Society doesn’t offer many outlets for aggression in women. It’s considered unfeminine and unattractive to be pissed off, even to be exuberantly physical, to jump around and body-check each other like dudes can.
But for many girls and women, sports offers an acceptable place to let it all out, to be sweaty and gross and un-self conscious. My high school football team was legendarily bad, so much so that I remember great rejoicing at one game when they scored a single touchdown. The real action was at the annual powderpuff game before Homecoming, where the girls played each other. It’s a tradition that’s meant to be mostly funny, but the jock girls always took it seriously, playing a tougher game of football than the Mustangs ever did. Girls came away with black eyes. Everybody joked that we should let them on the boys’ team. Maybe we should have.
So I’m excited to check out the upcoming First Friday exhibit at the Western Montana Community Center, Redstorm. During her senior year at Indiana University, photographer Kendra Wainscott joined the women’s rugby team, Redstorm, intending to get an insight into the team dynamics for a photography project, but never thinking she’d actually be told to play in a match. She was terrified when she learned at a warm-up that she’d be starting in the first game. “Unfortunately, I took a cleat to head and had to be pulled out, but I must have done all right because I started again every game after that,” she explained via email.
Wainscott spent a year playing with and photographing Redstorm, and her resulting work shows not-often-seen glimpses of muscular, stereotype-defying women, sometimes with gnarly injuries. “The goal was to not only show the dynamic movement and punishment of the game but to show its beauty as well,” Wainscott says. “Each player’s portrait defies hegemonic stereotypes in some way, and not necessarily in a way one might expect.”
I’m not about to advocate that we could all use a cleat to the head, but an alternate narrative to the sugar-spice-and-everything-nice norm sounds like a kick-ass inspiration.—Kate Whittle