If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. I’m talking about a clip from American Ninja Warrior. And this clip matters, not just to those of us who might treat shows like this as a guilty pleasure. Because of Kacy Catanzaro, and the incredible physical feat she accomplishes, matters.
I’m also overwhelmed by pride for and in this woman who I don’t know and who clearly leads a very different life than I do. But I hear and see so many things more than her physical prowess when she powers through what should be impossible. I hear how the commentators move from expressing doubt that she’ll be able to do it and noting ominously how small she is, to using every positive adjective you could possibly use to describe a competitor and athlete – including calling her “one of the greatest competitors – man or woman.” I hear her boyfriend, who is into the same competitive sports she is, turns in an unguarded moment to someone next to him and say “she’s the most talented athlete I’ve ever known” (at the 6:13 mark). I hear the crowd go absolutely crazy for her early in her run and never stop screaming. I’ll admit, I was screaming at my computer by the end too.
As the ad above notes at the end, 66% of fourth-grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of college engineering majors are women. Somewhere along the way, enough messages sink in that there are things women just aren’t able to (or shouldn’t) do. Whether that’s play with tools, participate in a science fair, get the promotion, or lead the company, it has real effects on even the most accomplished professional women.
Kacy is a particularly vivid example of how tired those old stereotypes really are. #MightyKacy indeed.