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Megan Rapinoe On The Woman Who Inspires Her Activism

I come from a very conservative area. Now, you can go on Instagram or YouTube to see people who inspire you, but I didn't really have access to that growing up. So when I think about the women who've inspired me most, it always comes back to my mom.

As I look back with a little perspective on my childhood, I realize that I didn't know what a patriarch or matriarch was. But I did know on some level that my family was definitely matriarchal — all the women, my aunts and sisters, were so powerful. My mom was kind of the breadwinner. My dad worked in construction during the day, and my mom worked at night at a steakhouse. All the household chores were split down the middle, so I saw my dad doing laundry and cooking just as much as I saw my mom doing those things. I grew up thinking that this is how a relationship should be and how a woman should be: having a strong opinion and confidence, not only in the household but in the world.

We didn't speak about activism directly, but my mom always taught my sister and me to help people. From a very early age, she would tell us, "You not only stand up for yourself but you stand up for other people. Be honest in the world and try to make it a better place."

Growing up, my sister and I were very active in sports, so that gave us a lot of confidence. "You're not a good person just because you're popular," my mom would say, "because then who are you as a whole person? Do you leverage whatever you have for the greater good?"

So there was always a deeper responsibility in being well-liked and looked up to. This responsibility shaped the way I've approached being a queer woman in the world and an athlete with some sort of fame.

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When I first started being outspoken about people's rights, my parents initially were like, "OK, we're not really sure you should be doing this," because people were angry and my mom was worried. But she started to see that it's not about the national anthem or kneeling. Once I really got down to the essence of why I was speaking out, it kind of clicked. My mom could say, "Oh yeah, this is exactly the person I raised you to be." Throughout my life, she taught me that I don't have to go through what someone else does in order to stand up for them.

To young girls and women trying to find their way in the world: Seek out other women, either online, in your own community, or in other spaces where you can be comfortable. Even when you feel isolated, there are a lot of people just like you out there. Even if you haven't found it yet, you have a community that will support you.

In addition to sticking up for girls and women everywhere by suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for alleged gender discrimination, along with other U.S. Women's National Soccer Team players, the World Cup-winning star recently partnered with Swedish beauty-tech brand FOREO to share the message that it's important to build confidence and be yourself.

As told to Jay Polish. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Bustle's "Without This Woman" is a series of essays honoring the women who change — and challenge — us every day.