November 13, 2017
Sports writers seem to have a tough time coming up with metaphors for female athletes. The "Ava Bell" mentioned in this article via the Austin American-Statesman is described as "a monster in the middle." I understand that's a reference to a pop song, but this young athlete happens to be my granddaughter. I do appreciate the writer's efforts at metaphor and alliteration, but Ava is barely 17 years old, has a gorgeous physique at 6' 3" and is a lovely young woman. She may be intimidating as hell at the volleyball net, but "a monster"?
What's a Girly Word for Monster? Smugly, I thought I could dream up something better, but I found myself quickly stymied. I went to several thesaurus sites, entered words like "champion," "heroine," and "victor" and found very few choices that lean toward the fairer sex. Some feminine-sounding versions tilt at the arts, like "leading lady," "prima donna" or "diva." Others refer to royalty or deity, like "queen" or "goddess."
Returning to "monster," I searched for a more flattering synonym and found "titan," which means "a very important person in their field." But that doesn't sound like a high school girl's volleyball champ. And when I looked up "titan" I got the following synonyms: behemoth, bulk, colossus, cyclop, elephant, goliath, Hercules, hulk, leviathan, mammoth, monster, mountain, ogre, whale, whopper. Again, these are not things 17-year-old girls want to be called.
A Deficit of Language No wonder we've had to dream up terms like "Wonder Woman" or "Super Girl." There are only a few feminine-leaning words to describe women with superlative athletic attributes. I did notice several that might be paired with an alliterative phrase, like "volleyball virtuoso," “Amazonian artiste" or even "winning whiz." But this took quite a bit of time to craft and, okay, maybe my efforts are not all that great.
Seems to me, the English language has been limited because females were not allowed or expected to be champions or victors until relatively recent decades. Perhaps today's sports writers might take a moment to craft more original phrases or even create new terms to describe triumphant or dominant female athletes. Until then, my granddaughter deserves a more flattering comparison than to a “monster," if only the sportswriter and I could find a good one to use.