In observance of Women’s History Month, The Daily’s sports section is launching its second annual series aimed at telling the stories of female athletes, coaches and teams at the University from the perspective of the female sports writers on staff. We continue the series with this column from Daily Sports Writer Abby Snyder.
I was in seventh grade.
It was a Monday in early January, a few weeks before my bat mitzvah. I was sitting in first-period math, working on my practice problems, minding my own business.
The New England Patriots, my NFL team, had won that weekend, as they so often do. And so, on that Monday in early January, I wore my Patriots T-shirt to school.
The questions started coming about 10 minutes into class.
The boy who sat next to me decided that wearing that T-shirt wasn’t enough to show that I was a Patriots fan. He decided that I needed to prove that I really understood football, that I really did root for the Patriots. It was time, he decided, for a little pop quiz.
What’s Tom Brady’s jersey number? Easy. 12. What position does Wes Welker play? Wide receiver. Where did Rob Gronkowski play college football? Arizona.
One after another, they kept coming. And one after another, I kept getting them right, as that boy and his friends watched in increasing amazement, lobbing back tougher and tougher questions.
Finally, they got to one I couldn’t answer right away.
Where did Stevan Ridley go to college?
I knew the answer — LSU, in case you’re wondering. But for whatever reason — whether it was those boys’ questions, or the quadratic formula, or my ever-looming Torah portion — I was so rattled, I couldn’t come up with the answer. They laughed for a minute, and we all went back to our worksheets.
I was so upset with myself, and with them. Why couldn’t I remember? Why did those boys think so little of me? Why were they doing this?
Why did I need to prove that I liked sports?
It comes down to something I learned about in my Sociology of Sport class today – the persistent idea that women can’t be great athletes, can’t enjoy sports, can’t understand sports.
And you know what? Modern sports reinforce that idea every day.
It’s in the countless comments that the peak of Serena Williams’ career was behind her after she had her daughter. It’s in the disbelief that crosses so many people’s faces when I tell them how much I love sports and when they realize I’m not joking. It’s in Cam Newton’s surprise that Jourdan Rodrigue, a female reporter on the Panthers beat for the Charlotte Observer, actually understood the routes the Panthers’ wide receivers were running.
It’s in the strange looks that my female colleagues and I have all gotten more times than we can count when we tell people we cover sports. And it’s in those boys’ questions.
It’s not like there aren’t female athletes out there. There are, and they’re incredible. The U.S. women’s soccer team has won three World Cups so far. They’re favorites to win a fourth this summer. Serena Williams has won 22 Grand Slam Championships. And I can only hope that I will one day be as absolutely badass as Mo’ne Davis.
But let’s not pretend the sports world cares about women.
Not when men’s sports dominate our conscious and a staggering number of fans could not care less about women’s sports. Not when all of those sports leagues employ a frankly ridiculous number of men who beat, abuse and even rape their wives and girlfriends. Not when those leagues do almost nothing to punish them.
Is this the example we’re giving to our country’s youth?
I’m lucky enough to have parents who tell me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I’m thankful for that — and for them — every day.
Sports need to start sending that message.
We need women in visible roles in major sports, and we need women’s sports to be more visible. Not just a preseason coaching intern, or a token female on every sports beat (this goes for the Daily, too). Don’t tell me that there aren’t women out there who are qualified for these jobs. Don’t tell me women’s sports just aren’t as fun. We all know that’s just flat-out not true. But there are shortages in both areas, and there’s a reason for that.
Sports keep telling women that there’s no room for them.
Those boys’ attempt to get me to stop caring about the Patriots was a resounding failure (as were all subsequent attempts). But there are other women who eventually just got discouraged — who decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore.
They deserve more than this constant discouragement. We all deserve more than just backstage and token roles.
We deserve better.