Back in my field hockey days, I was tested for doping all the time at major events. They'd do it at the Olympics, the World Cup, the European Championships, all the big tournaments. Sometimes they'd even test us during our training periods. One time, I got the results back and was told that my testosterone level was pretty high. They even said that if it registered that high the next time they tested me, they'd have to do further research! What the hell? Was I going to look in the mirror one morning and discover I'd grown a beard?
I'm a competitive person. I've always been that way. Even when I was a little girl I loved to compete, whether it was at games like Monopoly and Stratego or in sports. I quickly discovered I didn't enjoy solitary pursuits like running or cycling, but thrived when there was a strategic or tactical element in play. It's also a big reason why I was drawn to poker. However, most girls weren't like me. Most young women would rather spend the day socializing with friends and having a nice time rather than playing games or sports. There's nothing wrong with that at all-- I love shopping and fashion too, but I also love competition. I think that's why I tend to hang out with guys more than girls. And when it comes to female friends, I get along best with women who have a bit of a tomboy streak.
In Holland, we have a politician named Rita Verdonk. She's a strong, smart woman but also very direct, even blunt when she's making a point. And a lot of people, women and men both, couldn't handle that. It made me realize that in some ways we're still a bit old-fashioned when it comes to gender roles. Men are permitted to be aggressive, but women should really just look good, be polite, and take care of other people. A competitive man is viewed as ambitious, but a competitive woman? There's a word for that but it isn't a very nice one.
Competitive women are still wildly misjudged. Just because you're competitive on the field in a sport or on the felt in a poker tournament doesn't mean you're some sort of nasty person. Guys understand this because they're used to playing on teams. When Holland played Argentina in field hockey, we'd do anything to take them off their game on the field, but afterwards we'd be dancing and making jokes. I love meeting women I can relate to on that level--women like Liv Boeree who are so smart and fun but also hate to lose.
Unfortunately, when women do get competitive, too often it's with each other and to our mutual detriment. But instead of being catty and bringing each other down, we need to prop each other up. In poker it's so important for women to support each other. Last year, when Lucille Cailly got second in the Main Event at EPT Monte Carlo I was so proud. Of course, I would have loved to be there myself, but I'm thrilled anytime I see a woman running deep. It's the way it should be.
I constantly see all these groups of guys are running around in the poker world, helping each other's games and learning together to be better players. Society may still be overrun with "boy's clubs," but there's no reason women can't create the same thing for ourselves.
Fatima Moreira De Melo is a member of Team PokerStars SportStar