In May 2018, the retired American soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medallist Abby Wambach delivered her commencement speech ´Make Failure your fuel´ to the women of the Barnard College, a women’s college in New York City in behalf of the women graduating.
The speech revolves around the inequality women have to face in the labour market but also how to become successful.
As an exordium to her claim, Wambach uses a personal experience from her career where she felt the injustice and inequality that women, especially in sports, encounters.
By making this very small reference to the novel Handmaid’s tale, she quickly comes back to gender inequality, because the women in the novel are the property of men and have to wear capes to erase their identities and free will.
This also points to the fact that the little red riding hood and Abby Wambach used to be mannerly and decent girls without curiosity. Wambach goes on telling how the little red riding hood when curios meets a dangerous wolf.
The message she conceives from this story is “Don’t be curious, don’t make trouble, don’t say too much or bad things will happen” (ll. 105-108). But Wambach disagrees with this message and instead she wants the receivers of the speech to be the wolfs.
This is evident in the following quote: “I decided that the most important thing for me to say to you, is this: Barnard women, class of 2018, we are the wolves.”(ll. 116-119)
To be a wolf has now become a symbol that is the opposite of the little red riding hood. It has become a symbol of a strong, curios woman who doesn’t stay on the path, and takes what she wants.
In the rest of the speech, Wambach uses the word numerous times, especially when talking directly to the audience.
At last, Wambach mentions her four criteria for success: “Make failure your fuel” (l. 140), “Lead from the bench” (l. 188), “Champion each other” (l. 231), and “Demand the ball” (l. 270).
All of these four titles have words that can be found in a semantic field concerning football but because of the titles being metaphors, the criteria can be used in other areas.