SAAC Dodges Inequity in Sports
Evening the Playing Field
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 23:03
When you think of dodgeball, you might be haunted by memories of middle school gym class, or maybe you’ll chuckle while recalling Ben Stiller’s superb mustache from the popular 2004 film. You probably don’t consider the gender politics involved in sports, feminism or Title IX. This Sunday, however, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will address the issue of feminism in sports with its first dodgeball fundraiser tournament that aims to dispel the misconception that male athletes harbor negative attitudes toward women.
Since Title IX was enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, huge strides have been made for female athletes. According to the Department of Education, Title IX ensures that equity is present in high school and college sports programs — in other words, that the playing field is equal for boys and girls in athletics opportunities. As of 2010, it has been reported that over three million high school girls take part in their schools’ athletic programs — an 40,000 number increase from the female atheletes counted in the previous year. In addition, women’s athletics now receives equal funding because of Title IX.
The positive impact of Title IX on female athletes is evident here on campus.
"The athletics department does a really good job of equally distributing the limited number of available resources across gender lines," SAAC member and baseball player James Heine (COL ’13) said. "All the student athletes at Georgetown are treated fairly, and despite the challenges that we face when it comes to facilities or resources, student-athletes will never be denied support on account of their gender."
Despite the equal access to funding and equipment secured by Title IX, it is clear that more work needs to be done to obtain rightful appreciation for female athletes. In 2008, only 1.6 percent of women’s sporting events were broadcast on national television. Also, when female athletes are able to receive endorsements, the media often focuses on sex appeal rather than on their power and athletic ability. While they were once underfunded, today’s female athletes are underappreciated or recognized for the wrong reasons.
Some claim that this lack of appreciation exists at Georgetown.
"The women’s soccer team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament but received little attention," volleyball player Annalee Abell (COL ’14), who serves as SAAC communications representative said. "Why the support toward the men and not the women?"
Others, like swimmer Emily Hall (COL ’15), who also participates on the SAAC communications committee, would disagree.
"In terms of attitude toward my athletic ability and my participation in Georgetown sports, I have never received anything but support from the student-athlete community," Hall said.
She does believe that a lack of respect in the gender politics of sports is a problem elsewhere.
"I did attend high school in an area with a history of negative treatment towards women among athletes," she said. "The UVA lacrosse player who killed his girlfriend a couple of years ago went to a high school in my area that had a reputation for negative treatment of women."
As Americans have accepted women more and more as having the same ability as men, the strangeness of the lack of appreciation for women’s athletics grows. And since Title IX has received negative opinions from those who believe that it has caused drastic cuts in the numbers of men’s college sports teams, the irrationality of the appreciation issue applies to Georgetown.
"Often times, female athletics get disrespected because certain individuals display a sexist attitude toward the capabilities of female athletes," Heine explained. "They feel that because female athletes are unable to accomplish the same feats of athleticism as men, that somehow their sports are less valid or entertaining. This opinion does not do justice to the incredible skill displayed by female athletes both here at Georgetown and at colleges across the U.S."
Hall agreed that women’s sports are sometimes viewed as less important because they lack the level of strength and power involved in men’s athletics.
"Male sports in general have a reputation for negative attitudes toward women because there’s a sense of having to ‘man up’ and be a ‘tough guy’ in sports," she said.
She observed that this tendency to assert dominance or very masculine behaviors often was most prevalent in men who are not involved with athletics.
"I am much more likely to receive sexist comments or to be treated as weaker by guys who aren’t athletes and who know that I am," she said. "I feel like they are threatened by it a little."
As a whole, American society is hesitant to embrace the athletic ability and power of female athletes. The media avoids the topic by sexualizing or trivializing famous athletes like the Williams sisters. Rather than address the impressive abilities of these women, the media chooses not to broadcast or advertise their sporting events. But many Georgetown students, like Heine, recognize the equal ability of female Georgetown athletes.