Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice… Is That What Little Girls are Really Made Of?

Picture this: It’s a chilly Friday night in October. You enter the stadium of the local high school and the lights are shining onto the crisp turf field. The players, who have been practicing all season, do their pre-game warm-ups. They jog, they stretch, they pass. The officials meet with the captains and coaches to discuss the evening’s competition. The whistle blows and the fans cheer loudly in the stands. The bleachers are packed and you can feel the energy from the crowd, something a little like this one. If you’re like most people, the scene in your head probably features a men’s football game about to start. Or maybe, men’s soccer. Women’s soccer or field hockey, however, probably never crossed your mind. Why not?

Fans at a high school football game (my friends and I) Source: my photo

Fans at a high school football game (my friends and I) Source: my photo

As a two-sport varsity athlete in high school, I can tell you why, because that scene is generally nonexistent. I spent countless nights supporting other teams at my school, boys’ and girl’s soccer, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, and of course, football. The men’s sports had higher turnouts without fail. The theme of men’s sports being superior to women’s goes farther back than the professional and collegiate level discussed in the chapter titled Being a Woman And Other Disabilities by Professor LaVaque-Manty. It begins in high school athletics, the first level at which big crowds are attracted. And although Title IX bans sex-based discrimination in education programs, the SHARP Center’s report titled “Gender Equity in High School Sports” gives data that questions the effectiveness of Title IX. From 2000-2010, “boys received disproportionately more opportunities than girls did.”

And besides opportunities, the boys’ teams at my high school received more special treatment as well. Their locker room, for example, was recently renovated and is undoubtedly nicer and more updated than the girls’. My team was

Okay it was a little bit nicer.... but not much

Ladies Locker Room (Okay it was a little bit nicer…. but not much)

forced to change in dusty, dingy rooms, and one season two teams even had to share the same team room (a room in which each team stores their uniforms and equipment, which are usually given out one per team). The boys were also frequently allowed to leave their last class early on game days so they had time to get dressed, set the field, and prepare, even when the girls had the same exact things to do and the same game time. This was something that frustrated me throughout my high school career. I practiced six days a week, just like the boys did. I dedicated my time to my sport, just like the boys did. My team had a winning record and collegiate-bound members, just like the boys did. My most memorable game of high school field hockey was my Senior Spirit Game, when all the other athletes were required to come watch. My team definitely fed off the energy from all our supporters, and we beat our rival team in a close game. As Professor La-Vaque Manty points out, “Surely… it matters for a person’s interest in a pursuit what sort of incentives are associated…with it. Social appreciation from admiring spectators is one such incentive.” While I never played field hockey or lacrosse solely for this reason, my one night with an excited crowd showed me exactly what I had been missing out on.

Senior Captains on Senior Spirit Night

Senior Captains on Senior Spirit Night

It is unfair and upsetting to me that the culture in high-school, college, and professional sports is this way. I loved the sports I played, but it was disheartening that no one seemed to care about the effort I put in like they did about boys. And as pointed out by my classmate in the blog post, Women’s Sports and Coverage in the Mainstream Media, this type of culture sends the wrong message to young girls. It tells them that “society doesn’t care as much about what they do as compared to a boy,” which is not the way it should be. The point of youth sports is to build confidence and character, not tear it down. The change needs to start from the bottom and work its way down. If more people care about women’s youth and high school sports, they will follow those sports to the collegiate and professional levels. While society has taken steps in the correct direction, I think we can all agree that we have a long way to go.

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2 comments

  1. mkweihs · October 27, 2014

    Your blog post is characterized by a very good rhetoric. Especially, I liked the part with the repetition “just like the boys did”. This vivid language and your personal experience make it very easy to understand your argumentation and increase its credibility. You, as a former high-school athlete have experienced the injustice that arises from gender discrimination very early and it wasn’t that clear to me that the differences in the treatment of male and female athletes in high-school are that striking. Did you and your team talk to your teachers at school about those issues? That would have been interesting to include, too. I can imagine that it’s very frustrating when you don’t get rewarded by an appropriate number of spectators. However, this fact can also serve as kind of a sorting machanism for the female athletes which only lets the most motivated females participate in sports in high school. The ascpect of an admiring crowd might also set wrong incentives for the athletes that rather concentrate on the crowd than on the pleasure of doing sports.

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  2. mollygrant41 · October 28, 2014

    As a female Varsity athlete in high school, I completely agree with your post. I think what relates me to this blog is my experience with swimming. No matter how bad the football team lost on Friday, they got a front page article in the Saturday morning newspaper. However, when it came to girl’s swimming, we were not given any recognition. Among our team, we had a state champion, 4 State finalists, and us finalists also set a school and area record. When we approached the paper directly, they told us that our sport is not as news worthy. Similarly, the whole locker room scenario hinted to me that you girls were not able to prove yourself, which I believe is not at all the truth. I agree when you conclude by saying the purpose of these high school, amateur, sports is to build character and confidence. Those traits are extended beyond sports, but by giving negative effects to athletes, creates a ripple effect that, absolutely, hints to females that they aren’t as capable.

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