As part of the LSA theme semester the Hatcher Library Gallery has hosted numerous speakers that are in someway involved in sports. Recently I have attended talks by Andrea Joyce and Amy Perko. While the talks focused on very different sports related ideas, each event identified as relevant to our political science class. NBC sports reporter, Andrea Joyce predominantly focused on her experience with gender ideals working in a male dominated field as a woman. Amy Perko, on the other hand, spoke about her involvement with the Knight Commission, an organization that focuses on the treatment of student athletes.
During lecture we have discussed the disparities in the treatment of male and female athletes. Women athletes however, are not the only women that experience gender discrimination in sports. Michigan alumni, Joyce has broken down walls of gender barriers throughout her career working as a sports reporter. Joyce, an admired journalist, began her career as a small town weather girl after dropping out of graduate school. The possibility that this small town job could lead to higher opportunities was too tempting to ignore. Joyce reminisced in her memories of her start up days and insisted that at no time did she feel negatively affected by stereotypical gender ideals, at least not in the beginning. Many of her coworkers had also taken a risk by following an unexpected job opportunity and the common feeling of being overwhelmed and out of one’s element created a bond between coworkers.
Unfortunately, as Joyce became more successful the amount of pressure she felt from societal gender ideals increased. Joyce began to outshine many male journalists and the response of others was indefinite shock. How could this woman know more about sports than men? Joyce has covered all kinds of athletic events from professional leagues such as the NBA to the Olympics and claims that part of her success is because she refused (and continues to refuse) to allow socially constructed gender roles to impair her worth ethic and therefore her career. A typical idea among women concerning the overcoming of gender ideals is that if one presents themselves as “one of the guys” they will more easily be accepted. Joyce however, decided that the only way to break down these ideals was for her to be herself, a feminine woman who is educated in sports. Rather than masculinizing her personality or appearance in order to be better accepted, Joyce proudly contradicted stereotypical ideas that women are not interested in sports.
Perko, also influential in the world of sports, however, was asked to speak about her involvement with the Knight Commission. Perko’s talk was also relevant our class in that she predominantly addressed the treatment of student athletes and policy decisions concerning their academic experiences. The Knight Committee primarily focuses on the quality of education that student athletes receive. Perko noted that she has both an insider and outsider’s point of view on the subject of student athletes, as she previously played women’s college basketball. Perko understands the difficulty that student athletes have in maintaining a balance between their team and academics. While athletes are provided with tools such as tutors, often times they still find themselves playing catch-up in class. The Knight Committee works alongside the NCAA and their combined universities and colleges to overcome the barriers that face student athletes in balancing their academic and athletic lives.
Both of these speakers provided unique insight to better understanding the world of sports. I highly suggest that students attend the LSA events such as these, as their rapid overlap with these semester courses is undeniably engaging.