Gendered | Teen Ink


May 22, 2020
By LaetitiaMoore, No, Pennsylvania
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LaetitiaMoore, No, Pennsylvania
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Have you ever felt uncomfortable and you never knew why? Have you ever gravitated towards clothes meant for the other gender because they’re more comfortable? Have you ever found yourself hanging out in a group of people of the opposite gender? Then other people made fun of you for it, but you saw no problem? That’s my life. I’ve always felt more comfortable when I wore a ‘boys’ T-shirt, or when I noticed most of my friends were boys. It never bothered me or them, but for some reason, everyone else found it weird and unheard of. I’ve dealt with all the names for it, too. Those words don’t hurt me, but what does is the stuff I can’t ignore. Writing on my locker, pulling my hair, pushing me into lockers. That’s the stuff that’s obvious, you just can’t get away from it. 

And when I’ve asked for help, everyone says the same thing. Just be friends with girls. Simple, but harder than it sounds. Most have just heard the rumors about me and want to stay far away. So I’m a little stuck. To get away from the pain and negativity, though, I focus on what I love. I love sports, something I’m great at. Then pump of adrenaline, the sweat down your face, the shortness of breath that tells you you did a good job today, you pushed yourself. But there’s a problem there, too. Whenever we do gym, we’re divided by guys and girls. The teacher makes the guys do the fun stuff. Push-ups, football, and hockey. Whenever I ask to join their side, he looks at me like I’m stupid. He says, “Isn’t that hard for you? Here, take this and go over there.” And he hands me a jump rope and points to all the other girls. I never take it. 

One day, I decided to not ask. I go over to the guys' side, ready to play dodgeball that day. Big mistake. I stand next to the guys when they’re picking teams, and one of the captains looks at me. 

“What are you doing here?” He asks me, and then all the guy's eyes are on me. 

“I wanted to play dodgeball, why else would I be here?” I said. I had to keep my chin high, I had to act confident. 

“You? Won’t you get hurt?” 

“That’s the price to pay for a good game. Besides, everyone gets hurt in this game.” 

“Yeah,” Someone else comes up behind me. “Everyone gets hurt in this game.” I don’t even need to look, I know who it is supporting me. My best friend, Tanner. 

“Well, yeah. Whatever, Tanner, she’s on your team,” he said. 

“Oh, cool. We get an automatic win.” He nudges me in the shoulder. “Dodgeball is her game.” 

Slam! I shut my locker, after a long day of school. I killed it in dodgeball, but in the girls' locker room, they were already talking about me. “She only does it to get attention.” They say. Yeah right. That’s the last thing I want. Attention is overrated, no matter how many people say they love you, it only lasts a second. One second of fame, they say. It's surprising how many people want it that badly. 

I leave the locker room and head to my main locker. I can’t wait for my next class, it's my favorite. It's social studies, and I love the teacher! Ms. Rubben sometimes seems like one of the only people who I can trust. She used to do sports professionally before a big leg injury made it so she couldn’t. She was the best of the best and went to the Olympics one time. I always stayed after class to talk to her about sports. I always asked her which sport she did, but she always changed it. 

“I did Soccer, legs of steel!!” She’d say one day. “Basketball, fastest dribbler around!!” She’d say the next. I always laughed when she’d do that, but I did really want to know which sport she did. I hoped it was football or hockey. The people who played those were really tough, and they were the most dangerous games. Biggest injury ratings by far. 

After class that day, I was talking to her and told her about dodgeball. I was just getting to the part when I nailed this one dude in the head when we heard a knock on the door. 

“One second, then you HAVE to tell me how he reacted.” She got up from her desk and limped to the door. That was the side effect of her injury, she couldn’t really use her leg, or bend it that well. She could still walk, but she refused a walker or cane. “They’re signs of weakness. It makes people pity you, and I don’t need anymore of that than I already have.” She always used to complain to me about stories of when people would come up to her after games and say how they prayed for her to stop doing sports, or pray she wouldn’t get hurt. “They’re always just scared of something new. It’s just a shame that it’s new for women to participate in sports and do well.” 

