To the people who don’t see the value in women’s sports:
Let me first start with a story: When I was 12 years old, I excitedly told my uncle about my hockey team. He replied with, “Girls hockey? That’s not hockey, that’s participaction.”
Maybe you just laughed. Maybe you don’t see the big deal. Maybe you agree.
Either way, that 12-year-old girl was forever changed. Not just by that moment, but by the moments that came before and after it—many far worse than the last.
That girl grew up thinking that every time she thought of herself as an athlete, played a sport, felt proud, felt at home in sports, there had to be an asterisk next to it: *My sports aren’t real sports. I’m not a real athlete.
Now, that girl is almost 30 years old and she’s got news for her uncle and everyone else: Women’s sports are real sports and women are real athletes.
She also knows it’s a narrative shared by many other women in sports.
THE NCAA MARCH MADNESS BUBBLE
By now, you’ve probably heard about the difference in the men’s and women’s NCAA March Madness bubbles. If you haven’t, here’s an unfortunate sneak peak for you:
I never played sports at an elite level, but I loved them just the same and I’ve dedicated my life to ensuring women in sports are seen and heard.
While seeing the differences in the men’s bubble compared to the women’s deeply upset me, it didn’t shock me. And there lies the problem.
As women in sports, we’re told we should be happy with the leftovers. We’re told we should be grateful for getting anything at all. We are used to being afterthoughts in the sports world.
Women in sports are also used to having a second job (or third or fourth for some) that involves fighting for what they know they deserve: not equality, but equity. We want the chance to succeed. The same chances boys and men are given. Instead, we’re fed the leftovers but asked to perform like those who were just given a gourmet meal, specified to meet their needs to perform at their best. We can’t compete with that on table scraps (literally, in the case of the NCAA bubble).
Not only are women in sports asked to prove themselves time and time again, but each time they successfully do, the bar gets higher for what they’re expected to reach to be seen as true athletes.
Women in sports not only have to focus on performing on the court, on the ice, and on the field, they also have to do that while fighting for resources, respect, visibility, and equity.
VALUE WOMEN IN SPORTS
The next time you want to brush women’s sports off by saying “They’re just not successful” or “They don’t bring in the revenue”, I urge you to consider what women in sports are up against.
Women are expected to perform at the same level as men in order to be seen as successful and worthy, but they’re provided with nothing to enable them to reach these expectations. One side is dribbling with a deflated basketball and expected to put up the same number of points, if not more.
We’re tired of the table scraps. We’re tired of hearing the same garbage “reasons” why women in sports can’t succeed. We’re tired of seeing the blatant inequities, each one less shocking than the last but heartbreaking all the same. We’re tired of being told we’ll be respected when we achieve what men have when we’re not given the red carpet to sports success that men are.
We need you to understand that we are not lesser. Our sports are not lesser. Female athletes are not lesser.
Our opportunities are lesser. Our resources are lesser. Our visibility is lesser.
Rather than chalking the inequities we face up to our gender, I urge you to take the time to understand the absence of a level playing field.
We’re doing beyond our best. We’ve done more than what we’ve been asked. We’ve pushed boundaries and ourselves further than men have because we’ve had to.
We’re done with table scraps, and we need you to be done with thinking it’s okay to give them to us.
Support women in sports.
Understand women in sports.
Fight for women in sports.
Believe in women in sports.
Value women in sports.