by Grace Grabowski, Sports Reporter & Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Editor
graphic by Amanda Fu
The week of March 14 kicked off the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) March Madness tournaments for both mens and womens basketball. To abide by COVID-19 protocols, tournaments took place within “bubbles” with separate training facilities and living spaces.
However, the resources available for athletes in bubbles revealed clear gender discrepancies: weight rooms at the men’s tournament were stocked with rows of training equipment, while women were given one rack of weights. Photos of the swag bags given to the players also exposed that male athletes received three times as many items as female athletes.
It was only after a video was released exposing these inequalities that subsequent social media outrage ensued, and the NCAA finally addressed the issue.
The issue lies in the engrained systemic sexism in sports leagues. It is not that women want better equipment for luxury; female athletes solely want the same resources and treatment as their male counterparts, whether that be weights, swag or most importantly, respect. Yet, the NCAA and other major sports organizations consistently refuse to treat male and female athletes equally.
The disparity in treatment revealed through the NCAA basketball tournaments is not unique to college basketball. The continuation of sexism towards female athletes crosses the bounds of all sports, including those offered at South.
Sophomore Hadley Conroy, member of the girls hockey team, said her team has experienced a consistent lack of support, as boys hockey games are usually better attended and more recognized at school.
“There’s not much support surrounding the girls’ team [in comparison to] what the boys team gets,” she said.
On February 12, the Newton South Athletics Instagram page congratulated the boys hockey team on their senior night, while failing to recognize the girls hockey team’s senior night, which took place on the same day.
“One of the girls on my team commented pointing out that we had a game as well. Somebody responded saying that nobody cared, which obviously we were hurt by,” Conroy said.
After Conroy’s teammate commented on the post, now-removed responses by members of the boys team highlighted the underlying misogyny present at South.
“Guys vs. girls but there’s a twist: the guys don’t have any arms or legs,” one boy’s comment read. The comment blatantly perpetuated the sexist idea that girls are not as athletic as boys. This boy alleged that his hockey team could beat the girls even without their limbs.
To the previous comment, a girls’ hockey player replied, “there are SO many things wrong with this comment it’s just sad,” leading to the boy’s response, “I ain’t see none.”
The thread continued on with additional sexist comments, all of which revealed the alarming issue of normalized ignorance. The culture of perceived male superiority in sports exists, even at South, and it is overlooked. This ignorance is completely unacceptable and hurtful to female athletes – it invalidates female success, making it seem lesser because it was exhibited by a girl.
Aside from Athletic Director Patricia Gonzalez turning off the post’s comments and apologizing to the girls, the incident remained largely unaddressed. Conroy said that as far as she knows, the boys involved received no punishment.
Evidently, the belief that female athletes deserve less recognition than male athletes is one that is held by many sports fans and members of the South community. Coaches in charge at both the NCAA and Newton South need to prioritize giving all athletes, regardless of their gender, the respect they deserve on and off the pitch by properly addressing issues when they arise.
Megan Rapinoe, female U.S. soccer player, 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Winner and advocate for women in sports, spoke in front of Congress this March calling for equality after the NCAA incident.
“We don’t know the real potential of women’s sports. What we know is how successful women’s sports have been in the face of discrimination,” she said. “In the face of a lack of investment in every level in comparison to men.”