Even though women are constantly taught to lower their voices and minimise their presence, challenging social norms is easier said than done. But if there’s anyone that can inspire us to take up space, it’s Megan Rapinoe.
In a world which conditions women to literally and figuratively contain their bodies and quieten their voices, it can be difficult to know how exactly to ‘take up space’ as a woman, even when the phrase is heralded as the key to getting ahead. How, exactly, do we go about making room for ourselves?
Enter Megan Rapinoe, one woman who is scoring on all fronts right now when it comes to living her truth. She may be co-captain of the U.S women’s soccer team and all-round hero of the Women’s World Cup, but her influence stretches way beyond the soccer pitch. From fighting for equal pay and protesting against police brutality, to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, Rapinoe isn’t shy of speaking up about societal injustice, even when she’s relentlessly attacked by Donald Trump.
How does the star midfielder take up space, you ask? By striking epic poses on the pitch after scoring World Cup goals, and defiantly defending the right of her teammates to “work hard and play hard”. By standing up on podiums and encouraging people to “make the world a better place.” By holding her World Cup trophy and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and shouting “I deserve this!” in the midst of her World Cup victory parade. Truly, Rapinoe knows how to stand up and be counted.
“How can you see all the shit that’s happening and not say anything?” she remarked. “Everyone has the responsibility to do their part - I just happen to be naturally very confident, and it seems that people listen to me.”
Being vocal about forms of institutionalised discrimination such as pay inequality, LGBTQ+ rights, and mass incarceration, Rapinoe continues, is a way to “break down stereotypes” and really kickstart change.
Rapinoe then addressed her mission to get women to confidently embody their power in the public sphere, highlighting the double standard in the way women are expected to accommodate, versus the way men are permitted to dominate the floor.
“I feel as if women are socialised not to take up space and men are,” she continued. “The team were called arrogant for our celebrations - for even planning a celebration and thinking we were going to win. Well, of course you think you’re going to win - that’s the whole point of the game.”
Crucially, Rapinoe explains, women have the power to challenge these learned behaviours. But in order to confidently assert our bodies and voices, we have to first realise that women inhabit multitudes.
“You can be famous, and loud, and boisterous, and [stand] for good stuff, too, and do it all. You don’t have to be this toiling woman all the time. No one’s here for that any more.”
Rapinoe raises a pertinent point: even if women do minimise their behaviour, it doesn’t improve their lives, and moreover, it doesn’t advance their social standing. To really challenge the status quo, we need to approach all the ways we think we’ll be overstepping our boundaries, and boldly continue down those paths.