Paralympians Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh on inclusion, equality, and what International Women's Day means to them
March 8th — better known as International Women's Day, it might just be a figurative day to to many (mainly because women deserve to be celebrated everyday) but it serves as an important reminder. A reminder that gender equality matters, that our mums are heroes, that the #MeToo movement is not to be silenced, and last of all, that more can still be done.
While it did take many decades, centuries even, to get to where we are today — lady bosses in pantsuits kicking a** in the workplace, women creating their own apps, and female athletes proving themselves despite the many odds against them, it is but still a work in progress. This is why we have today.
Our city's Paralympians Theresa Goh and Yip Pin Xiu are champions that fought the odds. Goh was named the first Singaporean female swimmer to qualify for the Paralympics in 2004 while Yip is Singapore's first Paralympic Gold Medalist, and currently holds two world records in the 50m and 100m Backstroke in the S2 category.
This year, both athletes are speaking (for the first time together) in celebration of International Women's Day at Apple Orchard Road, on overcoming obstacles and their inspiring life journeys. Ahead of their big debut, titled "Perspectives: Theresa Goh x Yip Pin Xiu", we had the chance to get to know the inspiring athletes a little more as they discussed defining moments, female role models and what the future holds for them.
"Comparing the mindsets of Singaporeans towards Paralympians back in 2008 and now, I would say there's a big change, and it's for the better." — Yip Pin Xiu
Yip Pin Xiu (YPX): Winning Singapore's first Olympic gold medal has to be one of them. But apart from that, it makes me proud that I contributed to the cause of equality and inclusion in Singapore. Comparing the mindsets of Singaporeans towards Paralympians back in 2008 and now, I would say there's a big change, and it's for the better.
Theresa Goh (TG): It happened recently, after my Bronze in Rio. Part of me didn't think it was really ever going to happen. And when it did, it was truly an amazing moment.
"It was just that internal gut feeling of knowing that giving up wasn't an option and if I did give up, I was going to regret it." — Theresa Goh
THE DRIVING FORCES...
YPX: Extrinsically, it's definitely my family's support throughout my entire journey. Intrinsically, it was about wanting to be better than I was, so I always wanted to get a better timing — to rest more, eat better and train harder.
TG: It was just that internal gut feeling of knowing that giving up wasn't an option and if I did give up, I was going to regret it.
"There's more sexualisation of female athletes, but there's also more empowerment." — Theresa Goh
WOMEN IN SPORTS, THEN AND NOW...
TG: I think steps forwards and backwards have been taken. There's more sexualisation of female athletes, but there's also more empowerment. I think I see more female athletes or just women in general who work out, and aren't afraid of having muscles. Fortunately in Singapore, there's more focus on the results than our appearances but because we are so exposed to Western media, there's still a carryover from what is viewed as a socially acceptable body type for a female athlete.
TG: I look up and learn from different people; from my mom, my grandma, and my teammate Pin Xiu. I think all of them have contributed to the kind of person I am today.
YPX: Theresa Goh would definitely be one of them. When I was younger, she was my mentor growing up and now she's really just my best friend. Of course, also my mum because she's like a superwoman — she taught me to silently perservere and to do the things I want to do in life.
YPX: I intend to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games. It was one of those things I was afraid to say because once you say it it actually becomes real (laughs), but yes I'm committing myself to it.
TG: Just to keep moving forward. Looking at owning my own property, looking at options for life after being a full-time athlete. Most importantly, I am keen on living life without regrets and with a lot of joy.
"It reminds me of all of the women who have struggled and strived and fought for what we have today." — Theresa Goh
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY MEANS...
TG: We (women) aren't at the level of equality that we ought to be in society yet. Less pessimistically, it also reminds me of all the women who have struggled and strived and fought for what we have today.
YPX: That sometimes we can do whatever we want, and there's no need for insecurities.