Over the past week a video has been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Buzzfeed. I found out about it when walking through my front door after a long day of work to find my husband hunched over the computer saying, “You HAVE to see this.” It was a video of Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to ever successfully complete the regional finals course of American Ninja Warrior. Watching a five-foot tall, one hundred pound female athlete crush a male-dominated strength competition was beyond amazing. It was inspiring. It was encouraging. It was progress.
The reason I saw this as progress was twofold. Firstly, this video wasn’t the “women should be dainty flowers” crap you usually see. It exemplified women as strong and powerful athletes who deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else. Secondly, it showed that women like Kacy attract huge viewership. The argument that female athletes don’t bring in the necessary viewership and money needed to sustain them is a farce. Kacy’s video brought in more than 6 million views on YouTube, 21 times more views than the next most watched video of a male competitor. As long as something is marketed and shared effectively, anything can make money. Even potato salad.
The fact that so many people are watching Kacy be her strong and powerful self is proof that we, as women, are slowly climbing up the mountain of equality– and that is something to celebrate. Just look at what’s happened over the past year for women in ultimate. The underground cry for equality erupted full force into mainstream ulti-talk, and our demands are slowly, but surely, being met. For the first time in history, a female ultimate player made the ESPN Top 10 countdown. Ultimate fans viewed Hayley’s phenomenal layout grab for a score in the College Championship Game in awe. As a freshman in college, she showed us what the drive for this sport is all about. Not shortly afterwards, Gen LaRoche became the first female club player to make ESPN’s Top 10 Countdown. We all cried out for more. More highlights. More plays. More displays of athletic prowess–something we’ve been witnessing for years and years, but has rarely been captured by a camera and put on television or seen en masse on the internet.
We built organizations to strengthen the quality and quantity of women’s ultimate, with great backing from the ultimate community. Michelle Ng raised more than $4,600 for Without Limits with sponsorship from VC Ultimate and media support from Ultiworld and Skyd. She deserves far more with all the work she has accomplished over the years, and we can always find that extra money hidden in our couches to donate to a worthy and important cause. In addition to funding the 2015 Without Limits season, she is asking important questions about female ultimate players in the media, and we should all be answering.
Grassroots campaigns and events like funding for Without Limits, GUM Ultimate, Women In Ultimate Week from RISE UP Ultimate, a Simple Pledge for Women in Ultimate, and a call to Like Women’s Ultimate on Facebook are a small representations of what’s currently being done, and great examples of the important progress we are making.
The fact that there is so much out there is incredibly inspiring and encouraging. But we should demand more. More successful fundraising campaigns. More female representation in ultimate-driven companies, boards, and community groups. More content and updates on USA Ultimate’s Women’s Development Page. More recognition, highlight reels, and streamed games. More sharing and awareness of what women’s teams and female ultimate players are doing throughout the year.
We are women. We are strong. We should celebrate our successes so far and keep pushing for more progress. Now let’s go make history.