Megan Rapinoe represents everything Republicans say they love. So of course they hate her

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Rapinoe se ha convertido en una voz líder en el deporte estadounidense (AP)
Rapinoe se ha convertido en una voz líder en el deporte estadounidense (AP)

That the right hates Megan Rapinoe is not exactly news. They’ve been railing against her since 2019. This month, though, they got an unlikely assist from one of Rapinoe’s former teammates when Hope Solo accused fellow player Megan Rapinoe of bullying her teammates to take a knee during the national anthem. “I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way,” Solo told Goal.com earlier this month. Yet, as Wajih AlBaroudi reports for CBS Sports, the timeline just doesn’t support Solo’s assertions; Solo left the US Women’s National Team before Rapinoe ever even took a knee.

The right’s feelings do not care about the facts, though, and conservative media has wasted no time latching onto these accusations to discredit the outspoken Rapinoe. “I’m not surprised at all by Solo’s comments,” crows David Hookstead at the rightwing website the Daily Caller. “In fact, I kind of always assumed this kind of attitude was unfolding behind the scenes.”

Of course he did. As I said, we all know the right hates Rapinoe. Hookstead, however, is telling us more than perhaps he even realizes. The very behavior the right celebrates in men like Donald Trump — and even in women like Marjorie Taylor Greene — they find abhorrent in someone like Megan Rapinoe. This double standard is as unsurprising as it is troubling. The truth is, the right doesn’t hate Rapinoe for what she does — they hate her for who she is.

With short, spiky purple hair and a strong, muscular frame, Rapinoe is a gender non-conforming lesbian. While stating as much will immediately be construed as “identity politics” by those on the right, it is important to this story. Before she ever steps on a pitch, Rapinoe is “othered” by society. She kicks gender norms to the curb as powerfully as she kicks a ball on the pitch.

Rapinoe refuses to conform to our standards of how a woman should dress, should think, should act. Confident bordering on cocky, her bravado — lifting the World Cup trophy in the air and proudly declaring, “I deserve this” — is the opposite of how the right believes a woman, even a woman athlete, should behave. She has what, if she were a man, would be called swagger. She knows her value and is unafraid to speak her mind. In a white man we call this courage; in a woman or a man of color, we call it “uppity.”

The irony is, of course, that Rapinoe represents everything conservatives purport to love. The daughter of a waitress and a contractor, Rapinoe grew up in a conservative California town. Through her talents and hard work, she became an elite athlete, quite literally pulling herself up by her own bootstraps. Fiercely individualistic with distinctive hair, Rapinoe marches to the beat of her own drum. She is the personification of the American dream.

It’s impossible to shake the nagging feeling that if Rapinoe were exactly who she is but conservative, there would be golden idols of her at CPAC, too. Powerful, strong, authoritative, and outspoken, she is everything the right seems to love. She oozes charisma and even arrogance. Cake her face in orange bronzer and she could be the next Republican president.

Yet as Liz Cheney learned the hard way, the modern right only loves strong women when they do as they’re told. Rapinoe differs from the conservative women like Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro who are idolized by those on the right. She may be just as outspoken, and she could certainly take either in a fight, but she isn’t the right kind of strong woman. She doesn’t toe the party line. She doesn’t pander to the male gaze. She doesn’t campaign against her own interests. She knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to speak it, and that is anathema to conservatives.

Rather than becoming a national hero a la Brandi Chastain or Mia Hamm following their 1999 Women’s World Cup victory, Rapinoe became one of conservative outrage machine’s most frequent targets. That she was an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump and an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement — she regularly took a knee for the US anthem — only served to confirm the right’s worst fears. This woman was not to be trusted. She was not sufficiently deferential. Not sufficiently demure. Not sufficiently refined and modest and accommodating.

Rapinoe is unbothered. With courage and conviction, she boldly uses the freedoms her foremothers valiantly fought and won for themselves and their daughters. This is a woman who knows her own worth, and who demands that the rest of the world recognize it. Megan Rapinoe isn’t a “woke loser,” she’s a goddamn national treasure.

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