When twelve-year-old McKenna Peterson wrote to Dick’s Sporting Goods complaining that no women were represented as athletes in their basketball catalog, she was pointing out the obvious: Forty-two years after the other Dick signed Title IX, women are still being banished to the bleachers.
With sport fast replacing religion as the national Sunday ritual, it’s interesting to note the sexist parallels between the two: It’s not that girls can’t play sports but they are the warm-up act—the nuns, if you like—always less important. Of course, we encourage them to watch, to cheer, and to expose themselves during the halftime show, but play in the big leagues? That’s still a different story. Dick’s know this; that’s why they don’t market to women.
Even Cosmopolitan magazine, always a proponent of women getting down and dirty (in the bedroom, anyway), has fallen prey to this way of thinking. In an October 14 interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Cosmo Editor in Chief Joanna Coles said she’s been trying to elevate the content of the articles. Indeed, Cosmo was awarded a well-deserved National Magazine Award last year for their twelve-page piece on contraception. Coles said she has “no problem understanding that women are interested in mascara and the Middle East,” but then she spoiled it all by adding: “Men are allowed to talk about sports relentlessly, and yet we still take them seriously.”
The implication of that statement is that sport is as frivolous as mascara. But it’s not. Sport, like religion, is big business. When the sacrament is winning a game, men celebrate with genuflection and prayer and are rewarded with college scholarships, multi-million dollar professional deals, and sometimes even escape punishment for criminal acts.
As for Cosmo, the feminist champion of the orgasm, the magazine has always been about sexual freedom and liberation, and women have joyfully and rightfully celebrated that. But when the magazine cover depicts actress Emily Ratajkowski with her shirt unbuttoned to the waist revealing her copious cleavage and svelte figure and juxtaposes that with an article on how to get a pay raise, there’s a problem of mixed messages.
And it’s not as if women can’t play well, both in the bedroom and on the sports field. Moreover, there are women who can throw and jump and run as well as men (exhibit A: Billy Jean King). Believe it or not, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has been banned from running because she has a condition known as hyperandrogenism which causes her hormones to produce high levels of testosterone. Despite the fact that she is 100 percent dick-free and has a natural ability to run fast, it’s been decreed that she’s too manly to compete against other women. That’s like saying everyone competing in high jump should be the same height. Ridiculous!
And let’s not forget that iconic 1999 World Cup soccer match when the U.S. women’s team played China. My daughters and I watched that game and cheered when Brandi Chastain nailed the winning goal. I’m not a soccer fan in general but that game was exciting even though it was being played by, you know, “girls.” I’m glad Chastain didn’t feel the need to apply her mascara but I just wish she had also resisted the urge to take off her shirt and show us her well-toned abs after scoring the goal. Then again, maybe she wanted a pay increase or maybe she just didn’t have anything else suitable to wear.
Finally, it’s worth noting that not only can women play sports well and therefore deserve a spot in the Dick’s catalogue, they are increasingly spectators of professional sports. Given the Dick’s omission and recent, highly publicized domestic abuse stories involving male professional athletes, isn’t it time for female sports fans to start watching games and rooting for teams where women are the ones with the balls?