By Melina Monlux, Editorial Intern
There are many things on this earth that undermines one’s credibility: relentless rambling, erroneous statements, unfounded assumptions, aggressive tactics—all sorts of conversational blunders will do the trick . Unfortunately, in today’s society, the most damaging blow to credibility has nothing to do with what happens after you open your mouth. It’s being a woman. In the workplace, in school, and in everyday life, women can find their voices silenced before any sound has come out, in the way that a man decides prematurely not to listen to her. No place is this more apparent than in the world of sports.
When a woman enjoys watching a sport—which is still a seemingly incomprehensible idea to many male chauvinists—the unfortunate truth is that at some point, perhaps as she is watching at a sports bar, at a live game, or simply trying to join in a conversation about last night’s match, someone will question her intentions. As Myisha Cherry writes in Huffington Post’s “Why Women Are Not Taken Seriously in Sports and What We Can Do About It,” men assume that a woman’s “opinions are arbitrary, only repeated information from Sports Center or that she is only interested because the players are cute.”
I experienced the ridicule Myisha describes throughout my childhood, as I grew up a tomboy basketball player who tried time and time again to talk sports with the most inconceivably insecure (and thus headstrong and patriarchal) breed of man: the middle school boy. I learned in those years that I could not state my opinion about sports without being twice as educated as any of them were, as they were eagerly listening for mistakes, itching to discredit me. I particularly remember my first misstep. It was when I shared with the neighborhood boys that my favorite player was LeBron James. Unfortunately, to them, it did not matter that this had been true since the fifth grade; it only mattered that he was the most popular player in the game at the time, and I was thus marked a “bandwagon fan.” During every sports conversation for the rest of middle school, every time I attempted to share the boys would ensure that the entire table knew I was a bandwagon. They sometimes shouted it at me in the halls. I ended up denouncing James, and took up the search for a new favorite player. The sad truth is this: though I did end up finding my current favorite player, it was done falsely, to prove a point, because as a girl, I had to.
Myisha Cherry demonstrates that unfortunately, this experience is not unique to schoolchildren. It’s not a game, or something that is grown out of as one matures; this prejudice against female opinion in sports is prevalent even in the adult world. She states that, as a result of this injudicious bias, found particularly in sports bars, she finds herself “being extra argumentative, and quoting stats as if it was an ESPN Numbers Don’t Lie episode just so (she) can at least be heard and sound convincing.” She does it to prove a point, because as a woman, she had to.
The fact that this necessity has yet to fade into history is something Men’s Health Magazine recently reminded us of all too brazenly. In an article titled “How to Talk Sports with Women,” published (and promptly deleted) only two years ago, the magazine transported its readers back to what seemed to be the 1950’s. The article asserted to women: “Don’t share your passion for sports, in case you hadn’t noticed.” The writer claimed the reason was that we “need story lines,” because in an article that expressed so many offensive, outdated ideals, they will of course assume that all women prefer a Spanish soap opera to a football game. Its obscene generalizations and blatantly misogynistic claims such as “she sees the game differently than you” and “women don’t care about statistics”, produced a whirlwind of strongly worded objections, both from men and women, and the magazine was so overwhelmed with them that they were forced to delete the article and issue a public apology, tweeting: “Apologies for our ‘talk sports with her’ story. It missed the mark and the negative feedback is justified. We’ve deleted it… It wasn’t meant to suggest that women are in any way inferior to men, in sports, or anything else. But … we’re sorry that it did.”.
So although it is absolutely absurd that articles such as this are still being published, and that there are men who still denounce women’s opinions just because of their sex, progress is being made. The Men’s Health article was fought. And women at sporting events are becoming just as prominent as men. We aren’t just cheerleaders anymore. We are fans. Fans who deserve the same respect as men. Sure, there may always be an unfair divide when it comes to actually participating in the sport—strength, size and speed biologically favor men—but “when it comes to things of the mind, things like coaching” analyzing, or simply enjoying, as Becky Hammon, a former WNBA star and a current Assistant Coach on the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, says, “there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t be in the mix and shouldn’t be in the mix.”
Each month, one of our high school interns will research articles written by or about women’s sports. We see our Sports Round Ups as a gathering place of women sports news and voices. Our mission is to spread awareness of women’s voices in the sporting field, to help tell the stories of our community, and to inspire her own understanding and voice. Check out our Sports Round Up series.