
Gymnast superstar Simone Biles may be 4’8”, but she can definitely whoop some ass. She holds a world-record 10 World Champion gold medals and has also won 5 Olympic gold medals. She even has a signature move, “The Biles” (a double straight-legged back flip with a last-minute half-twist. . . I know.), that takes so much power that most male gymnasts can’t even do it. Plus, ya know, she’s not even old enough to legally buy a drink. Get it, girl.
Photos and facts: Reprinted from WOMEN IN SPORTS © 2017 by Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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Hannah Rose, historically just Hannah, naturally tried to change her name upon moving to NYC from Austin, Texas (but keeps forgetting). Originally from North Katy, Texas - the wrong side of the tracks. Will defend Kanye until the day she dies. Batshit crazy. Overall bae.