On Saturday, Nov. 28, Sarah Fuller achieved immortality. Fuller, a goalkeeper for the Vanderbilt women’s soccer team, served as a placekicker for the football team after personnel issues. Low on players and short on time, Fuller was called up to serve — subsequently becoming the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game.
She delivered a 30-yard squib kick, a play designed to ensure the ball could not be returned.
What ensued in the days following her historical play was a constant onslaught of vicious, despicable and sexist online bullying. Comments too vulgar to put in print were aimed directly at Fuller. Trolls attacked her credibility, appearance and athletic ability.
Upon reading even a few of the comments, I was enraged. I was disgusted by how cruel the comments were. I was sickened by the blatant misogyny that seeped through the troll profiles.
It felt like everyone from all corners of the web suddenly had something to say about a ‘woman’s place’ in sports.
Sports being a male-dominated space has fostered decades of “women don’t play football” and “you don’t belong here.”
Reading the Twitter and Instagram comments cemented an idea that had long lingered in my head.
Women in sports don’t owe you anything.
Women in sports don’t owe you anything because we have been consistently excluded from said community. Taking up space where we aren’t even welcome has taught me that you are not entitled to a role model, a great story, a star player or anything for that matter.
We don’t owe you success, we don’t owe you beauty, we don’t owe you anything.
Women in sports don’t owe you anything because existing in a space where women are subjected to degradation and objectification is hard enough. Fuller didn’t owe football fans or internet trolls an exhibition of talent. She didn’t even owe them a win or a good kick.
Because women don’t play sports for you. Women don’t exist in this space for your observation. We are athletes; capable, talented and intelligent. We participate in sports for our own enjoyment and for ourselves.
I am incredibly grateful to be a woman in sport. I am incredibly grateful to occupy a space where I am not welcome. I am grateful to the women who have come before me and have paved the way for other young female athletes.
Combatting misogyny in sport has been and will be a long and arduous process. The fight for acceptance in a space where we rightfully belong continues. I remain positive that the narrative surrounding women in sport will one day change to reflect our talent and capability.
Until sports are a place where women like Fuller aren’t subjected to the same abuse, women in sports don’t owe you anything.