“FEMALE – step out here”
These were the words that made my heart pound and the words “oh crap” go through my mind.
I happened to be the only female in a physical training session that day and we were required to practice jumping over a wall (as you do in the Army) as per regulation at that time- either the height of the wall was lower for females or they were entitled to use a step.
I know these rules are there for a reason and based on the scientific physiological difference between men and women, but I hated these rules as they singled me out in an environment where I already, let's face it, kinda stood out.
In this session (given that I was the only female) I told the PTI (Physical Training Instructor) that I didn’t want to use the step. He had us all form up into two ranks which was all good, or so I thought.
It was then that he bellowed out the command “FEMALE – out the front!”
Insert cringing here.
His next words were even worse.
“Show me that you can jump the wall without the step.”
You want me to PROVE that I can jump that 7ft wall without a step, in front of 30 of my male peers before we can continue with the training? was the last thing I remember thinking before the words “yes Corporal” blurted out of my mouth and I walked out in front of the ranks of soldiers.
Of course I nailed it because I wouldn’t have said I could do it if I couldn’t.
So what’s my point here?
My point is that this story may appal some of you.
You may see an inequality in me having to prove myself, when the scrawny 18-year-old male beside, who couldn’t complete his required amount of push-ups, didn’t have to.
You may see me as being singled out because I was a girl in a boy’s world.
You may think this was ‘unfair’. Whether it was fair or not, no matter your opinion either way, have a go. ‘Unfair’ is a cop-out when you’re staring at that wall.
Just do it, and let someone else worry about fair.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I was absolutely packing it when I was called out the front, but let me tell you something about myself.
I was NEVER a competitive child, I always came 4th in running races and I was totally okay with that. I was rewarded for being “nice” more often than I was rewarded for trying to win, so naturally, that’s what I did. I was a C grade student in high school, I was not one of the popular kids and I never really minded.
Winning was my brother’s domain, I was the happy, friendly one.
So when I realised that I was strong (through my martial arts training), smart (through my early promotion to manager) and strategic (through my willingness to work harder to get results), it was like I had been given a secret superpower.
I looked like a preppy, blonde, giggly party girl, but I could TAKE YOU DOWN by tapping into my strength, both physical and mental.
So while, to some of you, this story may be one of inequality, unfairness, or exclusion, I see it one of opportunity, feminine power and determination.
The number one thing that absolutely sets my brain on fire is when women don’t compete because they’ve already decided they would lose anyway when paired against a man.
The number one thing holding women back is our own perceived limitations and our reflex to be nice over being our best.
What I want you to take away from this article is that even if you have to run at your metaphorical wall screaming please don’t fall, please don’t fall! in your head because you have to go up against a male counterpart, if you’ve done the training and you KNOW you can jump that wall.
Go hard at it with everything you’ve got.
Back yourself. Get the results.
Women are the strongest people I know, it’s time we started owning it.