She opened the door and in walked a student. I didn’t really know him, but I guess I’ve seen him around. “Hi, Ms. Rubben. I came to talk to you about the sports opportunity, do you have a minute?” 

“Oh, that was today? Yeah, come sit down.” She walked back to her desk and motioned for him to sit down next to me. “Oh, and I guess I should tell you now.” She looked at me. 

“Tell me what?” I asked. 

“There’s a big sports opportunity. A scholarship. You are one of the absolute best athletes I’ve ever seen. You also put in enough work to do anything, so I wanted to ask if you would like to compete for it.”

“What exactly is the scholarship for?” 

“A free ride to the best sports programs in the city. It even allows girls to play with guys, there are no gender restrictions. It also gets you $2000. You in?” 

“Of course!!!” I was practically jumping out of my seat. 

“You say it like it’s easy to get it.” It was the first time the guy had talked since he was in the classroom. “You’re competing against EVERYONE in the school. Seniors, too. It’s brutal out there man. And this is the only time they’re offering it to our school, they do it every four years.” 

“One chance?”

“Yup, it’s a completely uphill battle.”

“I’m used to uphill battles, I’ll be fine.” I looked away after that. Usually, if you asked me what I meant, I would go on a 12-hour rant. But after today, I just didn’t feel like saying it. Not to this stranger, either. 

“Oh, well, don’t you want to know how you get the scholarship?" I think Ms. Rubben could sense my unhappiness. 

“A physical test with everyone in the room, right? With judges?” he said. 

“Yes. Three tests; One to test your strength. One to test aim and speed. And one to test your stamina.” 

“Easy,” I said. “I’m strong, I’m fast, I can aim a bull’s eye. And stamina? I got that too.” 

“But it’s not that easy. You’re competing against everyone else and the first to complete or last standing. Not ‘easy’.” I didn’t know why he started to sound aggressive, but I gave in and crossed my arms. 

“Oooookay.” I said. 

“Anyway, I want you guys to start training. It’s in 2 weeks. I’ll be backing both of you, and I think you can both do it. We don’t know what the tests are, but work on those principles. Good luck to both of you, I’ll cover your paperwork now?” 


“Okay, fill these out.” She handed us both forms to fill. Things like names, address. All that. I glanced over at the guy's paper. 

“Your name is Joshua?” I asked. 

He looked up, a little annoyed. “Yeah, what about it?” 

“Nothing, we just didn’t introduce ourselves. I’m Eden." I put my hand out for him to shake, and he slowly put his hand up. 

"Eden? I've heard of you. You always play on the boys' side in gym, right?" 

"It's not my fault we aren't allowed to do fun stuff on our side." 

"But you get it easier! You don't have to do proper push-ups or anything like that!" He sounded jealous almost.

"I don't want it easier."

"Yeah, whatever." He looked down and started scribbling with his pencil. I really didn't get this guy. I thought he was a sports person like me, but he didn't seem like a nice guy. Why did he decide to hate me so fast?

Soon we were both done and handed in our papers. Miss Rubben filed them and we were in. 

"Anyway, now Eden, you have to finish your dodgeball story!!" Miss Rubben said sitting down eagerly. 

"Oh, sounds interesting. Mind if I have a listen?" Asked Joshua. 

"I guess I don't mind. Sure." I thought maybe if he could hear this, he would actually like me. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. 

I was wrong. So wrong. While telling the story to Miss Rubben, Joshua kept making annoying comments. Things like, 'oh really?' 'I bet that didn't happen!' 'There's no way you could do that!' Why didn't he believe me? I didn't finish the story before I decided I was done and said I forgot I had to go do something. Miss Rubben got my message, and let me go.

The next day I got to class, I found out we were having a double gym. They were using the gym for an event, and had to double up on gym periods. I was already changed and waiting when someone taps my shoulder.

"Didn't expect to see you here." I turn around and see Joshua. 

"Why not?"

"Dunno, just didn't expect to see you. Maybe we'll see how well you actually do in dodgeball." 

