Pushing Forward: While the Sport World is Making Feeble Attempts to Hold Us Back
Today marks International Women’s Day, an annual day of observance held around the world on the 8th of March.
On this day I wanted to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and honor the process and the continuing struggle for women in sports.
In general, sports help build and establish a routine for a healthy, active lifestyle that also builds confidence, leadership skills and ability to work with a team.
Encouraging girls to play sports increases their likelihood to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in a male-dominated industry. The courage, strength, and character gained through sports participation are the very tools young girls and women need to be the confident leaders of tomorrow’s bright future.
By definition, sexism is the belief that one sex, usually the male, is naturally superior to the other and should dominate most important areas of political, economic, and social life.
Sexism in the sports industry is one of the biggest issues that women are faced with today. The truth of the matter is that yes, all sexism is bad, but the media has been blatantly reaffirming gender roles for as long as I can remember.
Female athletes, in America specifically, are often cast as sex symbols rather than role models and are subject to harsh and petty criticism regarding their appearance, dating life, and eating habits.
Many of the ESPN articles I read regarding female athletes contain an unnecessary amount of information regarding their looks.
For example, Serena Williams constantly received backlash for ditching the usual frou-frou tennis skirt and replaced the uniform with leggings instead.
Kerri Walsh Jennings, a legendary beach volleyball player, has had comments regarding her having side boob during a match. These comments would never be said from someone if Lebron James decided to not wear an undershirt during his game.
I do not play volleyball to show off my body and look pretty.
To me, being a female athlete isn’t about looking pretty on the court. No, I do not willingly choose to wear spandex while I play, it is a part of my uniform.
The truth is, I make ridiculous faces half of the time while playing and am a complete spaz as well. I ultimately play volleyball to be a competitor and to have pride in myself while competing in the sport I fell in love with as a little girl.
Being a female athlete makes me proud because I get to represent myself, my gender, and all of my schools that I’ve played at.
I get to participate in events to promote getting other young girls to start and continue playing sports like International Women’s Day. I get to show the boys that the girls can dominate just as much - if not more than men's sports, at the collegiate level and beyond.
Personally, I am tired of women's sports being considered mediocre in comparison to their male equivalents. I am sick of seeing young girls being forced to set aside their passions out of fear of stepping outside the carefully constructed gender roles that we have created in the sports industry.
Lastly, I am in disgust of living in a world in which many female athletes are not given the respect and recognition that we rightfully deserve.
If some of the strongest women in society are regarded in this way, what does that mean for the rest of us? How long has this negative media attention been holding us back?
I think it is time to face reality and look at the example we’ve set for girls in this day and age. Society and the media today tell girls they can be athletic, but not too athletic -- that’s unattractive. If you want fame, such as Instagram model status, you have to have looks and the lean body type that allow you to pose for the perfect gram.
Apparently, in most women’s sports it’s not enough for you to be talented and gifted; you have to also be marketable. But I suppose that’s understandable when a mere three percent of media is devoted to female athletics on major sports outlets such as ESPN and Sports Center.
It is time to lead the next generation of young female athletes forward into a society that is open to gender equality in sports. It is time for us college and ex-college athletes to become leaders and encourage young girls that strong is beautiful.
Examples of strong, beautiful and successful female sports teams such as the American Women’s National Soccer Team or the USA Women’s National volleyball team who both dominate in their respective sports and provide words and examples of success.
It is time to lead a generation of strong-willed woman to show the world what an athlete should be.
The tyranny ends now. What can you do to help? How about attend a women’s sports game at your school, support your gals, nieces, sisters in their sporting endeavors. Stop portraying the classic stereotype that girls are weaker than boys.
Us female athletes are strong, powerful, and deserve the best.