For years, males dominated the world of athletics and females were left in the shadow or on the sidelines. However, every now and then a female athlete will break the barriers of gender and charge into a sport where women are the minority. With the hype of the first female UFC champion circulating all over the country, now is a good time to highlight a few of the female athletes who have changed history and opened the doors for other women to have the same opportunities as men, not just in sports, but in all aspects of life.
The 26-year-old mixed martial artist/judo competitor is being recognized nationally as the first female UFC Bantamweight champion, as well as the number one female MMA fighter in her weight category. However, even before she was a household name, she was breaking records by competing in the Olympic Games, and at age 21 Rousey became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in the judo category. She has also had a fairly successful career in martial arts, and when not competing, Rousey shares her talent by teaching MMA in Santa Monica.
Sarrah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani
Sometimes a female breaking into the sports world symbolizes a much larger and more important transition than just a competition. In 2012, Sarrah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani served as the first two Saudi Arabian women to compete in the Olympic Games for the track and judo categories (respectively). The conservative practice of Saudi Arabia traditionally forbids women from competing in any sport, so to have two females participate in the Olympics served as sign of hope and inspiration to marginalized women everywhere. Although neither woman earned a medal, it doesn't take away from the glimmer of light that they showed the world.
Billy Jean King
Billy Jean King (the 1970's female tennis sensation) helped set the stage for equality between men and women in sports by not listening to the people who were putting her down and anticipating her failure. She managed to not only tune out those skeptics, but she did something most people only dream of: she managed to prove them dead wrong. In 1973, King played a tennis match against Bobby Riggs, a former tennis champ who was very vocal in disparaging women's sports. The Battle of the Sexes, as it was famously called, resulted in King's victory, not only for the tennis match, but for all women. King went on to advocate for female athletes to make the same amount of money as men, and she founded the Women's Tennis Association. In 2009, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama, and is often credited as one of the most important voices for gender equality.
Sue Sally Hale
Some people won't stop at anything in order to fulfill their dreams, and Sue Sally Hale was one of them. The 1950's wasn't an era famous for its equality in any way, shape, or form, but Hale managed to roll with the punches. She had a natural talent for polo, a sport in which women weren't allowed to compete. Instead of allowing herself to be defeated by the prohibitions, Hale disguised herself as a man by flattening her chest with tape, wearing a hairnet and baggy clothing, using mascara to create a fake mustache, and calling herself A. Jones. She managed to compete in the United States Polo Association for almost two decades undetected. It wasn't until a fellow team-mate discovered the truth and threatened to create a media scandal that the USPA allowed Hale to become the first woman to be accepted in the polo association.
There are many people in history who have been cast aside and undervalued by society. However, it's those who are brave enough to fight against the grain that not only make history, but pave the way for others to enjoy equality too. The sports community has worked hard to improve issues with gender equality, and driven female athletes have helped create a society where women are not only accepted but respected and admired as well.
James Anderson is a survivalist, blogger, and sports enthusiast. He currently writes about secure locker room storage for www.schoollockers.com.