Being feminine and being tough are not mutually exclusive — that’s what wrestler Adeline Gray is trying to prove.
The three-time world champion wrestler is featured in ESPN magazine’s July 8 Body Issue, according to the Huffington Post, and in addition to talking about wrestling and her forthcoming appearance at the Rio Olympics, Gray also discussed some of the criticism she has faced as a female wrestler.
“Women’s wrestling is a great sport that a lot of people don’t know about. I still get that sideways tilt of the head, like a puppy is looking at me: ‘Women wrestle?'” Gray told ESPN, according to the Huffington Post. “It’s almost disheartening, because I work very hard and it’s a very competitive field internationally, and people in our country just don’t really know about it.”
Gray also mentioned that the public has a generalized — often stereotypical — image of a female wrestler as someone that is “obese and going out there on the mat to try to smash people’s heads.” But, the Huffington Post says the 25-year-old offered that wrestling does not even come close to some people’s misconceptions.
” It’s skill, strength, power and executing that in a very precise way,” she said.
But these aren’t the only harsh judgments that Gray has had to combat. She’s even had to tackle an inherent sexism that touches all female wrestlers, says the Huffington Post. She told ESPN:
“I absolutely hate the statement, ‘You’re too pretty to wrestle’ … I think people used to view female athletes as very butch, masculine — you kind of had to disregard your femininity to excel at an elite sport. Now it’s just a different world … You are allowed to be a female and be considered beautiful and still be an athlete and still be badass in that realm.”
Despite attempts to be boxed in by gender norms, the Huffington Post says Gray told ESPN that she hopes she can inspire young girls who want to pursue wrestling. The Huffington Post says she explained her desire this way:
“I want to impart some dreams to young girls who haven’t had opportunities in the past. Boys really have a leg up on us because they have these professional leagues that they can dream about … So if I can be like Serena Williams or like some of these main stars out there who are being iconic and groundbreaking and are role models for this next generation, it would be an honor and a blessing.”