Melinda Mawdsley: Pretty in pink |

Melinda Mawdsley: Pretty in pink

I blame the patent leather shoes, lacy dresses and restricting tights.

It was a valiant — but failed — family attempt to make me be a girl.

To make matters worse, I told my family I was going to be a sportswriter after I read a Super Bowl story in the Des Moines Register. My parents just smiled, knowing there were few female sportswriters in the late 1980s.

Perhaps they didn’t believe me. Perhaps they knew things would change. Perhaps they knew I wouldn’t care.

I started watching football with my dad, asking questions, becoming a fan. During commercials, my father, brother and I would play catch with a mini football. I would make diving touchdown catches, crashing into the sofa cushions.

Every morning, I read the sports section. Soon, we got a subscription to Sports Illustrated, and my desire to be a sportswriter took off.

I hadn’t given much thought about my profession until recently. I was riding up the gondola, and a local woman recognized my name on my ski pass. We began to talk, and the conversation ended with her saying it was pretty cool that, as a female, I was a sportswriter.

Thanks, I replied. I really do love my job.

That conversation, and several others I’ve had recently, prompted me to think about gender roles in sports.

Growing up, I went out of my way to be a tomboy. I didn’t wear makeup; I wore sweatshirts. If I was going to be a sportswriter, I figured I should look and act more like a boy. I painted my room red, black and white. I started hanging out with the guys, surrounding myself with sports all the time.

Not much changed when I went to college. Most of my girlfriends were huge college football fans who made fun of girls who dressed up to go to biology lab. The rest of my friends were guys. We would eat greasy food, drink cheap beer and watch sports.

Then I got a job with the college paper and began to travel with the football team. By 2001, when I graduated, being a female sportswriter wasn’t an anomaly.

Only once since I left Iowa has my gender come up. The former editor here mistakenly thought I was a man when he read my resume. When he found out I wasn’t, he apologized, flew me out and offered me the job almost on the spot. It was never an issue.

The increased number of females in the profession has allowed me to be open-minded about being female again. Pink is back in my wardrobe. I’m not scared of mascara, and I’ll bypass basketball to watch “The Bachelor.”

I have some girlfriends who are into sports and know that Tom Brady is “the Patriots’ accurate pocket passer.” I have other girlfriends who know Brady is “hot.”

Although you might be able to find the girl inside every tomboy — I certainly can appreciate both perspectives on Brady — some things can’t be compromised. I still won’t wear tights.

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