"She does great." I hear Tanner's voice. How does he always come in at the right time? "Hi, hello. I'm Tanner, Eden's friend. And you are?"


"Never heard her say that name. How did you two meet?"

"Yesterday at Miss Rubben's class," I say. 


“Yeah, well, I’ll believe it if she beats me in dodgeball,” Joshua said. 

“Bring it.” The game started, and I then destroyed him in dodgeball. At one point I ended up throwing the ball really hard. I aimed at his chest, but he jumped up, but not high enough. He got hit in the crotch and couldn’t play after that. Everyone stared at me like I had done it on purpose, and I wanted to hide. 

“Wow, nice shot,” Tanner said, breaking the silence. 

“Yeah, if your definition of ‘nice shot’ is this!” Joshua said while he laid in a fetal position on the ground. 

“You jumped up,” I said. 

“Yeah, I ran into the ball. It didn’t hit me, I hit it.” He looked really mad. Like, p***ed. Like, he was about to beat the heck out of me. But what was this guy’s problem? People get hit in the nuts pretty often, it’s no big deal. And it seemed like he absolutely hated me. Why? 

After that, I went to my locker, and rumors had spread to the other girls about what had happened. Fun. One girl named Mackenzie came up behind me and slapped a sign on my back. Before I left the locker room I saw what it said, and it wasn’t very nice. Thanks, Mackenzie. And this kinda thing didn’t stop. We had doubled up gym periods for the rest of the week, and every time I was better, every time I beat Joshua, he had something to say. And he always looked like he wanted to bash my head against some lockers. 

One day, at my regular locker, he came up behind me. 

“I don’t like you.” He said. 

“Good for you,” I said. 

“You can’t keep doing this.” He said. 

“Doing what?” I asked. I faced him now and looked him directly in the eye. 

“Being good at sports?” Once again, Tanner came in to save the day. 

“That,” Joshua said. “He can’t always save you, you can’t rely on him forever. He can’t protect you.”

“He doesn’t have to,” I said. “I can protect myself.”

“Then why is he always budding in?” 

“Because you won’t listen unless a man says it.”

“Says what?”

“Girls can do anything guys can do. Stop acting like we can’t. Stop putting me down in sports, I’m better than everyone in my class. I’m great at sports, but no one wants to admit that. No one wants to say that, no one wants to encourage it.”

“So?” He said. 

“So, lay off.” I walked away with Tanner. 

“I don’t really protect you, ya know.” He said when we were far away enough. “You protect me more. I just say what’s right.” 

“I know. I can protect myself, I don’t get why everyone thinks I need a man to protect me.” 

“And that’s why you’re so scary.”

“Haha, very funny.”

Eventually, the day came. I trained so hard for this day, too. Always thinking, ‘I’ll show him. I’ll show everyone what I can do.’ And the competition is honestly a blur. I remember the sweat, blurry version, and dirty looks. I was one of the only girls in the room, and all the guys who were ever in a class with me gave me dirty looks. We went through the tests. For speed, I was the fastest. And aim? One of the only ones who hit the bull’s eye on purpose. Strength, we did sparing. That one p***ed me off. Every time a guy lost to me, he said it was ‘unfair I can’t hit a girl.’ Yes, you can, you’ll just be hit back. The last test was stamina, where we were on treadmills, side by side. And guess who was next to me? Joshua. 

“That scholarship is in the bag. I expected more from these guys.” He said to me. “Where’s your friend? He’s not here to protect you?” 

“I protect myself.”

“Sure, anyway, you might as well say goodbye to that dream of yours. I’m winning this thing.”

“In your dreams, I’d rather break my arm than lose to someone like you.” 

“Someone like me?” he asked.

“A sexist.” 

I was on the treadmill for an hour. Each minute, the speed increased. After 45 minutes, more than half the people were gone. By 50, it was just me and Joshua. I looked at him. I wanted to give up, my legs were jello. My knees couldn’t move. I couldn’t feel my feet. Sweat had stained my whole shirt, and my hair looked like I was swimming recently. He looked the same. 

