In the fall of 2000, I wrote a college term paper on Title IX emphasizing how the civil rights law is supposed to make sports equal for girls and women. As a freshman soccer player at the time, I had a lot to learn, but in regards to sports equality, had already experienced a lot . . . only I hadn’t yet realized the great disparities and misogyny.
If you haven’t seen it, Sedona Prince, a forward from the Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team posted a viral TikTok video showing the immense disparities between the women’s weight room and that of the men’s.
Let me put it on Twitter too cause this needs the attention pic.twitter.com/t0DWKL2YHR
— Sedona Prince (@sedonaprince_) March 19, 2021
Of course, the NCAA’s vice president for basketball, Dan Gavitt, quickly said he’d make it better immediately by getting the women the weight room they deserve.
But let’s be honest—the only reason they’re going to “make it right,” is because they got caught.
According to ESPN, “The NCAA also has faced questions about differences in the so-called ‘swag bags’ given to the men’s and women’s players, the food options available and the type of COVID-19 testing being done for both.”
So, when do these inequalities emerge? When little girls play sports, everyone’s supportive. It’s cute and adorable. We all want them to believe in themselves and shoot for the stars. But something happens when these girls get older. We learn around late adolescence, that we’ll never match up to the boys.
Not in the weight room, in applause, or in swag.
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I wrote that term paper on Title IX during my first season of soccer. Our team won the league—the first time in the school’s history. I remember feeling immense pride within our team. We all believed in each other and our team chemistry was indescribable both on and off the field. When we left on our bus to go to the NCAA tournament, however, a couple of adoring professors stood to wish us luck and see us on our way. But nothing else happened.
Our team continued to dominate in the years to come, even making it to the Sweet 16 two years in a row. The school basically patted us on the back and shrugged their shoulders. But the year the football team won, wow, the entire school went bananas.
Being a female athlete is more about how you feel being one. When you’re with your team, you feel invincible. Strong. Powerful. But when you’re around the men’s teams, you feel less than—the opposite of Title IX’s intent.
After college, I became a high school teacher and soccer coach. I took my new players and we trudged into our big locker room so I could see their jerseys. They were old hand-me-downs from the boys—quite literally looking like oversized uniforms from the ’80s. Of course, they didn’t feel like real athletes, they certainly weren’t treated like them. The first thing I did was march into the assistant dean’s office and ask for my allotted money. Together, we picked out new jerseys—women’s jerseys, that fit their bodies.
Watching them try on their new digs will always be one of my favorite memories as an educator. You could see their self-esteem soar after sliding the new ones over their heads. It was evident it was the first time someone not only said they believed in them as athletes, but showed them.
When I was in high school, the jock culture was the worst. It was like we were trying to become members of a club our young minds didn’t quite understand. Female athletes were sexually harassed by these young men. The fact that our bodies were strong and we excelled in our sport made no difference. We were still objects—objects for these young men to look at, talk about, and even touch without permission.
Being a female athlete often felt like a joke.
While the women’s weight room of the NCAA is a joke, let’s be clear—it’s a joke that the leaders don’t care about.
Those at the top DO NOT CARE ABOUT WOMEN’S SPORTS.
Sure, that’s a blanket statement. There are obviously some who care. But most just want to keep pumping money into the men’s programs because that’s where the money lies. That’s where the misogyny is so deep-rooted that I don’t see it being pulled out by the time my own daughter grows up.
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I earned an “A” on that Title IX term paper.
But in the 21 years since it was scrawled, nothing much has changed. I hope more women like Sedona Prince expose these vast disparities.
Because it’s about time.