“So many of us can relate to playing by rules that were never set up for us to win.”
— Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion
Abby Wambach has made a career out of pursuing goals. She’s scored 184 of them after all, the most by any soccer player, male or female, in international soccer history. But now, a few years into her retirement, Wambach, who led the United States women’s team to a World Cup championship in 2015, is focused on a new kind of goal: motivating women to become leaders.
“There has never been a more important, urgent time than right now for women to begin to fully lead our own lives,” she told me this week.
In her new book, “Wolfpack,” Wambach, 38, shares lessons she learned from decades of training, failure and triumph on the field. It is based on the commencement speech she gave at Barnard College in New York last year that quickly went viral. “If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be this: ‘Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood; you were always the wolf,’” she told graduates.
[FROM THE ARCHIVES: Abby Wambach, Retired U.S. Soccer Star, Reflects on Her Addiction]
Her book’s release comes a month after the United States women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation. While Wambach is not part of the suit, she’s been outspoken on the subject. “This isn’t just a female athlete’s story; this is every single woman’s story on planet Earth,” she said in September. “Women lose our very lives because of this pay gap inequity, and in order to get it back we have to fight.”
In “Wolfpack,” Wambach offers eight new rules to help women succeed professionally and personally. And she hopes her ideas trigger a domino effect. “When one person stands up and demands the ball, the job, the promotion, the paycheck, the microphone, that one gives others permission to do the same,” she said.
Here are the four of her “new rules,” and the norms she hopes they’ll upend.
“Champion each other.”
Old Rule: Be against each other.
New Rule: Be FOR each other.
“Power and success and joy are not pies,” Wambach writes. “A bigger slice for one woman doesn’t mean a smaller slice for another.”
“Be grateful and ambitious.”
Old Rule: Be grateful for what you have.
New Rule: Be grateful for what you have AND demand what you deserve.
“I was so grateful for a paycheck, so grateful to represent my country, so grateful to be the token woman at the table, so grateful to receive any respect at all that I was afraid to use my voice to demand more,” Wambach writes. “Our gratitude is how power uses the tokenism of a few women to keep the rest of us in line.”
“Make failure your fuel.”
Old Rule: Failure means you’re out of the game.
New Rule: Failure means you’re finally IN the game.
“Imperfect men have been empowered and permitted to run the world since the beginning of time,” Wambach writes. “It’s time for imperfect women to grant themselves permission to join them.”
“Lead from the bench.”
Old Rule: Wait for permission to lead.
New Rule: Lead now — from wherever you are.
“The picture of leadership is not just a man at the head of a table,” Wambach writes. “It’s also every woman who is allowing her own voice to guide her life and the lives of those she cares about.”
What else is happening
Here are five articles from The Times you might have missed.
“Someone is always trying to kill you.” From our Opinion pages: Women in Honduras are being killed in newly sadistic ways, sending people running for the border. [Read the story]
“As a feminist or L.G.B.T., you will tend to be more targeted.” Wikipedia isn’t officially a social network, but the harassment can get ugly. [Read the story]
“What’s left of the hospital here is grass and horses.” With labor and delivery rooms closed after Hurricane Maria, residents of Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico, must take a ferry to give birth. [Read the story]
“What is happening at Cosmo right now is the new way forward.” Jessica Pels, Cosmopolitan’s new editor, is trying to save the magazine from the jaws of Instagram. [Read the story]
“I started photographing at a time when it was almost impossible to find authentic images of lesbians.” Joan E. Biren helped build a movement for their liberation. [Read the story]
From the archives, 1870: ‘Chivalry lives upon the assumption of her weakness.’
What would happen if women gained the same physical strength as men? That was the question posed in an 1870 article in The New York Times titled “Muscular Women” (!).
The answer, according to the opponents of equal rights at the time, would be a disruption of the natural order of things, meaning women would exert their strength to take down men physically and mentally.
Should women continue to get fit, they “must expect no favorite and no mercy,” according to the article, because chivalry works only if women are weaker.
“If this sort of thing goes on,” the article said, “it’s hard to say what will become of the men.”
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