This is part two in an ongoing series about women’s sports. See part one here.
This month marks the 39th anniversary of Title IX, which was designed to help provide equal opportunity to both men and women in school and in sports. There have definitely been abuses of this regulation, but overall it has done a great deal of good for women. In honor of this, Sheila C. Johnson, who serves as Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and also either owns or co-owns the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Mystics (WNBA), recently issued a challenge for women to take a more active role in supporting female sports. See, it’s not just men who seem to prefer men’s sports; women seem to prefer men’s sports too. Obviously there remains structural and cultural barriers that have prevented women’s sports from obtaining the same prestige and popularity as men’s sports, but if we want other people to appreciate women’s sports, we must also appreciate it ourselves. Yes, it’s unfair that women’s sports are taken very seriously, but we’ve got to have each others backs:
In honor of Title IX, take your family to a women’s sporting event. Celebrate the strength and competitive spirit of the women on the court or field. Pay attention to the way those female teammates trust, collaborate, and communicate with each other, and bring that kind of leadership and mutual support back into the workplace as well.
If our society is to fully champion women, women have to champion one another.
In other news, a recent New York Times article documents the problem of homophobia on the Nigerian national women’s soccer team. The team’s coach, Eucharia Uche, has continually expressed her belief that “lesbianism” is sinful and morally corrupt, and has brought in spiritual and religious leaders to help curb rates of homosexuality within the team. The coach’s attitude reminds us that homosexuality is extremely taboo all over Africa. The author notes,
On a continent where homosexual behavior is widely considered immoral, lesbians are sometimes ostracized and subjected to beatings. In countries like South Africa andZimbabwe, some women are raped in a so-called corrective treatment for homosexual behavior.
In one high-profile case in South Africa, a top female soccer player and lesbian activist, Eudy Simelane, 31, was murdered in 2008. Although one of her attackers testified that robbery was the motive in the stabbing death, Simelane’s death became the focus of a campaign to draw attention to violence against gays and lesbians.
A team in South Africa has taken on the dangerous challenge of combating homophobia by creating the Chosen Few — an “openly lesbian team of black players in Johannesburg.” The team for many serves as a surrogate family and a safe place for women to live their true characters.
But in sports all over the world, including America, homosexuality is still very taboo:
The treatment of lesbians in sport is not a matter restricted to women in Africa. Some women on previous United States national soccer teams have been reluctant to live openly gay lifestyles for fear of repercussions. And despite all the advances of gender equity in sport, lesbianism remains a sensitive matter in recruiting in college basketball.
This article also reminds us that the professional sports world has long been a hot bed for traditional masculinity and homophobia against gay men. The San Francisco Giants (GO GIANTS! 2010 World Champs!) were recently the first professional sports team to release a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign, which urges and an end to bullying against LGBTQ youth. The Chicago Cubs have also joined in with a video of their own, and I’ve heard that other sports teams are working on getting involved as well. I praise these teams for taking part in the project, and we can only hope that we are reaching a turning point in American sports where homophobia will not be tolerated.
And in the world of professional tennis, the continuous debate over “grunting” continues. The UK Telegraph interviewed All England Lawn and Tennis Club’s chief executive, Ian Ritchie, who declared that loud grunts from the female players are negatively affecting the game.
He blamed younger players, whom he said suffered from an “education problem” about the issue…On the first day of the SW19 championships, Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, a player often criticised for her wails, edged towards record noise levels as she made her debut on Court No 2…Mr Ritchie, a former television and news agency executive, admitted that officials would “prefer to see less grunting…We are one tournament in a global circuit. But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it.”
I’m not really a tennis watcher, mostly because I can’t stand the snobbery and elitism amongst the spectators at matches. While I absolutely appreciate the tremendous athletic ability of the players, I tend to like contact sports more. That said, these girls are working their tails off playing a demanding sport, throwing every bit of energy into each hit. Of course they’re grunting. Yeah, it’s kind of distracting, but I hardly think the spectators drinking their tea and sitting on cushions have a right to complain.
Finally, yesterday, June 21st, marked the 15 year anniversary of the establishment of the Women’s national Basketball Association. Awesome!
Finally finally, I will be once again entering the world of women’s sports (I played competitive soccer for years) tonight when I begin training for roller derby with the Santa Cruz Roller Girls! I hope to update you on my adventures — and of course provide a sociological context for women’s roller derby — in the coming weeks!