SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2005        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Susie Arden

I Feeeel Like a Woman

    It is another beautiful day in Phoenix, Arizona. The temperature is about 105 F. Filling the afternoon air is the stink of sun scorched dead grass, the smell held with a sense of a sentimental pride by desert natives. Yet as kids, this is our homeland, the field of our elementary school is our playground. We take much pride in it and have many fun times there. Elementary kids shouting and having fun together becomes more and more special as I get older. It is to me a memory of a time as a little kid; innocent, simple, full of joy, not bothered by the pressures of the adult world.

    I remember back when I was in elementary school, boys ruled the playground, at least the field area. Just about everyday they would gather on the field in a big huddle at lunch recess. Each day the same response back from them would ring in my ears “No girls allowed.  Girls can’t play football,” so to the fence I would go to watch them. I knew I could hang with those boys. I could play football, and I was dang good at it. I grew up with my dad and big brother. They had taught me just about every major sport on the planet.  I had skills that those boys knew nothing about, but there I was watching the “boys” have all the fun.

    One courageous day, I decided enough was enough. I was going to play football with those boys whether they liked it or not. I devised a plan on how to be part of the game that day at lunch recess. I had seen them play catch along the way to the field, but today was going to be different. I would wait for them to throw the ball as they neared the field, jump out, and intercept it!  It would be such a great display of skill and athletic ability that they would be begging me to play. So I finished my lunch as fast I could and strategically placed myself right inside the playground.

    I did intercept the ball and make a great catch. They did let me play that day. However, some of them frowned with reluctance, and I was the last to be picked on a team, the leftover so to speak “Here, you take her”. I was a little disappointed to be picked last, but I was eager to prove myself to those boys. At first, they would not throw the football to me. After a few plays, they told me to go ten yards out and turn around. They threw the football hard at me. It hurt, but I caught it and ran. On the next play they told me to go to the end zone. They threw the football as I was still running to the end zone. I ran faster, watched for it over my shoulder, and put my hands out. I caught it in the end zone. Their mouths all dropped. That felt so good! I had a big smile on my face. Recess seemed to fly by so quickly as the bell rang shortly after that, and the next day, business as usual, I found myself watching from the familiar spot by the gated fence where the grass had been pressed down by the wear of my stance yet again.  I felt a lot of things that next day watching those “boys” have fun out there playing football.  I was angry that even though they saw how good I was, they still would not let me play.  I was resentful that they thought it so unreasonable that a girl can play football.  I was hurt that I was excluded from doing something I was good at, because I was a girl. As I got older I became a loner and closed myself off to others.  I continued to be accepted in the guys circle but did not get along with females.

    Byron, the quarterback and best one out there tells the story from his view. We were fifth and sixth graders, who like most, tolerated school because we had to. So we figured if we had to go to school at least we had our recess to look forward to. We would go to the playground to play football with the guys. Even now it makes me laugh at the funny things that happen. One day I hit one of the guys in the back of the head with the ball. I tried to throw this perfect spiral to the wide receiver, but it came out wobbly. The tight end caught it instead and ran for a touchdown.  Another time, the quarterback for the other team handed the ball to the running back, who slipped and fell in the mud on his face. Our team made a dog-pile on him. 

     I also remember this girl with big thick glasses, baggy sweats and a t-shirt, who stood at the gate almost every day and watched us play. This one day when we were headed out to the playground and I threw a long pass to one of the other guys. Then out of no where that skinny girl with the glasses who jumped out and intercepted the ball. It was a good catch, but what was that stupid girl doing! She wanted to play football with us. I think her name was Susie or Susanna. I can’t remember. We let her play that one day. We ignored her at first. As a joke between us guys, we told her to go out 10 yards and turn around. I drilled a bullet at her. We expected the ball to pound her and make her cry, but she freaken caught it and ran down the field. Then, we told her to go long all the way into the end zone. I threw the ball still not thinking that she would catch it. She ran under the ball and made a great two-handed grab in the end zone. We could not believe what we were seeing. This little girl was good! But most of the guys were getting irritated that she was invading our game. This is a guy’s game and we were having fun with the guys.  As the bell rang for recess to be over, they decided that would be the last time we let a girl play football with us!

     I felt kind of bad for her. She was pretty good. It seemed like she just wanted to fit in and have fun. She did not look like she fit in with the girls, and they did not let her hang out in their groups.

     It was the late 1980’s and there was sort of this calmness in the country as well. The cold war was still very real, but at this particular time things were pretty peaceful.  There was a struggle about women being allowed to enter the realm of sports that was pretty much dominated by guys.  Women were beginning to be interested in competing in sports.  Laws were passed that gave women more opportunities to enter sport competitions. Title IX states, “no person in the US shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid.” In June of 1997, the Women’s National Basketball Association WMBA began its first season, which catapulted women onto the televised professional basketball stage. In 1999, the Women’s U.S. Soccer Team won the Women’s World Cup on national television.

     To those boys it was just having fun at recess, but for me this was a time in my life when I remember being the happiest, at least, being in my environment.  I was a little kid in elementary school.  I had grown up in that neighborhood.  Everything seems to be special about that time, that place.  My dad was still alive and was raising my brother and me.  Somehow he seemed to make everything in our lives so special.  Sports was something that my dad, my brother, and I shared as a family.  My dad had us both in soccer together as little kids, playing and running around on the dingy, dead grass having a blast!  I remember my dad’s proud face as he watched his energetic little girl play her heart out.  Life was secure back then.  My dad was there and we had lots of good times.

     That specific incident on the playground stuck with me, because playing sports with the guys represented my happiest times as a little girl with my family.  Being left out of that was like being torn away from my happiest memories.  Playing hard and being good at it was, in my mind as a little girl, how I got praise, attention, and acceptance.  I guess I felt as though I did not have anything else to offer without my abilities to perform well. 

It has taken a long time to realize that is not true.  My faith in the God who created me has been the main contributing factor to my self-revelation. God has helped me think about myself as He describes His thoughts about me in The Bible. Others, who also have that same faith have encouraged and challenged me greatly to believe in myself and be confident that God did make me an awesome person. I have a lot to offer as a person and as a woman.

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