“I have nothing to prove to you.”
Those words were said earlier this year by Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel), but they could have just as easily been said by Megan Rapinoe (aka captain of the World Cup winning USWNT).
Superheroes think alike, I suppose.
In fact, there are many comparisons that can be drawn from one captain to another. Both have short, eye-catching haircuts. Both speak with a commanding presence. Both have no time for people who abuse power. Both stand up for what they believe is right, even when it makes them a target. Both became their most powerful selves when the world needed them the most.
And both are fiercely, beautifully, and unapologetically confident.
When I first started noticing the backlash directed at Rapinoe and her USWNT teammates, it reminded me so much of that small but vocal chorus of whiners after Captain Marvel who thought both Carol and the woman who plays her—Brie Larson—came off as “arrogant” and “unlikable.” Both sets of critics are cut from the same cloth—an unyielding fabric that doesn’t seem to want to bend and mold to a new era for women, an era in which we no longer have to downplay what makes us special, treat our skills with a sick kind of self-deprecation, or stand in the shadows because the world isn’t ready for what we look like in the sunlight.
On Sunday, when Rapinoe stood in her now iconic pose—arms spread wide, chin high, chest out—after scoring the first (and ultimately game-winning) goal of the World Cup final, the world saw what we look like in the sunlight. And it was breathtaking.
That pose represents everything this team and its success means to women. It’s a reminder that we have every right to be proud of our accomplishments, to hold our heads high, and to take up space. For too long, we as women have tried to make ourselves smaller, shrinking to make others more comfortable. We don’t ask for raises because what’s the point? We don’t talk about our successes because we don’t want to make others feel bad. We shrug off our achievements as the result of luck or as simply “not a big deal.” We quietly and privately celebrate our victories because we’ve been taught that it’s better to be invisible than it is to be seen as a show-off.
But as Alex Morgan sipped her tea and Rapinoe stood like America’s next national monument in the glorious light of victory, something changed. It had been brewing for a long time, but when those proud, loud, enthusiastic Americans lifted that World Cup trophy, it finally broke like a dam that had burst under the weight of decades—or centuries—of pressure to be small and silent.
We’ve had enough. We’re women, and we’re really good at things—whether it’s sports, or writing, or music, or our jobs, or school. And we’re not going to hide it anymore.
We don’t need anyone’s permission to be proud of who we are and what we’ve done in our lives. And we’re not doing any of it to prove to the men of the world that we belong. We already know we do. We’ve always known. It’s just finally time for us to take up the space that belongs to us—no matter who it makes uncomfortable, from our male coworkers to the president of the United States.
This is the year of women being unapologetic in our confidence, our pride, and our sense of self-worth. It started with Carol Danvers owning her place as the most powerful Avenger, and it continues with a group of soccer players who are the best in the world and never once acted like they weren’t. This is the year we follow in their footsteps and work hard, speak up, and stand up for ourselves and for all the other women who need us to pave the way.
To quote a little musical called Hamilton, “This is not a moment—it’s the movement.” And it’s a movement that’s going to end in equal pay—even if takes years to get there. Because we aren’t going to settle for a pat on the back and 15 minutes of recognition anymore. We know we’re worth more than that. And—more importantly—we know the next generation of women are worth more than that.
As I watched the USWNT celebrate after their victory, I thought of all the little girls who would be captivated by this moment the same way my generation was in 1999. The next generation of women are going to grow up with role models who are so different from those who came before them. They’re living in a world where the women they look up to are open about their strengths, their skills, their struggles, and their sexuality. They’re living in a world where the idea of equal pay for equal work is something that’s talked about on the biggest stage in women’s sports because a brave, bold, brilliant group of champions refused to be silent and refused to settle for less than what they deserved. They’re living in a world where women don’t have to apologize for taking up space.
So stand tall, ladies. Spread your arms out wide, and smile like you know you’re the best in the world. Follow your captains’ leads and find joy in your talents, your strength, and your victories. Walk into whatever battle you’re facing, and believe you can win. Because that’s what Carol would do. And that’s what Megan (and Alex and Becky and Carli) did.
And to those who don’t know what to do with women like us—we aren’t here to be quiet and pretty anymore. We’re here to sweat, scream, laugh, dance, bleed, resist, and defy.
We don’t have anything to prove to you. Our power is our own.
We know what we’re worth, and it’s finally time to pay up.