Last Friday, Erin DiMeglio became the first female quarterback to take a snap in Florida varsity football history. Of course, seeing as how she’s the third-string QB, this didn’t happen until her team was up 31-14 with 1:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. And never mind that she didn’t get a chance to throw the ball, instead only put in the game so she could hand it off in order to run down the clock and secure the win. Still: the 17-year-old senior is making history. And in doing so she’s making a name for herself and her school.
And I commend her for that. Truly. It’s always impressive to see any athlete overcome the odds and do something that’s never been done before. The issue I have with it is that it’s an issue at all. That in 2012, we’re just now seeing female quarterbacks on varsity high school teams. That news outlets are saying things like, “she’s expected to actually play” implying that perhaps a football team would waste that spot on their roster just to, I dunno, not hurt her delicate female feelings? I mean, we can’t have tears on the 50-yard-line now, can we?
Luckily, her teammates appreciate DiMeglio’s skills on the field and support her wholeheartedly, but it’s important to note that “support” doesn’t come without some implied sexism. Take for instance the QB who’s above her on the depth chart who said, “Most girls go to teams and can't do anything. But she can actually play...”
Oh. She can ACTUALLY play? She didn’t just give the coach a blowjob to get on the team? Now I’m confused because I thought that was the only way women could ever get ahead in this world!
Also, on what is he basing this idea that most girls go to teams and can’t do anything? If that’s the case, why are they making the team? Yes, it’s wonderful that he commended DiMeglio for her accomplishments, but why must other female athletes be torn down in the same sentence?
Erin DiMeglio made the varsity team because she deserved to make it. Which is exactly how it should be. The story of how she got there, however, is both impressive and, frankly, disappointing.
DiMeglio’s father taught her how to throw a football when she was a child. She joined a flag football team in fourth grade with three other girls and 90 boys. She was the only girl to play quarterback. Later, as a freshman in high school, she helped the boys’ varsity football team however she could, fetching the ball or assisting the trainer. She also QBed the girls’ flag football team where girls couldn’t “catch her ball because she throws too hard.” (I’ll just let that one go; there’s only so much time in the day.)
Because DiMeglio was such an impressive player, the varsity coach invited her to throw with the boys during the off-season and even left her suit up in full pads after she begged, but warned her “You’re not playing.” (Sigh.) After she wore him down with relentless determination, she did the same to her parents who finally gave her a consent letter to present to her coach. But because she’s a girl, however, that wasn’t enough for the coach.
“I asked for a letter from her mom,” he said. Because that’s what most varsity players have to do. Get a second permission slip from their mommies.
I understand there are risks in contact sports like football and I do think that parents should have to allow their children to play. However, the fact that DiMeglio’s original consent letter did not satisfy the coach and the fact that she had to beg and plead for him to allow her to play in the first place is exactly what’s wrong with our sexist society.
Women have to fight to succeed. We often have to repeatedly ask for the things we deserve -- the things that are given to men who just show up and try out. We don’t just get the same salary; we have to prove we deserve the same salary. You know, because our pesky vaginas might keep us from doing a good job. (Sorry, where was I? I just got sidetracked by the thought of bonbons and diamonds… Giggle!)
Oh right. Most women don’t just show up and get a job as a business executive or a politician. They get those jobs because they clawed their way to the top. Because they fought hard for it. Didn’t take no for an answer. Never gave up. Needless to say, this isn’t true in all situations (thank goodness), but unfortunately, it’s true in many. Too many. And I’m not trying to take away from men who have earned those same spots, but I think we all know they had an easier time than any woman would getting there. If you don't believe me, watch this video and prepare to be enraged.
I am proud of Erin DiMeglio. I am elated that she got something she wanted because she practiced for it and because she deserved it. I’m sad she had to fight so hard for it when she was clearly worthy of the position, but hopefully the fact that she is there, that she is a female quarterback on a varsity high school football team, means that hopefully, for other girls with dreams like hers, it won’t always be that way.
In the meantime, Erin DiMeglio is a good reminder for all of us that even though women are often not treated equally to men, if we present our case with enough passion and determination, there’s a chance we’ll get exactly what we deserve.
I’m still asking my mom to sign that second permission slip though. You know, just in case.