how many female athletes can i name? (not many)

“I wanna be the next Kobe!” was a sentence that ran through my head today.

“Wait. Kobe had rape charges filed against him…” I found myself remembering.

“Then I wanna be the next MJ!”

“Dude, aren’t there any female athletes you can look up to?”

So I tried to think of female professional athletes. Serena Williams. Venus Williams. That young US gymnast who crushed it at the last Olympics – Gaby? Simone? Maria Sharapova (who tested positive for doping). Eugen(i)e Bouchard. Kerber. Ugh, too much tennis! Uh… Michelle Kwan! This list is too US-centric. Oh, Lee Lai San (HK represent!), Olympic bronze medalist in windsurfing. What about that Chinese diver that everyone loved for her sense of humour and had the guts to say on global TV that she was on day two of her period during the relay at the Olympics? Fan… something? And that other Chinese diver who was once in the news because she was having a secret relationship with another Chinese diver? No clue what her name was. Ooh, Steffi… Grab? Dang it, tennis again.

Aren’t there any female athletes in team sports who are household names? If I search deep in the recesses of my memory, there might’ve been a WNBA player called Leslie… something.

But of course there are no female LeBrons or female Beckhams or female Babe Ruths. There are no female athletes playing in team sports who command the star power or public familiarity that those male household names do because women’s sports and sporting pursuits are, as a whole, institutionally and systematically devalued. You think Ronaldo would be such a global icon if he weren’t piped into our eyeballs by corporate media? Nope. He’d still be one of the best football players in the world, but he wouldn’t be the brand name that he is today.

All this is simply to say that I know there are female athletes with interesting stories, but, to my shame, I don’t know who they are! And I’d like to change that. So help me out: Whom should I read more about?

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