Women athletes don’t perform for male viewers pleasure

Female athletes in domestic sports deserve the same respect as national athletes

ALEX BIVIANO, Evergreen Opinion editor

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Sports are transformational activities that have a major effect on their participants, as well as American culture as a whole. They can unite a campus, a city or even an entire country, but some of the best athletes are often disrespected, marginalized or even flat-out ignored.

Little girls fall in love with sports the same way boys do, but how this love is perceived varies in a misogynistic way.

Boys are encouraged to be competitive, learn teamwork and exercise in a way that transforms their bodies into an instrument of the sport; meanwhile, women are shamed for being too aggressive, cliquish and muscular.

Vickie Eke, senior kinesiology major, grew up playing and watching sports but said that women in sports are still being treated unfairly.

“Women are afraid to be athletes because of the stigma that comes with being an athlete,” she said.

The stigmas around athletic traits in women are especially harmful because they are considered good qualities when seen in a man.

Eke said many girls are afraid of the “manly look” and not seeming girly enough as they pursue sports at a high level.

Being judged by classmates and other competitors hurts girls’ self-esteem, which makes pursuing a career in sports harder. However, the internet remains on top for its ability to shame people for the accomplishments that they are proud of.

Many comment sections are riddled with kitchen jokes and screams of “I don’t care” when discussing women’s sports. This must change. Derogatory conversations not only normalize misogyny, but they can influence other readers who are still forming an opinion about women’s sports.

Although most of the hatred in these comments is because of sexism, the media outlets covering these sports must bear some responsibility as well.

ESPN tries to support female athletes, but it posts obscure graphics and vague information that come off as pandering rather than an actual endorsement of women’s sports.

The NBA struggles with this too. The league works to advertise the WNBA by showing side by side clips with NBA stars like Chris Paul and Steph Curry. The problem remains is the fact that the NBA and WNBA share few resemblances in the way the game is played.

The NBA and men’s college basketball get much of their excitement from dunks and strong plays in the post, while women’s basketball is less bound by positions and has more jump shooting.

However, there are signs of changes among the sea of sexism.

Posting stories of an athlete’s upbringing and journey to the pros is often well received. When athletes of any sex are talked about as human beings, they are often elevated to fan-favorite status.

The journey to the WNBA is a challenging one with only the most elite athletes reaching the top. Showcasing the work these athletes put in shuts down much of the sexism found on social media.

Platforms like ESPNW do a great job of establishing women’s sports as legitimate entertainment. However, the powerhouse media outlets like ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and Bleacher Report need to feature women’s sports more prominently going forward.

College softball players often make Top 10 highlights which legitimize the sport. Impressive plays should be celebrated, but this should extend to the athletes who make them as well.

When representing Team USA female athletes are celebrated, but when representing their professional leagues back home they can be viewed as an afterthought. Women in sports should be honored for their domestic teams, just like they are for the national ones.