Girls don't play sport.
Not once. Not twice. But multiple times I was told this when I lived in France just two years ago.
The same year Alex Morgan was ripping up the turf for Olympique Lyon. The same year FIFA unveiled their 'Dare to Shine' slogan for the 2019 Women's World Cup.
Yet for the French, sport remained a masculine preserve where women's participation was highly stigmatised. And why?
It's simple. You can't be what you can't see.
If there's no platform to promote women's sport then women are symbolically annihilated from the big picture. France, like Australia, like every country in the world continue to fall short when it comes to gender equality in the sports sector.
Only last week the French Open was dragged into a sexism row after the WTA blasted their decision to move the women's semi-finals to the outside courts as "unfair and inappropriate".
There's no denying that Roger Federer's semi-final against Rafael Nadal was the match of the day but really, why move the women's fixture to the outside courts at 11am?
Decisions like these not only degrade the status of the women's game but also reinforce traditional gender binaries where sport is a masculine preserve.
So who would have thought there would be so much hype, criticism and excitement surrounding the Women's World Cup?
The Matildas have truly captured the heart of the nation - just look at Sunday night's television ratings.
Over half-a-million viewers tuned in to watch the Matildas' World Cup opener, edging out both the Cricket World Cup and NRL.
It shows that the more visible women's sport has become, the more normalised it's become. And the easiest way to see that is how critical we were of the Australia's shock loss to Italy.
The Matildas' high defensive line was simply a disaster and they were scrutinised for it.
Critics are now focusing on the game rather than women playing it.
Critics are now focusing on the game rather than women playing it. No longer are we saying 'good on you girl, well done for having a go'. This is serious business.
It's not about feminising it. It's about legitimising it.
When the Wallabies slumped to their eighth loss from 10 starts last year they were crucified. When New South Wales produced a mediocre performance in the State of Origin last week, Blues fans took to Twitter and dissected the loss play-by-play.
So the Matildas should be no different.
But Australian captain Sam Kerr isn't having a bar of it.
The star striker told haters and critics to "suck on it" after the Matildas came back from a two-goal deficit to record a historic 3-2 victory over Brazil on Friday.
"There were a lot of critics talking about us but we're back so suck on that one," Kerr said in a post-match interview. "It's just outside noise, we don't listen to the haters."
Imagine if Nick Kyrgios said that?
Female athletes are going to have to get used to criticism because that's just professional sport.
Some are ready for it. Cricket star Ellyse Perry believes in-depth and critical analysis by fans will only further the Australian public's emotional investment for the women's game.
If the Matildas lost a match five years ago, barely anyone would have heard about it. But if the Socceroos, Wallabies or Kangaroos did, it would have made back-page news.
In two decades the Matildas have gone from paying for their own flights to becoming one of the most beloved sporting teams in Australia.
If over half-a-million Australians are spending their Sunday nights watching the Matildas play on the world stage then naturally pressure will come with that.
But what the Matildas can't forget is that Australia will ride the highs and lows with them.
In the space of five days we've gone from crucifying the Matildas' high defensive line to dubbing the 'miracle of Montpellier' as one of Australia's greatest ever sporting performances.
Even the campaign to close the gender pay gap reignited on the eve of the World Cup.
Professional Footballers Australia and the Matildas launched a campaign to lift payments to female footballers on the back of public support.
Competitors at the Women's World Cup will receive just 7.5 per cent of the prizemoney handed out in the men's tournament last year.
Even if the Matildas win the tournament, they'll be paid half of what the Socceroos earned for their group stage exit in Russia.
The Matildas have the talent. They have Australia's backing. Women's football is entering a new era and the world is ready for it. Now's the time to back them financially.
Female sports are on the rise.