The Legacy of the Original 9 in Tennis to U.S. Women’s Soccer World Cup Today

“While some sporting brands used International Women’s Day to launch their Women’s World Cup team kits, lawyers representing the world-champion U.S. team were on their way to a California courthouse to file a landmark lawsuit that would rock the sport.”

—Philip O’Connor, “U.S. women’s fight for fairness puts soccer World Cup in focus.” Reuters. March 9, 2019.

It seems like this might be a good time to mention the Original 9, Billie Jean King and women’s tennis: 

“We wanted to be paid equally and we wanted to be treated fairly. Originally we had hoped to partner with the men’s tennis tour and have a unified voice in the sport on a global basis. But the guys wanted no part of it. And not every women’s player wanted to join us.

So we went to plan B.

For a tense few days in September 1970, we sat in a semicircle in Gladys’ home in Houston and debated the pros and cons of breaking away and starting our own tour. For us, everything was at risk. The USLTA (now the USTA, the governing body of tennis in this country) threatened us with suspension and expulsion. The Australians faced an even stronger enemy in their federation. They were told if they signed with us, their playing days were over.

With one unified voice, each of us signed a ceremonial $1 contract with Gladys to play in the inaugural Virginia Slims of Houston. We drew a line in the sand and we put everything we had on that line. It was now up to us to create our own tour, to find a place to make a living and to breathe life into women’s professional tennis.”

—Billie Jean King, “The Legacy of the Original 9.The Player’s Tribune. August 26, 2015

It’s now 49 years later, and it’s still the same nonsense. But, on a hopeful note, things do change. It’s also great to see women players that have benefited from previous generations, such as Serena Williams, lending their voices to help women in other sports. If you are inclined, you might want to consider adding your voice as well, there are links to FIFA’s social media accounts on its website.

Also worth a mention, there’s a good retelling of Billie Jean King’s story in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, read by Jessica Valenti. It’s something little Rebel Girls, or anyone in your life, will appreciate. Recommended.

Quaker Christ

I started reading a number of books on Quakerism years ago. It started with a book on simplicity, which approached the topic from a Quaker perspective. Eventually, I started attending an unprogrammed Quaker Meeting. An unprogrammed Quaker meeting is a religious service where everyone sits quietly, typically in a circle, and waits. You are open to your thoughts, and you try to see if any of them are God speaking through you. If so, then you simply stand up and say what you feel moved to share.

It’s a strange experience. It requires group trust that people will not hijack the meeting for their own purposes, which happens. But, when it does, it is often looked as a way to build our tolerance and learning to share space with others. Resolving these kinds of difficulties are central to the meeting experience. It is like the story of potatoes in a barrel, it is by rubbing against one another than we all become clean.

The key ideas of Quakerism are what I think of as PIES: Peace, Integrity, Equality and Simplicity. They are all inter-related. Fundamentally, we all have “The Light Within,” a connection with God, however you conceive of God. If everyone has this connection, then we have to seek peaceful relations because in a way, conflict with others is a kind of conflict with God.

But, we all are equal, and we have to speak our Truth. It is in this dynamic of a meeting, where equals listen to one another while staying true to themselves that a community can enter in a dialogue with God. In scripture, it is put this way:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:20, King James Version

Simplicity is the final piece, and I think of it as making room for others. The less resources we use, the more there is available for everyone else. The more room there is for others, the more room we have to interact with others as equals. It is when we try to differentiate ourselves by our possessions that we cut off our internal connection to God. It changes our willingness to look at others as equals. It inflates our ego and turns us to aggression.

Quaker Christianity, particularly unprogrammed styles, is very different from mainline Christianity. There is little dogma beyond the above. For me it reframes the discussion away from Christ as redeemer, which I find problematic on a number of levels and moves it back to Christ as Son of Man, a person that is exemplifying the kinds of life we all should live. Christ is showing us how to live our own lives rather than a God saving the world that can live up to a standard that no mortal can because of the stain of original sin.

Note: It should be noted that not all Quakers believe as I do. Since it is a religion of the conscious that askews dogma, there can be a lot of variability in beliefs. I have met people that identify as atheists, universalists, Buddhists, and evangelical Christians, who have all also identified as Quaker. Unlike in other traditions, this variability is viewed as a strength.

The Temple of LiLoLa

From Catholicism, I learned the value of ritual, religious practice and the power of story to shape our understanding of the world. Years after hearing a homily from one Sunday, I still think of the need to leave a series of empty tombs. The resurrection applies not to some afterlife, it applies to this one, where we have to awaken new life within us, walk away from the old and to write new chapters to our stories.

From Quakerism, I learned of the testimonies I remember as PIES, i.e., peace, integrity, equality and simplicity. The need to be still and listen to the man of the heart and mind, which Quakers call the “Light Within”. This Light is in every sentient being. Knowing this we are called to peace, to follow the voice of our own hearts and to know others are following theirs. Simplicity is to cut through the desire for material things, which can cut us off from this voice within. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

From Buddhism, I learned that the world is full of dissatisfaction. We assert ourselves against the world in ego delusion. We are dissatisfied, because we do not have what we want or are afraid to lose what we have. The living world is always changing and the best life is to live in each moment, experiencing it all without forming attachments to things as they are, things as they will be or to possessions, no matter how trivial.

When you ask, “What God do you worship?” Is there any better response than, “Life, love and laughter.” The Temple of LiLoLa is in our hearts. It is up to us to throw the doors open.

The Philosopher Redefining Equality | The New Yorker

“‘People now have the freedom to have crosscutting identities in different domains. At church, I’m one thing. At work, I’m something else. I’m something else at home, or with my friends. The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one’s identities in other domains?’ She paused. ‘That is what it is to be free.’ …

…As a rule, it’s easy to complain about inequality, hard to settle on the type of equality we want. Do we want things to be equal where we start in life or where we land? When inequalities arise, what are the knobs that we adjust to get things back on track? Individually, people are unequal in countless ways, and together they join groups that resist blending. How do you build up a society that allows for such variety without, as in the greater-Detroit real-estate market, turning difference into a constraint? How do you move from a basic model of egalitarian variety, in which everybody gets a crack at being a star at something, to figuring out how to respond to a complex one, where people, with different allotments of talent and virtue, get unequal starts, and often meet with different constraints along the way? …

…To a pragmatist, “truth” is an instrumental and contingent state; a claim is true for now if, by all tests, it works for now.”

—Nathan Heller, “The Philosopher Redefining Equality.” The New Yorker. January 7, 2019.

Sounds like it is time to revisit with John Dewey.

Not Here to Dance

“The one thing I would say to any girl who is reading this right now is this: You can’t lose your fire. You can’t let anybody take your fire away from you. If you have big dreams, the fire is the only thing that will get you there.

Talent alone will not do it. Patience will not do it. You’re going to be tested and pushed to the limits of what you can take. You’re going to have to work just as hard as the men to get to the top of your sport, but for a lot less money. You’re going to cry. You’re going to throw up. You’re going to ache… every single player showed up on time and gave 100%. Every single day. No excuses, no complaints. No one could afford to complain. I would come home at night and I was so sore and exhausted that I would pass out on my bed at seven o’clock with my homework scattered everywhere.

These are the moments that nobody sees. But you can’t lose the fire.”

—Ada Hegerberg, “Not Here to Dance.” The Players’ Tribune. December 16, 2018.