Runner Alysia Montaño recently made headlines for competing in the 800 meters event at the U.S. Track and Field Championships while she was 34 weeks pregnant. For this, I am in full admiration. I’ve been there. Running while pregnant isn’t as easy as it looks.
But when I look to Montaño as a role model, a small act she performs at each and every race strikes me even deeper: she wears a flower in her hair.
“The flower to me means strength with femininity,” Montaño said. “I think that a lot of people say things like you run like a girl. That doesn’t mean you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you’re strong.”
Lately, as I’ve embraced this mantra for myself, I’ve begun to notice the many others who have joined the chorus, from filmmakers to outdoor clothing brands.
Femininity in sports is being redefined. We shred on skis and do it while wearing pig tales and giggling. We rip around on mountain bikes sporting colorful, sexy styles. We run – sometimes jogging, sometimes sprinting – while wearing skirts and jazzy socks.
No longer do we have to look like the boys to play with the boys. We can embrace pinks and purples right along with the grit, grime and mud.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about looking good for the sake of looking good. It’s about the passion, vitality and freedom we experience when pushing our physical limits, and wanting to outwardly express those inward feelings, in our own uniquely feminine style.
In January, professional big mountain skier Lynsey Dyer successfully used Kickstarter to fund Pretty Faces, an all female ski and adventure sports film. Apparently she struck a chord, raising $113,534 – almost double her $60,000 goal.
Take a moment to watch the short film promoting her Kickstarter project. It gets me every time, not just for myself, but also for my daughter.
“If you grew up female in America, then you heard this: sports are unfeminine,” the film starts. “You got this message: real women don’t spend their free time sliding feet first into home plate or smacking their fists into leather gloves. So you didn’t play, or you did play, and either way you didn’t quite fit. You didn’t fit in your body. You didn’t learn to live there, breathe there, feel dynamic and capable. Or maybe you fell madly, passionately in love with sports, but you didn’t quite fit into society.”
The short film continues along these lines before coming to this conclusion:
“We’d like to change all of that and show girls they have a place not only in the mountains but in sports in general.”
Amen, to that sister.
I’ve recently stumbled on a handful of outdoor clothing brands founded on this same vision. Take Red Ants Pants, for example.
All Sarah Calhoun wanted was a pair of durable work pants for curvy women. In the early 2000s she worked for Outward Bound and then on trail crews. To find work pants that fit her hips, she had to buy a size up in men’s clothing; then they didn’t fit in the waist.
Calhoun reached out to apparel companies asking them to design a woman’s work pant. Most politely rebuffed her request, but one executive told her she should design it herself.
So she did. That pant is the center of Red Ants Pants.
Shredly, creators of colorful mountain bike shorts for women, is another inspiring company. Founded by Ashley Rankin, here’s how the company describes itself:
“So here’s the story. Mountain biking is awesome, but the selection of riding apparel for women is not. It has a terrible case of the B’s – black, boring, baggy, and to be honest, still looks like it’s made for the boys. Women are rad and there’s no reason why they can’t look good and feel good when they’re tearing up the single track.”
Shredly’s Kickstarter campaign, back in 2012, boldly showed photos of topless women wearing the company’s bright and stylish mountain bike shorts while holding helmets over their breasts.
Since the company’s target audience is clearly women, I like to think of this as a statement of empowerment. We can own our sexuality in the same way we own the single track.
For me, the great new frontier of embracing my uniquely feminine qualities is in the business world.
Recently, I founded GarageGrownGear.com. Our mission is to connect people to independent brands making innovative, high-quality and wildly cool outdoor gear. We scout for the innovators of today and the icons of tomorrow, like Red Ants Pants and Shredly. We tell the story of individuals with ideas. We do this through an online magazine, directory and soon an e-commerce store.
As a 29-year-old mother and wife, I don’t exactly fit the vision of tech startup CEO. I’ve noticed that nearly all of my role models in business are male, and that a great many of my role models in the parenting department are female.
I believe my great challenge is to unapologetically wear both hats: to be a great mother who is also a CEO, and to be a great CEO who is also a mother; to find success in business, both monetarily and emotionally, through my own womanly approach.
Read more from Grown and Flown:
ABOUT AMY: Amy is the founder of GarageGrownGear.com, an online magazine and soon an e-commerce store that connects people to independent outdoor brands making innovative, high-performing and wildly cool gear. At GarageGrownGear.com, we scout for the innovators of today and the icons of tomorrow. We tell the story of individuals with ideas.
Amy is also the founder of Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere (www.jhpackraft.com), which rents packrafts both locally and throughout the country via FedEx. Packrafts are 5-pound, inflatable boats that roll up to the size of a sleeping bag. You can easily carry them into the backcountry and paddle remote waterways.
Amy is an ultrarunner, adventure racer, packrafter, skier (alpine, telemark, skate and classic), mountain biker and backpacker. Most importantly, she’s also a wife and new mom. Amy and her husband live with their daughter and two big goofy dogs at the base of the Teton Mountains – a place they are thrilled to call home.
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This post was written by Amy Hatch exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC