Friday, February 26, 2010

A plea for women's sports...

I had a huge emotional reaction to yesterday's gold medal hockey game between the US and Canadian women; more than is even shown in my previous post. I cried for the better part of 2 hours. And yes, I'm a passionate bear, prone to great ecstasy and terrible agony - and I've always loved watching the US women's hockey team. I'm definitely a dedicated fan. But I can't say that crying - nay - flat out weeping for 2 hours is a normal response to a loss like that.

And here's what I realized: I wasn't crying for the loss, or the game. I was crying for the plight of women's sports in this country.

The US Women's Hockey team (really, all the women's hockey teams - all over the world) are amateur athletes. They don't have crazy sponsorships like Lindsey Vonn or even Gretchen Bleiler. They all have jobs. And they train. And they go to practice. And they have an uphill battle unknown to most athletes today. Even the "non-pro" athletes that compete in the Olympics (at least from the US), have the financial support to dedicate themselves solely to the training they need. Apolo Ohno, Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir - if it's a sport that the US has any remote chance of excelling in, we will throw money at them and let them train all day, every day, without having to worry about the every day things like bills and work and mortgages. Don't get me wrong - they're incredible athletes. But what would happen if you took that financial support away? What if they had to work, AND train, AND pay bills, AND endure the day-in, day-out slog that every other regular Joe faces - yet add on top of that, 5 hours a day of practice and training.

What would their success rate be then?

If any of you watched the game, or at least saw a replay of the women's hockey medal ceremony, you would have seen 60+ women, from three different countries, who all know what that training/real life balance is like. They all had to work TWICE as hard as any sponsored athlete in the games. Consequently, all of the curling, bobsledding, nordic skiing, and women's speed skaters are in the same boat.

Unsurprisingly, most of the sponsored athletes are men.

I understand that many of these sports are not made for a commercial market. I get that they just don't sell as well as baseball, football, basketball, or even men's hockey (at least in Canada). But every four years, Americans especially, put an inordinate amount of pressure on these amateur athletes, and expect Gold. We are a society of Gold-hungry Midases, and anything less is insignificant. This is proof positive in the sports we broadcast - I saw one women's speed skating relay race, one nordic event, and one round of women's bobsledding, compared with the umpteen downhill skiing events, snowboarding, and men's speedskating. And as soon as the American team falls behind, the feed is cut and switches to a more result-bearing event, like downhill skiing. Where the sponsored athletes are.

But I'm veering off my rant path.

There needs to be equity. Financially, emotionally, and with equipment and facilities. Title IX may have passed years ago, but it STILL doesn't do a damn thing. We need to invest in young girls, just as we do with young boys. We need more sports available to women in high school and college. We need to make the rules of sports the SAME for men AND women - currently there's no checking in women's hockey. Is there any more insulting and degrading statement to women than that of the no-hit rule?! In essence, we're saying, "Sure ladies, you can play hockey. But don't hit each other - women who hit each other are unseemly." Fuck off!
How dare you! How dare you limit a woman's potential and power! There is no reason for it, except for someone's gross discomfort at the notion of two women pounding each other against boards. My guess? Sarah Palin. But I digress (again).

There have been quite a few studies done over the past few years - as to their validity, I can't say. But these studies seem to be wondering why we're seeing more criminal violence committed by women. And people are confused and dumbfounded! Why? Why would women resort to violence? What reason do they have? Buddy - they have PLENTY of reason. As a majority/minority group, we still remain one of the most abused, underrepresented, and repressed. In history. For the longest amount of time....

You want to fix violence tendencies within women? Give them a voice. Give them empowerment. Let them know it's okay to be as aggressive as men. Let them know that they are just as valued. Put a ball, a stick, a racket in their hand - and teach them. But then - THEN - you must support them. No matter what. No matter the cost. No matter the pain.

But please - don't expect miracles and then treat them like discarded pieces of refuse. That just makes us angry.

And as you've already witnessed, you wouldn't like us when we're angry.
This blog post is brought to you by:

US Women's Hockey Team
Amateur athletes
Girls everywhere


Robin said...

This is not going to be a stellar first comment and I apologize. I am back to sifting through Tracy's blogs that she follows to find good reading material and that is how I got here. The thing is this: I really appreciate your passion about sports. Even more, I understand what you're saying about women's sports ~ and the general public's misunderstanding of the unfairness of the distribution of funds/support for women vs men. Moreover, I totally agree. Sadly, I have no idea how to realistically "fix" this system. To top it off, I am not really a sports lover (ouch, I felt that disdain) and I know you are because I read your play by play of the game and did enjoy that. So.... I am going to dig a little further back into your history to find something non-sporty and see if there isn't something I can comment on and sound intellient:-)

Robin said...

I see that I made a typo on intelligent. Maybe I should go scrub the toilet instead...

Radical Bradacal said...

I'm definitely a sports fan, but I promise you, I do write about more than sports. It just happens to be Olympic season ... and I tend to go a little nuts. Only 24 more hours until the madness stops.