This Is What It Looks Like When We Let Girls Play Sports

Getty Images

Nike's groundbreaking 1995 commercial "If You Let Me Play" had one clear message: Gender equality in sports and on the playground are integral to improving the lives of women and girls.

The refrain "if you let me play sports," spoken by young girls, leads into their answers, i.e., the positive effects playing sports has on a child's life. In less than 30 seconds, a handful of girls encapsulate the many ways sports fosters the personal qualities we attribute to a feminist ethos. "If you let me play sports," they explain:

"I will have more self-confidence."

"I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer."

"I will suffer less depression."

"I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me."

"I will be less likely to get pregnant before I want to." 

"I will learn what it means to be strong."

Physical strength, not traditionally associated with girls or women, is a quality that has recently been celebrated in media representations of girls and women. From muscular roller derby women to the viral "Strong Is the New Pretty" photo series, female empowerment includes strong bodies as well as strong minds.

Source: Kate T. Parker
Source: Kate T. Parker

Title IX was enacted to make sure male and female students have equal educational opportunities, including school sports. When the policy was enacted in 1972, only 310,000 girls and young women played high school and college athletics. These days, 3.2 million high school girls compete in organized school sports. 

While there are still limited opportunities for women to compete professionally, it only means that media representations of strong girls and women are paramount to eradicating ideals about femininity and womanhood. To change a culture requires changing the image — so here are a handful of the millions of young women across the country showing exactly what happens when you let them play sports:

They're not afraid to duke it out on the field.

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

They embrace "throwing like a girl"...

Ocean View H.S. Girls Water PoloSource: Twitter
Ocean View H.S. Girls Water Polo  Twitter

Because "throwing like a girl" means they play as well as — or better than — the boys.

Star little league pitcher Mo'ne DavisSource: Twitter
Star little league pitcher Mo'ne Davis  Twitter

They know strength and finesse can go hand in hand.

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

They chase dreams.

Olympic swimmer Lia NealSource: Lia Neal Tumblr
Olympic swimmer Lia Neal  Lia Neal Tumblr

They inspire others.

Olympic gymnast Gabby DouglasSource: Down Is Up And Up Is Down Tumblr
Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas  Down Is Up And Up Is Down Tumblr

They're not worried about getting a little dirty.

University of Florida Gators softballSource: Fuck Yeah College Softball
University of Florida Gators softball  Fuck Yeah College Softball

They take every inch needed to win.

 Hannah Prince USA field hockey Source: Im A West Head Tumblr
Hannah Prince USA field hockey  Im A West Head Tumblr

They work as a team.

They push each other to the limits.

They work with precision.

Amanda Trieloff, women's javelin 2010 NCAA National ChampionSource: Twitter
Amanda Trieloff, women's javelin 2010 NCAA National Champion  Twitter

And they're proud of their skills.

Brianna Breedy, left, and Chelayne Bailey of Pickering High SchoolSource: Ryan Pfeiffer Photography Tumblr
Brianna Breedy, left, and Chelayne Bailey of Pickering High School  Ryan Pfeiffer Photography Tumblr