Men Do Laundry and Women Play Sports

Middle School. Best Defense. Champion team 7th and 8th grades.

Club soccer. State with Milan. Inwood Soccer Club of Houston, TX.

High school. Juggling champion—for three years in a row.

College. South Regional Soccer Tournament (2012). Lone Star College-North Harris VS Texas A&M.

As an athlete: I wish sport shoes had universal sizing. Again, as an athlete—not a woman athlete—but an athlete. I would have found the soccer shoes I was looking for yesterday if I had not been faced with the fact that the store I was in had ran out of "women shoes" and "just" had not gotten another shipment. I stared aimlessly at the wall that nicely displayed an (unnecessary) variety of over-sized indoor soccer shoes that will never fit me. I dazed at shoes labeled, advertised, and passed as "men's shoes" for athletes. I understand women were not allowed to play sports when this way of labeling, advertising...and thinking...of sizing and shoes was created, BUT here you have a 27 year old woman looking for an athlete shoe in 2017 facing a barrier in her "access" to adequate shoes for an activity she does along men (men who in 2017 now also do things like...cook and clean).

Thought: Actually...I wonder how many men were cooking and cleaning back then too. In rural Mexico, I once met a woman who worked multiple jobs and sometimes just did not have time to do her family's laundry with the necessary frequency. Being aware of how much his mother worked—and noticing the toll the type of work she did took on her body: Her teenage son decided to do his own laundry to take this burden off of his mother. But he would do his laundry at night.

The laundry facilities, as they are in most rural communities, were outdoors. And her son did his laundry at night to hide what he was doing from the community. In this community it is shameful for men do their own laundry and other house labor. So, to 1) prevent the community from humiliating his mother and to 2) avoid being shamed by males in the community he would do his laundry at night.

He hid from the light.

Not realizing the power of the gesture, this young man missed opportunities to challenge gender norms and the superior position of the male sex in his community. An opportunity was missed each time his hands touched his laundry. Who would have thought there is such power in touching laundry?

I sat in on this conversation between a woman and one of my aunts as we were driven through the high waters that remained from long hours of pouring rain. We rode in a truck, the woman and I shared the backseat and my elderly aunt sat in the front passenger's seat. My aunt, like the resilient woman with the laundry-washing son, was from this town too but now lived in a city with her husband, children, and grandchildren. Startled, my aunt explained to the woman there has no wrongdoing in her son's action! Further, my aunt stressed to the woman—who each time I glanced at had a genuine smile on her face—that her son's decision to wash his own laundry was an inevitable result of their lives' condition and that he should not feel ashamed of what he was doing. She added that the community needed to understand the reason why her son did his own laundry and that he should feel free to do his own laundry even under different circumstances. Still smiling, the woman stared through the windshield and onto the distance as she carefully listened to my aunt. Now that I think about it, each time I saw this woman she carried—through the town, her conditions, and circumstances—a smile.

The water was brown because the roads were not paved like they are out in the city, but they were caressed with dirt and the rushing water carried this dirt. Like us—trying to make our way out onto the hills to harvest cacti fruit—I stared through the tinted back window at loose cows trying to make their way through the rushing high waters to get someplace too. The skies were gray. I wondered who the cows belonged to and then wondered how many of the children in that household would assist in searching for these cows after the waters receded. Everyone in the truck shared the hope that these cows didn't end up where we were headed, because loose cows tend to find their way to the buckets and steal (eat) the harvest.

But anyway, back to the shoes...

The scavenging parade would have been less of a burden if all of the boxes were out, near, above, or underneath the display so that I could try on different pairs until I found the right fit. No, actually...the whole parade would have been avoided if women were included in our socially constructed concept of 'athlete.' Need I mention the male employee at the previous store I visited assumed I was asking for indoor soccer shoes for a male? I was shopping alone. He kept on referring to the potential user of the shoes I asked about as "he." After a number of "hes" I found room in his breathless explanation of what different soccer shoes are used for to clarify the shoes were for "me." I did not need this explanation of soccer shoes because I have played soccer for almost twenty years and have used different soccer vessels over the course of almost twenty years. I didn't care to ask of he thought they were for a son, brother, boyfriend, or husband. That didn't matter.

I left both stores with no shoes.

Like men who do their own laundry, women who play sports are invisible in mainstream cultures. The fact that we cannot see either the men who do their own laundry or the women who play sports does not mean they do not exist. We share societies with multidimensional people—what are are we going to do with our multidimensional positions of privilege? How do we allocate space on different platforms for those in disadvantaged positions? There is more than one answer to each these questions. In some of these answers we are in the picture—assisting in creative ways. In other answers we are out of the way. In these answers we step aside to make way for people who—like a woman standing through an unnecessary explanation of soccer shoes—hold their own knowledge.

Need a shorter link to this historia?

WhenSheWrote at Graffiti Alley in Toronto (Canada).

WhenSheWrote is sister to gifted first-generation 'Americans' and daughter of relentless Mexicans who separately immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. Currently a student of Geography at Syracuse University . . . Read more →

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