College students advocate for a number of different causes — dedicating their time and energy to supporting issues that are important to them. A Princeton University student, Quinn Parker, from Truckee, Calif., recently shared her feelings on gender inequality and how she works to overcome it.
Alongside a photo with her teammates on the Princeton women’s track and field team, Parker detailed what being a female athlete at the school means to her, the obstacles she’s faced because of her gender, and the way in which she overcomes this adversity. For the photo shoot, the athletes worked to show the strength and courage embodied within their team.
“To me, women’s empowerment means being unapologetic in your confidence & ability as a woman,” Parker wrote in the caption alongside the photo. “I see this mentality on the @PrincetonAthletics women’s track team — not only are all of these ladies incredible athletes, but they also find the time to be engineers, scientists, artists — everything! For this photo shoot, we wanted to embody this hardcore quality and show that we’re not afraid to embrace our strength and intensity.”
Parker spoke to Yahoo Style on what an impressive group of women she has surrounding her on the team.
“I have never met a group of more driven, kind, talented, and intelligent women before,” she says. “Especially with the rhetoric and action surrounding women this past year — the USWNT and other teams demanding equal pay, how certain situations are being handled in courts and in politics — I wanted to capture this feeling of confidence and capacity for positive change that the women on the team have. That was where the idea of this photoshoot was born — to express our confidence in our capabilities, both on and off the track.”
Along with her praise of her teammates, Parker also reflected on the gender disparity that’s evident in her own life and how its shaped her experience with the sport.
“The other day I was talking to a friend about traveling, and he said, ‘But you can’t travel alone! You’re a woman!’ It’s discouraging to know that because of my gender, I have to constantly worry about my safety in a way that men never will.”
She hopes to change that.
“As girls, we’re taught from a young age that the world at large isn’t a safe space for women — and not in a way that seeks to change this, but in a way that accepts it. But I refuse to be limited in what I can do, where I can go, and who I can be because of my gender. That’s why I think empowering women is so important. So that we can fight this rhetoric,” she added.
Parker feels that the unique circumstances around how she got into track and field shaped her attitude early on. “I started running track when I was a freshman in high school. That year, I was the only girl who signed up to compete,” she wrote in the caption. “I was pretty intimidated — I was a tiny freshman girl on a team of all guys. But the coach & my teammates treated me with nothing but respect, and I fell in love with running.”
She tells Yahoo Style that the acceptance and support from her teammates and coaching staff were instrumental in helping her to develop her love for the sport. “I was afraid that I wouldn’t have anyone to train with — that I wouldn’t really feel like I was part of a team — but luckily, the guys on the team were extremely nice and never put me down or excluded me,” she says. “Our coach was extremely patient in teaching me how to lift and be comfortable in competition and the weights room.”
Being the only girl on the team did affect her feelings on track and field at times, but she learned valuable lessons on teamwork and persistence.
“It’s hard to run tough workouts by yourself, as I’d often lag behind the male sprinters,” she says. “It was hard to be the only girl competing for our school — getting to the start line and being the sole female representative with no other teammates out on the track with me. There were a lot of times where I got down on myself. But at the end of the day, when we’d all finish a hard workout, or be driving back from a meet together, it didn’t matter that I was the only girl on the team. We were teammates; we all high-fived each other, congratulated one another on our races, and wolfed down In-n-Out together. It wasn’t about me being a girl; it was about us being teammates.”
Unlike the inclusive athletes that surrounded her when she was breaking into the sport, Parker has seen some others treated much differently.
“As I got older, I realized that not everyone is so lucky — my high school teammates were nothing but respectful, but that often isn’t how the world at large is. There have been a lot of times since that first year of high school where I’ve encountered pushback because of my gender, and the same can be said for women everywhere.”
Parker feels that the work of people like her college teammates helps to combat gender stereotypes and bridge the divide — and shows how strong young women are.
“By representing our school as student-athletes, we are able to break gender stereotypes that surround female athletes as well as females in academics,” she says. “My teammates are able to excel both in competition and off the track, and for this I see them as incredible role models to both myself and to other female athletes. They aren’t afraid to break into majors and careers that are traditionally male dominated; they are unapologetic in their drive and determination to reach their goals, and at the same time they make sure to bring others up with them. I think that this community that has been created on the team is the first step in contributing to our campus community, and beyond.”
The power to set themselves apart as models of strength and courage is how Parker and her teammates use their influence in a positive and productive way.
“Presenting ourselves as role models and reinforcing that we refuse to accept any limits in either athletics or academics is where our influence lies,” she says. “We want to be able to encourage other girls to do the same.”
The young female athlete hopes the post and the message attached will help others to reach their fullest potential.
“I hope that our post is sending a message to young women and female athletes that you should never let others hold you back because of your gender,” Parker shares. “Don’t let being a woman place limits on your ambition. We are capable of so much, and should embrace the opportunities that we have earned, as well as doing all we can to help others achieve these same opportunities. It’s important to foster a community of positivity and support, and to encourage girls to be whatever they want to be, and accomplish anything they set their mind to.”
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