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Beyond Olympics: Why I Pledge to Attend Women’s Sports
by Veronica I. Arreola
July 23, 2012
You cannot open a paper or magazine (or their digital counterparts) lately and not read a story about an Olympian, especially if it is a woman. During the build up to the Olympics is where being a physically strong woman earns you a photo shoot. However, what happens after the flame is extinguished?
My gut tells me that people stop worshipping women who can lift 500 pounds and go back to worrying about the weight she carries on her body.
Mia Hamm led one of the most popular Olympic teams ever, yet the excitement could not sustain a professional women’s soccer league. Unfortunately, the men’s soccer league was not strong enough to carry a women’s league in the same way that the NBA teams served as sponsors and incubators for the launching of the WNBA.
It was with all of this in mind that during the 2010 Winter Olympics that I decided to launch the “I Pledge to Attend One Women’s Sporting Event This Year” page on Facebook. The Winter Olympic games occur near National Girls and Women in Sports Day (February 1) and some of my feminist friends were cheering Title IX and how we can see its effects in the Olympics. One problem, too many of them also said they did not attend women’s sporting events or dismissed sports outright. (The photo above, taken by me of the Chicago Force tackle football team, is the signature image for the Facebook campaign.)
I know there are some solid critiques of sports, especially feminist ones about sports using warfare language. Nevertheless, there are some great benefits to athletics, especially for girls to participate. You learn to play as a team, you learn how to lose and hopefully, win with grace.
As an avid sports fan and being married to someone who worked in sports, I knew cheering Title IX without paying for a ticket was a recipe for failure. In fact, it most likely doomed every women’s sports league since the Women's Professional Basketball League of the late 1970s until the WNBA. And that threat looms over the league every season, especially at the team level (Sorry, Detroit!).
The premise of the “I Pledge...” page is simple. Attend one women’s professional or college (because we know not everyone has a pro women’s team in their area) sporting event during the calendar year. PAY to watch women’s sports, sit in the bleachers and then cheer them on. If the event is free, buy some nachos, a shirt, anything that will add to your physical presence. Many people fulfill their pledge during NCAA (National College Athletic Association) basketball season; others do it during the WNBA season. I am lucky to be in Chicago where I get to fulfill my pledge at a WNBA game, soccer, softball, football and even roller derby.
A lot of women like sports. We play them. Women make up half of National Football League (NFL) fans, we wear enough team colors that actor, and sports fan, Alyssa Milano, created an entire company out of selling us “lady fit” clothing (thank you!). Even Victoria’s Secret is in on the act (No thanks, pink is not a team color!). So if we like sports enough to wear a jersey, why not spend less than what you would pay for a jersey on a ticket to watch softball? If you are a parent, nothing beats the family friendly atmosphere of women’s sporting events. Show your daughter she can play and enjoy watching your son cheer on a woman.
But first, go to the link to take the pledge! And we’ll cheer YOU on.
Veronica I. Arreola is an avid sports fan and directs an academic support program for women who major in science and engineering. Find her at www.vivalefeminista.com.
Also see Coverage Still Shortchanges Female Athletes” by Jane Schonberger in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.
See "The Rise and Fall and Possible Rise of Women's Pro Soccer" by Tim Grainey in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.
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