“You should just give up now, you can’t do this,” he said. 

“Yes, I can.”

“How? How can you do this? You’re just a girl, you’re weak. I know you want to quit, just do it. Quit.” I don’t know what it was, but I was filled with rage. An automatic fire burned in my chest, I bit my lip. He was not winning. I couldn’t let that happen. Not just for me, but for all girls. It felt like I was representing all little girls out there like me, girls who just wanted to do sports. Or even, be considered equal. I was winning this, this was do or die. 

I started running faster. 

“You’re not quitting? Seriously? You can’t do this, you’re nothing.” I just let him talk, I couldn’t hear him. Not anymore. My head was filled with positive things. You CAN do this. You ARE enough. You are just as good, if not better than him. Then those positive words weren’t in my head anymore. 

I saw Miss Rubben in the crowd that had gathered. She cheered me on. “You got this Eden! Don’t focus on him, focus on me, okay?!”  Okay, okay. I got this. I saw Tanner, too. He gave me a thumbs up. Then I heard all the other women's voices in that room. 

“I hope the girl wins.”

“Wow, she’s doing good.”

“She makes me want to do sports more.” 

“I can’t believe she’s standing up to him.”

I started to hear a chant of my name, and I almost cried. I didn’t feel tired anymore, I felt energized. All of sudden, my treadmill stopped. 

“Huh?” A hand clasped my back. 

“You did it! You won!!” I looked back and saw Miss Rubben and Tanner. 

“I did?” I looked over at Joshua’s treadmill. He laid down, gasping hard. “Wow. Who couldn’t do it now?” 

“Well, I, I wasn’t ready, next time- time I’ll-”

“Buddy, there won’t be a next time,” I said. 

“Now, don’t be a sore loser, Joshua. She beat you, fair and square.” 

“I wouldn’t say fare,” I said. “In someone’s words, it was an ‘uphill battle.’” Oh, I’ve seen Joshua mad before, but I think I awoke Satan or something he looked so p***ed. But I didn’t care, even when I was handed the big check and scholarship. I felt like I had won a more important battle for future girls. I hope they’ll be able to do anything they want. They are just as good as any man. 

After that whole incident, I was treated nicer. Some people still were a bit iffy on me doing sports, but they got used to it. I actually found a whole group of girls sports rats, and they’re amazing! And most of the rumors stopped. And this all happened not because I won, but because I sent a message that everyone hears. One that will never change. 

Girls are just as good as guys. Give us the chance to prove it, and we will go beyond your wildest expectations. 


(This story was a bit of an exaggeration of things I have experienced and others have experienced. I kept getting questions about if this was based on my life, and I would say that the main idea and core parts of it are. Along with some added drama, and stories I’ve heard from others, I wrote this. I use it as a message that gender doesn’t define, and you can do anything you want and are just as important as others. 

I’ve been told so many times that since I am a girl, I can’t do sports, I’m too fragile, I can’t fight. I’ve been doing sports my whole life, so hearing this was discouraging. But I eventually found a way around that and found that through action you can change others' opinions. There are stereotypes that girls can’t fight, or you can’t hit a girl, or you fight like a girl. At the karate place I go to, we actually have the majority of girls in the older classes, and they were some of the coolest girls I’ve been around. And I got the honor to be a part of that. We had an all-girl Demo team, at tournaments you would see mostly girls going out there and winning gold. If you looked during our sparing practices, you would see 7 girls and maybe 2 guys. And you would see us girls destroying it, grappling, jujutsu, wrestling techniques alike used. We ended up changing those things said before. If someone would say you fight like a girl, it turned into a compliment instead of an insult. If we were doing warm-ups and a guy was falling behind on something thought for guys to be better at, my Sensei would say things like; “Why aren’t you doing as well as everyone else? Come on!” I love the environment that the girls at that school created and would like for it to become a norm for sports in general. 

I know I can’t change everyone’s opinions. But I can continue to encourage the right ideas as I teach the new generation of girls in martial arts. And let them know that they are strong, and they are better than what others may think. To keep on fighting.)

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