It’s a Friday night at the Bellevue Sporting Club in downtown Philadelphia, and Fight Night is about to begin. A red boxing ring looms in the center of the basketball court surrounded by a circle of audience members seated in metal chairs. All of a sudden the lights dim. The dull roar of the audience fills the air. A petite, dark-haired girl strides out into the gym into the spotlight. J-Cole is blasting, and her hands are wrapped and gloved. She is ready to fight.
At 5 foot 2 inches and 115 pounds, Wharton and College sophomore Gina Liu isn’t the typical person that comes to mind when you think “boxer.” But Liu, the president of Penn Boxing, has never let her gender or appearance define her. As a freshman last year, Liu showed up to her first practice with no prior experience in contact sports. Fast forward to spring of this year, and she has risen to become the president of the club.
“I’ve gotten so many people who, when they find out I’m the president of boxing, they’ll look me up and down and say, ‘Her?’” Liu said. “It stings sometimes when people make that assumption that I’m weak or that I’m not fit to lead boxing, but ultimately, they’re not the people who deserve respect for getting in the ring, getting out there and training and working your butt off."
She added, "You have to respect yourself for what you do.”
Female leadership has gained a spotlight at Penn with the recent installment of College junior Kat McKay and College sophomore Sola Park as the new president and vice president of the Undergraduate Assembly — the first all-female UA ticket in Penn history. Women hold leadership positions in a variety of clubs at Penn, from all-female groups like sororities to traditionally male-dominated fields such as engineering and politics.
For female students leading the way in traditionally male activities like politics or boxing, there is often a chord of dissonance between the stereotypical image of what such leaders usually look like and the diverse image that exists at Penn.
College junior Sarah Cho, who was elected this year as the president of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, says she is the first chair in a while to be female.
“I think that while gender isn’t at the forefront of my mind when I’m doing things, it’s definitely part of my position and my role,” Cho said. “I don’t think people expect me to be as aggressive as I am, and I’ve tried to utilize that to my advantage.”
College sophomore Miru Osuga and Engineering sophomore Connie Chen, the newly elected co-presidents of Penn Taiwanese Society, are presiding over the first ever all-female executive board of their club, which Osuga called “really empowering.” However, both said the gender of the board is not likely to change the dynamic.
“I don’t think we even considered the idea of female leadership versus male leadership,” Chen said.
Osuga agreed with this statement, adding that while female leadership was important, it wasn’t the defining aspect of her campaign.
“At the back of my mind, though, I did [notice] that the past four presidents were all male partnerships, and so I thought that it would be good to have a female face on that leadership position,” she said. “But that definitely wasn’t my first concern.”
Liu says she tries not to get hung up on that fact and just move forward with what she loves to do. She says the reaction from within the boxing community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“At this point, it really doesn’t feel like I’m different from the guys,” Liu said. “This difference in size and gender doesn’t really appear to me anymore.”
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