Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 06/28/2009
Women’s Sports Leagues
It was right around 4th or 5th grade that I, an intramural basketball champ at just under five feet tall, decided that I was going to be a point guard for the “NBA” as I told my parents. “But Julie,” they said, “You can’t be in the NBA.” “Why the hell not,” I may or may not have responded at 9 years old. “Because the NBA is for men. But you can be in the WNBA.” “Whatever.” I just wanted to play — I didn’t really care for who.
Little did I know, back in 2002/2003 that only 7 years before that not only would that conversation never have happened, but the whole concept of me ever becoming a professional basketball player wouldn’t have, either. The WNBA has only existed since 1996. How long has the NBA existed? Oh, since 1946. Yeah…50 years.
Of course, I’m sure without Title IX – legislation passed in 1972 that demanded equal participation in educational programs or activities receiving federal aid- the WNBA would never have existed at all. Title IX forced schools to have girls sports teams- the beginning of the concept that women *gasp* could PLAY SPORTS? OHMAHGAWD WHO KNEW?!
It seems that that my generation of girls takes for granted the fact that we have the ability to not only seriously participate in sports but to also expect a future in them- whether it’s playing in college or even professionally. It’s still mind boggling to think that only a few generations of women could play at all. That’s the thing that gets me about feminism every time- it’s so easy to forget how new so many of the rights we take for granted are.
It was incredible to say the least. Not only was the game one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen, but the way the women conducted themselves on the court was, sadly, surprising. Women from opposite teams smiled at each other. They shook hands. It’s this thing called good sportsmanship that so rarely happens anymore. I don’t want to say it was just because they were women, but maybe just because that’s the values a woman-run league emphasizes.
So, I personally may have given up my dreams of becoming a professional athlete, but I’m happy to say it was not because that dream couldn’t be a reality (more like I realized I sucked and liked other activities a whole lot more). I just wish that our society would put more importance on the female sports leagues we do have. Even though the crowd was beyond enthusiastic at the game I was at, the attendance was nowhere near where it is for NBA games. And in the end, the gender of the players wasn’t even a conscious thought of mine. They’re all just tall people in jerseys who can do crazy things with a basketball, really. And the game was just as great – if not better – than the NBA games I’ve seen.
So is it just sexism that keeps people away from the WNBA? Do they not take women seriously? I don’t know. But I do know that people when people disregard women’s sports, they are missing out. We could use a whole lot more of the heart these ladies put into their games.
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