At the height of the 2021 NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament, basketball player Kiki Iriafen ’21 mocked the images of the under-served women’s weight room posted on Instagram. When Iriafen looked at the lavish training opportunities given to the men’s teams at the NCAA March Madness Tournament, she said she felt defeated. Even for Iriafen, a five-star Stanford University engagement, currently ranked 19th by ESPN for women’s basketball, gender inequality, and sexism in athletics, is old news.
“I honestly wasn’t surprised,” said Iriafen. “It’s disappointing and terrible, but it wasn’t surprising at all, especially on this big stage. When I saw the picture I was just so sad. “
The treatment of female basketball players at March Madness sparked controversy and public outrage as it reflected the value society places on women’s athletics at both the professional and high school levels.
After an analysis of the National Center for Women’s Rights from 2011-12, Ministry of Education, there are nearly 4,500 public schools in the United States that could violate Title IX, which requires all government-funded education institutions to provide equal access and resources to all athletes, regardless of gender or gender.
Although the school is a private, not-for-profit institution, former college field hockey team captain Astor Wu ’20 said she felt the school was complicit in upholding the stereotype that women’s sports are unimportant. Though her squad went undefeated for three seasons in a row during Wu’s tenure, she said the distribution of field space was unequal relative to boys’ sport, and that the same implied “less than” message meant community support and participation in field hockey events were consistently lower were as it was for boys’ sports.
“I’ve never been on the team at a time when we were respected as much as a male counterpart,” said Wu. “It was definitely frustrating at times to see how much attention football, or maybe baseball or water polo for boys, got. I believed that myself and my teammates were working just as hard in the field and even winning, and that was definitely frustrating. “
Despite Wu’s frequent disappointment with the lack of attention and respect the field hockey team received from both the student body and the school, she said they felt powerless to improve the situation.
“When we stand on the sidelines waiting for the football to take off and we start our training as a winning team, it’s a bit demoralizing,” said Wu. “Especially as the team captain in my senior year, I really had the feeling that I couldn’t do anything about it. Because I had seen the captains in front of me when I tried and nothing happened. We just kept closing. I feel like I’ve been told that we overreacted or that it just wasn’t big enough to fix the problem. We were treated [as] Relatively dispensable at times, and I just have the feeling that we were really underestimated. “
Although field hockey player Sarah Rivera ’21 said she’s happy with the number of fans and classmates who come to see her team’s games, she believes most of the inequalities are directly due to the school’s lack of respect for the sport are.
“It feels like the school can be proud of the hockey team until it comes down to charging more than a school bus to go to away games, or better yet, sticks and more balls for those who are just me start for the first time, ”said Rivera. “While we have local respect from students, parents and teachers alike, a lack of funding conveys the message that no matter how well we do or how hard we fight our highly qualified program will always fight for respect from the school itself to find.”
Soccer player Sonny Heyes ’22 said he agreed with that sentiment when he noticed that the soccer team was enjoying more fans and special treatment from the school, such as better field times and more public relations.
“I think the football team has a lot of privileges like comfortable playtime, full access to the weight room and games on TV,” said Hayes. “I don’t think the field hockey team enjoys these privileges as much as we do.”
Track and field director Terrence Barnum responded to claims of gender inequality by stating that all sports, regardless of gender, are treated equally.
“We are very proud of our girls’ sports teams,” said Barnum. “Girls’ sport has achieved great success in our school and regularly won league and CIF championships. We are committed to supporting and promoting our girls ‘teams as well as our boys’ teams. Girls games will be shown on HWTV and highlighted across our various social media platforms. We want all athletes to feel that they belong. “
Iriafen said she felt the school treats basketball programs equally for girls and boys, but she said that their peers often belittle their success in the sport because of their gender.
“The only thing I get the most is guys who say, ‘You’re pretty good for a girl,'” said Iriafen. “They never say, ‘You’re a good basketball player.’ They always say, ‘You are a good basketball player.’ It always has to be a gender issue. People who don’t really see me as a basketball player but force me to be a basketball player and don’t show me the same respect they would show another male basketball player. “
Although Wu and Iriafen both agreed they wanted more fans at their games, Skylar Gerhardt ’22 said the students didn’t come to their games to cheer the team; Instead, she said they came to watch the girls in their uniforms.
“The boys did [me] I feel uncomfortable somehow, ”said Gerhardt. “If you just look [my] the whole game, and I think most girls feel that way in volleyball. As a girl, I always keep that in mind. I always adjust because I don’t want my shorts to go up too much and I always pull them down because I don’t want to be sexualized or embarrassed in the stands when coaches and parents tell me my shorts are also so are short. “
Gerhardt said that sexualization doesn’t stop on the pitch. She often said that her co-workers send her posts on social media demeaning women’s volleyball or sports in general, which discourages her as an athlete.
“When I see posts like this, I feel frustrated and sad,” said Gerhardt. “I have a feeling that women already enjoy less respect than boys and men’s sports, so it’s annoying. I wish things were different in that people stop making contributions that affect women and women in sport. It’s hard enough always feeling yourself compared to men and getting less in sports, so comments and posts that sexualize young women are very annoying. “
Regardless of whether women’s athletics is sexualized, ignored or disregarded by peers or institutions, Iriafen said the consistent help and encouragement of professional male athletes and their male classmates is vital to addressing gender inequality and sexism in the world Improve athletics. This, she said, will enable female athletes to receive appropriate recognition and resources at both the high school and professional levels.
“I’ll say that the NBA players have a lot of influence, especially with their fans and everything,” said Iriafen. “I think it helps a lot when men support women’s basketball. Because the same people [who] By commenting on and downgrading women’s basketball, they can see the people they look up to to support the women’s sport. I think that’s really positive and that’s a step in the right direction. “