Column: Defending women’s sports against sexist stereotypes

Sometimes, I think about where athletics would be without Title IX and the opportunities that it afforded many women looking to play sports.

Title IX is the federal regulation passed in 1972 that prohibits discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal assistance.

This includes sports.

There are plenty of women who play sports and plenty of women who coach sports. Dipping one’s toes into the waters of athletics is a challenge for any woman, given that sports has traditionally been a male-dominant institution.

Anyone who is a woman — whether it be a player, coach, executive or reporter — who decides to enter sports earns my utmost respect for this alone.

Unfortunately, the male-centric machine that is athletics is still hard at work in many parts of the world, churning out stereotypes.

What needs to be addressed is the bogus stigma that is sometimes put on any woman who plays sports. Those of the female sex who are a part of any competitive sport are sometimes looked at (primarily by those of the male species) as “lesbians,” “not feminine” or less of a woman.

Seriously? It’s 2015. Are we still unfairly placing this tag on women athletes? This is something that is put on WNBA players and softball athletes almost regularly.

What’s the matter, men? Got beat by a girl on the soccer pitch in junior high?

It is unfathomable that in the 21st century that this is still out there, but it still is.

The majority of the mainstream sports are competed in by men. The majority of athletics organizations are ran by men. That may not be the heart of the problem, but it at least serves as either the lungs or the blood vessels.

This is an extremely competitive and extremely intense activity to partake in. Maintaining that competitive edge require large degrees of athleticism and toughness in order to succeed and prosper as an athlete.

Athleticism and toughness are virtues that more often than not are said to be attributes of masculinity — it is the reason as to why male sports are said to be played by those that “look like athletes.”

So, why don’t women’s sports get the same modicum of respect that men’s sports do? Some say it is because men’s sports have higher attendance and garner higher ratings.

Why do they have higher attendance and garner higher ratings? Because the male-controlled media has ingrained in our heads that sports are for men and any woman who partakes in sports needs to have her sexuality questioned.

Not because, you know, she may love sports just as much as any man may. Believe me, any time I hear this stereotype either on TV, radio, in newspapers or in casual conversation, I want to puke.

What this really boils down to the conversation about just what is “feminine” and what is not “feminine.”

Entering into beauty pageants, having long blonde hair and being as demure as possible around the opposite sex are what we have defined as “womanly” traits in society. If said woman even dares to enter sports, then her attractiveness quotient dips into negative figures in the eyes of a lot of men.

The problem with this is obvious. Young girls who watch beauty pageants or events like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show grow up with the idea trying to be a model is what defines being a woman. They have this idea that if they do not look like a Barbie doll by the time they reach their teens, their lives are not worth it.

That’s where sports come in.

Sports are not just about wins, losses and gaudy stats. Sports can be a positive source of empowerment and self-fulfillment for young girls. It teaches them that instead of aspiring to be the next Marilyn Monroe or Brooklyn Decker, wanting to be the next Alex Morgan or Angel McCoughtry is just as worth striving for.

At most colleges and universities, including at Georgia State, women’s sports fly under the radar with everyone
concentrating on football and men’s basketball. But by playing for Georgia State sports, volleyball’s Deidra

Bohannon and women’s soccer’s Taina Anglade are ambassadors of the university just like football’s Nick Arbuckle or men’s basketball’s R.J. Hunter.

Women have had to fight hard to gain acceptance in many institutions, including in sports in the United States.

Even today, that is still continuing as women still strive to earn equal recognition in sports circles.

I do not assume anything about the personal lives of any athlete, men’s or women’s. It is none of my business. Whenever I see a woman athlete doing well — there is only one thing I pick up from that: Girl Got Game!

About Akiem Bailum 285 Articles
Akiem Bailum - Sports Editor Fall 2014 - Spring 2015. Journalism major with a concentration in telecommunications. Class of 2015. Before becoming sports editor at The Signal, Akiem began his writing career at Georgia State in 2012. After a brief absence, he returned to The Signal in 2014. Akiem has covered Georgia State sports events on site for football, volleyball, basketball and softball games. His advice for future sports writers is to cover more than major sports and to attend as many events in person as possible. When away from the court or the field, Akiem's interests include studying the radio industry.

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