This is the first design that started and launched Strong Athletic. This design was created by Cristen Perks in 2013 as a gift for her fellow roller derby teammate Nadia Kean, aka Smarty Pants. Cristen had heard Nadia call her teammates a "fine group of strong, athletic, women" for months and decided that creating a shirt with those vary words on it would be a fun gift. Cristen used her newly acquired skills as a screen printer and made a simple grey t-shirt with bold white ink, using letters that looked distorted, the 3 words were centered on the shirt and made a powerful statement. The shirt quickly became one of Nadia's favorite shirts to wear. It traveled with her to Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, England, Scotland, Ireland, Thailand, India and back to Austin, Texas where Nadia is from. At some point in her travels as a international derby coach, Nadia started to pick up on how many people complimented her shirt. So many people loved it, wanted to know where she got it and wanted one. Nadia and Cristen printed a run in June 2014 with Cristen for an event in Philadelphia called ECDX, hosted by Philly Roller Derby. Nadia sold the bags out of her navy blue Ikea bag and the company officially launched. Eventually Nadia started to print her Get Smarty Coaching logo on the shirts, and then the concept just kept growing and it was obvious that it was its own movement. Nadia decided the movement would be called 'Strong Athletic' she hired teammate Angel Ortega to create a logo, and the company was officially launched.
Although Strong Athletic quickly realized that not every person identifies with the word "woman" and that it was extremely important that Nadia created similar designs that were more inclusive to all of the people in the Strong Athletic community, this shirt is still one of our favorites. Determining when you want to go from using the word "girl" to using the word "woman" is very personal to each person. Strong Athletic wants to contribute to the conversation about the use and the misuse of the word girl, and to make sure that when people are referring to a certain group of people that they are not being derogatory, infantilizing or condescending. She wants to make sure that people realize that the use of the word "girl" is age appropriate. She wants people to realize that there are certain people who can refer to adult women as "girls" and it's not offensive, but that not everyone can use this word.
Why make this statement in the realm of sports? Women have been playing sports and have been involved in athletics for ages, yet were not given he place that we deserve in the sports and athletics realm. Much of this has to do with antiquated beliefs that a woman's place is in the kitchen, or at home with the children. That women are the weaker sex and the sports they play aren't exciting, athletic, or intense. Much of the reason that women are not given equal access to sports has to do with what society thinks that a woman should do. Much of this is dependent on the belief system that the woman grew up in and where she lives.
For trans women there are even more stigmas attached to who they are, how they live, how they identify and if they are actually women. Trans women in sports are up against many hostile people who believe they shouldn't compete or that they should compete in their own division. They are accused of transitioning just so that they can be more competitive in their sport. These are antiquated, biased stigmas and lies that only hurt these athletes and downplay the contributions that they are making every day in sports and athletics.
So, why do we need a shirt that says "Strong Athletic Woman"? To quote a very good friend of Strong Athletic, Mercy M'fon Shammah, Executive Director of Wild Diversity, "to have to put certain words on a shirt is insulting" but sometimes it's also necessary to get a conversation started. Nadia hopes to take her Strong Athletic Woman shirt to many other countries in the world as she continues to spread the powerful message that she is a woman, she is strong and she is athletic. We hope that you join us in spreading this message and you become part of this movement.