Speaking of Women's Rights: 02/15

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Women Athletes ROCK!

By Sarah MacDonald

Today is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a time to acknowledge the achievements of female athletes and recognize the positive influence of sports participation for women and girls.

Last year alone saw some incredible "firsts" for women in athletics: unstoppable pitcher Mo’ne Davis made headlines as the first girl to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history, and went on to be the first Little League baseball player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Former WNBA player Becky Hammon became the first full-time female assistant coach for the NBA, while Michele Roberts was named executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), becoming the first woman to lead an American union of male athletes. Amélie Mauresmo was hired to coach Andy Murray, one of the top tennis players in the world, which made her the first female to coach an elite male tennis player.

Even with the incredible achievements of women in athletics – including Mo’ne, Becky, Michele, and Amélie – we are still battling an overwhelming amount of discrimination and harassment for girls and women in sports. So today is also a time to talk about the progress we’ve yet to make. 

Professional cheerleaders are lobbying for basic employment protections like worker’s compensation insurance and overtime pay. Women soccer players in this summer’s Women’s World Cup are being forced to play on artificial turf (an inferior material to the natural grass on which male players compete) after organizing body FIFA essentially ignored their gender discrimination lawsuit. And female athletes are routinely asked questions – usually moments after an awe-inspiring achievement – that focus on fashion, beauty, and motherhood rather than their sport, performance, or athletic abilities (see: Twirlgate).

Legal Voice has a long history of protecting equal access to athletics. In fact, you could say our organization is built on sports: in our very first case, Blair v. WSU, we won equal access to sports facilities and programs for the women of Washington State University and set a national precedent. Since then we’ve helped the Alaska Firebirds hockey team gain equal access to ice time, successfully advocated for school districts to change slow-pitch to the more competitive fast-pitch softball teams (increasing access to scholarship opportunities for girls), fought policies that exclude girls from playing on boys’ teams based solely on their gender, and more.

Back in 1972 Title IX gave women and girls equal access to education programs and activities, including sports. We are steadily enforcing Title IX by monitoring our region for equality in athletics to ensure every girl has access to the sports she wants to play. But here’s how you can help:

- Know the facts! Did you know that Title IX requires equality in every facet of athletic participation, including equipment, practice facilities, and the quality of coaches? Or that a girl must be allowed to try out for the boys’ team if her school doesn’t offer a girls’ team in that sport?

- Start a team! If your school or athletics league doesn’t currently offer a girls’ team in a certain sport, ask the administrators what it takes to start one. Sometimes you can make positive change simply by bringing inequality to the attention of decision-makers.

- Be the best! Don’t let anyone stop you from playing the sport you want to play. Show the world what it means to do something “like a girl” by being the best you can be! Better yet, remind yourself or a loved one to never give up with a fabulous Legal Voice “Fights Like a Girl” t-shirt!

We’ll continue to work for your right to play. So go out and show them what you’ve got!

Sarah MacDonald is Marketing & Communications Manager for Legal Voice where she strives daily to keep you in-the-know. While she's never been a particularly athletic individual, she eagerly awaits being selected to participate in the Puppy Bowl.

Photo courtesy of Danny Ngan Photography.