You’ve probably seen them by now.
The pictures from the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball tournaments that went viral, showing the gross disparities between the women’s weight room and the men’s, the gear they were provided, the food they were served and even the lesser testing they were provided.
The effects of these images reached further than women’s college basketball, having an impact that was felt by female athletes and coaches everywhere, including the Michigan softball team.
“It’s really disappointing,” sophomore outfielder Lexi Voss said. “These females are all putting in their hard work and everything into it, and for those girls to step in that weight room and see the limited equipment that they have compared to the men, it kind of makes you step back and you’re like, ‘What statement are you trying to make? You don’t feel it’s kind of degrading in that aspect?’ And I feel like, over the years females — athletes especially — are really degraded. And it’s really upsetting to see that.”
Added sophomore left hander Lauren Esman: “I think it’s terrible. It really is terrible, and I feel like women should be treated the same as men. I get that they draw in more money, but at the end of the day we should be treated the same.”
And, while the NCAA did end up giving the women’s tournament upgraded weight rooms, that surface-level fix does not meaningfully help the problem at hand.
It’s obviously not just the NCAA — as its president Mark Emmert so eloquently put it — “dropping the ball” at this point, using that excuse only minimizes the real issue here. No matter the explanations or excuses the NCAA provides, these disparities still send the message that the NCAA just doesn’t care about women’s sports. Those in power treat all women’s sports as second-class citizens, and it’s just been thrusted into the spotlight again.
“It’s not about the weights,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “It’s about that somebody thought that was adequate for some reason. Our kids come out on this field every day and work their tail off, and they just want to be viewed as athletes, and they need the same thing every other athlete needs, the same type of support. And that’s true of everything in life … It just showcases that the mindset at the top is still not where it needs to be for equality. We’ve come a long way, but is it there yet? Apparently not.”
These issues aren’t new to Hutchins, in her long history with Title IX — from her days as an athlete at Michigan State to her coaching at Michigan — she has seen this all before.
At the end of the day, the players and coaches just want to be seen as equal to their male counterparts. It’s disheartening for them to put in the same amount of work as any male college athlete and still be seen as lesser, as undeserving of equal facilities or treatment.
Whether it’s on the court, in the diamond or anywhere else sports are played, one thing will always ring true: The women will be out there working just as hard as the men.
Now they just hope people in positions of power will see that, and, more importantly, care enough to make a change.
“We go out there and we’re working our butts off every single day, just working,” Voss said. “There should be no differences, at the end of the day we’re all athletes and we’re all competing the same.”