Meet the Author, the Scholar, and the Athlete
Dr. Terri Cecchine
Gender norms dominate social constructions of how males and females are defined in society (Dworkin & Messner, 2002; Krane, 2001). It is thought that aggressiveness has been a male attribute, which overlooks the fact that it is a learned behavior (Messner, 1990) and is suggested more to males in a variety of ways such as toys, words, songs, movies etc. Males tend to approach tough and aggressive sports in a different way than females do, and these perceptions are shaped from birth. Males are taught to be violent as part of learning to be masculine (Messner, 1990). After the passing of title IX, many more females participated in organized sports, although the “benefits” were outweighed by the disproportionate advantages historically enjoyed by the already privileged males (Stevenson, 2007). Female participation in male-dominated sports, such as wrestling, became a way for females to challenge social constructs of femininity.
My wrestling career began when I was 14 years old. I approached my coach and asked if I could join the team. His response stuck with me for the rest of my life.
"Hell no honey, not in that"
I eventually did join the team, I made the best friends I ever had, and I learned more
about myself and social expectations of women than I had ever thought possible.
Female Wrestling Program training for athletes and coaches
"In the beginning, there is an eerie silence as the wrestlers and coaches approach the gymnasium. People are trickling in from as early as 6am, to put their body on the line. The weight on the scale is the first obstacle. Some wrestlers are already running outside in the parking lot because they know the fight with the scale will be a close one. Some are huddled under blankets on the mats in a sandwich like a makeshift, sauna.
The next battle comes when attempting to find a place in the mat in which to perform the warm-up needed to get ready for the day's battles. The day will be long there are hundreds of females lined up on the mats, running laps, shooting take-downs, single legs, hi-Cs, running chicken wings both single and double, and practicing those match ending throws. The warm-up routine is as much part of the tone set for the day as the weigh-ins are. From the minute, you take off your clothes you are being sized up. Thoughts of, 'I wonder what weight she is' and 'she looks really tough' are being murmured around from the newcomers who have not experienced this environment before. They have no idea what some of these girls are capable of, while there are still so many who seem unprepared for battle. This sport is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. The sport that allows dependence on no one but yourself."
- Dr. Cecchine 2020
"When somebody tells me I am strong for a girl, I correct them because I don’t think that it’s—I don’t think that it should be I am strong for a girl. I think of the stereotypical girl with skirts and dresses and their nails done. I just correct them and I say I am stronger—I am strong for a stereotypical girl because that’s what they are thinking in their head." (SPHS011)