Title IX is the representation of the efforts made towards reaching gender equality in collegiate sports. It has given female student-athletes the opportunity to participate in all kinds of athletic events by requiring schools to give the same amount of scholarships to men and female student-athletes. It is a huge step in the right direction to abolish gender discrimination, but I believe there is much more to be done. Regarding college sports, the fact that now women have equal opportunities as men in terms of scholarships available is great, but their efforts are still undervalued and not appreciated when comparing them to their male counterparts.
Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty mentioned in the chapter Being a Women and Other Disabilities of his book The Playing Fields of Eton (2009) that there are beliefs of women’s weaknesses, vulnerability and less capability that are linked to the reason why their athletic performances are undervalued. But from my perspective, the biggest factor as to why female athletes are not taken seriously is because spectators tend to appraise their bodies instead of appraising their athletic talents. I observed this behavior when I attended a University of Michigan Varsity Volleyball game earlier this semester and heard all sorts of disrespectful comments. Take a look at the following video titled “Why you should watch volleyball: hot sports women” for example:
Videos like this are sexist and derogatory. Even the title encourages viewers to look down at women. The reason why you should watch volleyball is because these female athletes are extremely talented and they put a lot of effort practicing; not because they wear tiny, tight shorts. I found a bunch of other videos similar to the one above but I refuse to attach the link to them because I don’t want to encourage people to watch them, even if I just want to prove how wrong they are.
I also attended a University of Michigan Women’s Varsity Soccer game and I did not hear any comments referring to the bodies of player’s from people on the stands like I did in the volleyball game. I only heard people talking about the plays, the team’s season and the athlete’s abilities. Is this pure coincidence? I don’t think so. I would dare to assume it has to do with the fact that the soccer players were wearing longer shorts, which are less feminine in a way. Will I fall under the hasty generalization fallacy if I say I believe the soccer player’s talents were being recognized at a greater extent because they were using manly shorts while the volleyball player’s abilities went unnoticed due to their tight spandex?
The role of women in sports has definitely improved a lot over the years, but women’s efforts are still not recognized as much as male’s. Women sports are not as popular, not broadcasted as much, and as I experienced in the volleyball game, a lot of people go for the wrong reasons. Professor La Vaque-Manty recognized that part of the problem is the general perception of women as vulnerable and weak. I think this misjudgment, added to the sexism evident when women wear certain athletic gear, only worsens the issue. From what I saw when I attended the volleyball and the soccer games, the more feminine (or provocative some could argue) the female athletes dress, the less recognized their athletic talents are. We need to stop sexualizing female athletes and start appreciating the effort they put into playing sports if we ever want to reach gender equality.