After COVID quarantines eliminated their other kickers, the Vanderbilt Commodores football team turned to Sarah Fuller. The starting goalkeeper for the university’s women’s soccer team, Fuller was already used to kicking a ball pretty far. But when she came on the field in the second half of the Nov. 28 competition against the Missouri Tigers, the coach didn’t ask her to blast it. Instead, the designed play was for her to hit a squib – a low bouncing kick that is hard to return. And that’s what happened: she booted it 30-yards, and the receiver fell on it for a return of zero yards. That was Fuller’s only action, with the punting handled by a teammate, and Vanderbilt never getting close enough for her to attempt a field goal. While a handful of women have kicked for other lower-level college teams, Fuller became the first woman to officially take the field in a major conference football game.
That is an understandable reason for interest, but from the play-by-play announcers on up to major media networks, this was treated as a cause for celebration. One of the game’s announcers described it this way, as Fuller was lining up the kick:
History is on the field in Columbia, Missouri, as Sarah Fuller is about to put her right foot into a football, speaking volumes to women around the world.
Fuller’s appearance won her the SEC “special teams co-player of the week” honors. That she had just the one kick – solid but not amazing – meant this wasn’t about athletic prowess. An ESPN headline framed it as: “Vanderbilt kicker breaks barriers…” But what sort of barrier was it that the Vanderbilt kicker broke?
This was treated as if it was a blow for women’s equality. However, if anything, it was the opposite. Why? Well, there are two very different grounds for women’s and men’s equality. The first is the declaration in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It is in this sense that male and female (as well as every ethnic group, the unborn and children and adults too) are the same – we are all made in the Image of God.
But for a culture that rejects God, another grounding for equality is needed, and another “sameness” needs to be found. The best the world has been able to do is an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-too basis of equality. It’s on this basis that Fuller is being celebrated: because she showed that just like men, women can play football too.
But that an exceptional woman athlete can fill in, in a non-contact appearance, for a COVID-devastated, winless football team in a meaningless game that they lost 41-0 doesn’t prove women can do football just like the boys. Under ordinary circumstances, Fuller would never have taken the field.
It’s here that things take a nasty turn: if we stick with the world’s anything-you-can-co-I-can-do-too basis for equality, then if women can’t play football that would mean they aren’t men’s equals. While biblical headship is often blamed for chauvinism, this abilities-focused basis for equality is the true culprit. As hard as the world tries to obscure them, the physical differences between men and women are obvious to all. So if our worth is determined by what we can do, then a man who sees he can lift twice what a woman can will come to a chauvinist conclusion. And this issue is bigger than women’s rights, impacting both the unborn and aged too. That the unborn can’t do much yet is why they can be killed. That the elderly and the disabled can’t do all that we can do is why euthanasia is offered to them. They are deemed as being worth less because they can do less.
To counter that argument, we don’t need to show how much the unborn, or the elderly, or the disabled can do. We don’t need to show that women can play football too. And we don’t need to point to jobs and tasks that women are able to do better than men. To fight chauvinism, and abortion, and euthanasia, we need to acquaint people with the true basis for our worth and our equality: our Maker, who made us all in His very Image.