The following article was originally written for Millennial Influx.
Two weeks ago, America cheered on the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks for the 49th annual Super Bowl of the National Football League. Last summer, the world watched as Germany beat Argentina in Brazil and took the 2014 FIFA World Cup trophy home.
As much as these sports unify and instill energy and hype across the globe, there is (and always will be) one glaring issue that hides within the sports world.
No one cares about women’s sports.
Ask anyone who follows sports about the last NBA game, and they could tell you which teams played, which team won, where the game was played, and who the players are. Ask them about the last WNBA game, and they probably won’t be able to answer any of the above without the help of Google.
Yes – women have all the resources and rights that men have in the sports world, but a problem still exists: They don’t get half as much attention and support as much as men’s sports do.
Title IX, a policy established in 1972, states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” In translation, women have the equal opportunity in playing sports and forming sports teams, whether it’s in school or professionally.
Since the enactment of Title IX, women’s teams have been up and running. ESPN has a site especially dedicated to women’s sports news and commentary, ESPNW. Women have nearly all the professional sports teams men have – from tennis, golf, to basketball and soccer.
Even though women’s sports seem to have everything men’s sports do, there is one evidently differential factor that majorly sets the two apart, and questions gender equality in global sports.
At a Connecticut Suns women’s basketball game, 5,980 people were cheering in the stands.
On the other hand, 68,756 people showed up at a New England Patriots men’s football game.
Why don’t we care?
“Sports media isn’t waiting for us to get interested in women’s sports, it’s creating our apathy. If it’s not on SportsCenter, America doesn’t care.”
Blame it on Media Coverage – says the Daily Beast. It’s the time of day and the amount of time women’s sports are aired on television. The media doesn’t find the need to sponsor and invest in women’s sports because the public isn’t interested. The media forgets that they are the most powerful tool in influencing the public. The public isn’t interested in women’s sports because the media thinks the public isn’t interested in women’s sports. It’s a constant and never-ending cycle of blame.
Because the sports world is so stuck on this cycle, it makes it almost impossible for anyone to break out of that current and follow women’s sports.
Disregarding women’s sports is promoting misogyny.
In the same Daily Beast article, the author’s son “insists that women don’t play sports”.
We grew up watching NFL and MLB, thus, we naturally ignore WNBA and women’s soccer. They’re unimportant and are never in the spotlight. No one casually uses women’s sports as a conversation starter, and no one expects people to follow women’s sports, unless they’re a hardcore sports junkie. But of course, if you didn’t know the key play that won the Super Bowl for the Patriots, you most definitely have been living under a rock.
Sports are not only a source of entertainment, but are also educational in that they teach certain values, especially the importance of teamwork and participation that thoroughly augments life skills. In excluding women and diminishing the importance of women’s sports, we are subconsciously sending our generations the message that women are unimportant and are ultimately unequal.
Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign featured in the Super Bowl was groundbreaking in that it called American attention to engage with the issue. The ad has set a precedent that will not only impact its consumers and the media, but also the public. From revolutionary ads and campaigns like these, conversations will spark, and change will become possible.
Gender equality is legally written in policies, but the public’s behavior would beg to differ – true gender equality starts with women’s sports.