I am often asked to defend my perspective on sports. Anybody who has ever admitted to not liking sports knows this feeling all too well.
Fans are always curious, often aggressively so, why I do not like sports as a whole. I understand why they ask me this – the same reason I, outraged, will ask someone to defend themselves when they tell me they do not like “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter.”
The biggest reason I do not like sports is simply that I do not see the point. It seems like a lot of emotional and financial investment into something objectively worthless. Because I have never really gotten emotionally involved in a sport, from the outside it seems really illogical to me. But that is not my only issue with the sports world, and some of the things I do not like about sports are things it is difficult to see from the inside.
One of those things is the role of women. I am a passionate feminist, and the role of women in sports has always bothered me. One only needs to watch the movie “A League Of Their Own” to see how women were treated when they tried to play baseball: The uniforms included short skirts, and it was clearly meant to be a cute show for men’s enjoyment, not a serious athletic competition.
But as that movie illustrated, that did n ot stop the women from being amazing athletes.
That is not a problem unique to the World War II-era. Just look at football. Football is entirely a man’s sport, but there is a women’s version that is much more badass – and much more sexualized. I am speaking of course about lingerie football.
When men play football they wear padding and protection to pretty much every body part. When women play football they wear next to nothing, and they still throw down just as much as the men. And yet, women competing on this level is still looked at by society as a sexy pastime for the amusement of men. But if you actually watch a lingerie football match, these women are serious athletes who don not get anywhere near the credit they deserve.
Furthermore, according to Forbes, the average salary for a NFL football player in America is $1.9 million. Women football players in their league, recently rebranded the Legends Football League, play for free, according to Vice. In fact, they even pay a fee to play.
The women in this league are intense athletes, yet they do not get paid a dime. The concept of ‘equal pay for equal work’ does not seem to exist here.
Even setting aside amateur non-paid leagues like this one, the role of women in sports is primarily as cheerleaders, standing on the sidelines and cheering on the men. While being a cheerleader is a perfectly fine choice for a woman to make, the problem is that this is often the only role for women in the world of major athletics.
I see it in the Olympics as well, like the infamous Tweet about Corey Cogdell-Unrein, the Olympian trapshooter identified by the Chicago Tribune only as the wife of a Chicago Bears lineman.
I see it in most major sports, and in college sports as well. While we have Title IX now, even that does not stop a strong preference for men’s sports. Just look at the recent events at the University of Washington, which was caught drastically inflating the numbers of female athletes to satisfy Title IX requirements and put more resources into male athletes.
Sexism exists in sports, and it is often hard for people who are die-hard fans of athletics to see it. The instinct I see among many sports fans is to get defensive of the institution and to argue that sports are not sexist, I am just too sensitive. But as an outside observer without emotions invested in the competition, I see some troubling things.
We sports dummies can only hope that as society becomes more equal, sports evolves with it.
Collegian sports columnist Michelle Fredrickson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mfredrickson42