How long before Hollywood’s “Time’s Up” energy, determination, and women’s empowerment movement spill over into collegiate athletics? Watching the news and highlights from the Golden Globes and the several month’s leading up that event with an unprecedented number of sexual harassment cases in Hollywood, I couldn’t help but think about my twenty-five year career in athletics. I wondered how those before my generation fought for Title IX and what it has become on the collegiate campus, and what the environment looks like to those in the next generation.
Please know this is not a complaint about working in a male-dominated environment. I had three older brothers and I played just about every organized sport growing up. Believe me when I say I can tolerate bodily function-themed jokes in the hallway, foul language just about everywhere, and locker-room humor. I am still a little steamed over the fact that the 9-10 year old softball trophy was half the size of the 9-10 year old baseball trophy, but my life will go on.
I absolutely realize the differences between large DI athletic programs that are so revenue-driven and smaller collegiate programs. But this thought kernel has been growing inside my head… how much longer will this current behavior be acceptable in collegiate athletics? Will the overall effect of televised women’s sports like soccer, softball, basketball, lacrosse and volleyball all showing desirable marketing potential speed up equality? Will collegiate sport coverage continue the practice of sexually objectifying female athletes during broadcasts and in the media? Will Title IX survive the current administration’s thinking and trends? Will Oprah become President? (jk, just think more people will read this if it has the word Oprah in it!) Is “time up” on gender-skewed collegiate sports environments?
Today’s truths as a woman in collegiate athletes:
- You will hear sexist jokes in the hallway, be called a “bitch” every time you demand equality for staff and athletes, and witness the athletics department budget springing for gear named things like “The Shocker” (life-like hand icon included) for men’s sports. You will wonder why your budget doesn’t support fireworks or a tee shirt canon at your games. You may experience covert sexism that has become painfully obvious to me like webpages and social media handles that market “Basketball” under men’s sports but “Women’s Basketball” under women’s sports. But is time up on those inequalities?
- You and your daughters will watch and read about sports that are currently reported under blatant sexism, as well as the veil of covert sexism. Blatant sexism you ask? The United States Women’s Soccer Team. Enough said. Covert sexism? Serena Williams versus Roger Federer. Serena is not just judged solely on the basis of her being arguably the best tennis player ever. Media will always be mixing in dashes about her outfits, dollops about pregnancy, and a pinch here and there about her impending nuptials (See how I covertly used the “barefoot in the kitchen” metaphor?) When was the last time you heard an announcer say, “That Roger, his blue shirt is a-MAZE-ing!” We are onto you, sports media. But is time up?
- You may have more collegiate wins than your counterpart, a higher team GPA, higher student-athlete graduation rate, more advanced degrees on your resume, and more years in coaching collegiate sports, yet still make less in salary and bonus structure due to the profile of the team on your campus. But is time up for administrations that value some sports over others, who qualify the importance of one team’s experience based on what sport they play?
- Title IX will remain a safeguard to transparently guide universities to live and breathe the equality of men’s and women’s safety and experience on campus.
- Women’s sports continue to air prominently in the media, with announcers who are more interested in the play, not the ponytail; the athlete, not the most photogenic person on the court or field (who remembers Anna Kournikova, z-e-r-o singles titles).
- Women in collegiate athletics will all have employment in an environment where their salary and bonuses are based on their job-description related performances and that the job description is uniform with that of their sport’s male athletic department counterpart.
As much as I loved being Head Lacrosse Coach, Head Field Hockey, Compliance Director and Associate AD, all at one time, my dream is that professional women in collegiate athletics can focus on their ultimate passion and be compensated fairly within that realm. Coaching successful female student-athletes, and all that entails, should be every bit as valuable to our institutions of higher learning as coaching successful male student-athletes.