In high school, my basketball team had a two-year win streak, won championships back to back, and beat other teams 50-0. Still, some of the only people who attended our games were parents. The boys basketball team, however, always had full stands and hype crowds, even though their record wasn’t as good. As a young woman, it was heartbreaking to experience sexism in sports first hand and I learned way too early about how female athletes consistently are outshined by their male counterparts. I hoped college sports would be different, but unfortunately, the gender divide is almost more obvious here at CU than at my high school.
The most obvious difference between men’s and women’s sports is attendance. Folsom Field has a seating capacity of around 50,000 and the student section broke attendance records on the September 3rd game this past month. In comparison to the mosh pit at football games, crowds at women’s games are lucky to reach 100. How can such a large percentage of the Boulder community get pumped for a football game and give the athletes the energy they deserve, but only a small fraction can do the same for female athletes? This is based on an outdated sexist notion that sports are only for men and I’m not okay with it. Female athletes put just as much time, energy, and heart into their sports and deserve the same amount of school spirit, fan base, and crowd size as male athletes.
The next big difference I noticed between men’s and women’s sports at CU is the price range in tickets. For example, season tickets for the men’s basketball team range from $190.00 to $485.00 while season tickets for women’s basketball cost at most $100. Both teams play in the same stadium, are Division 1 teams, and compete in the PAC 12 Conference. The contrast in ticket prices may seem like a great discount for lady buffs fans, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a huge insult. Since men’s basketball tickets are much more expensive than women’s tickets, the men’s team is bringing more money into the school, so they get better funding. This means CU can afford to hire more experienced coaches, have better equipment and gear, and have grander amenities for away games for the men’s team. It absolutely baffles me how gender plays such a pertinent role in athletics. Men’s and women’s basketball teams should have equally priced season tickets.
Everyone on campus knows when and where all the football games are, but very few people are aware of any women’s games. Did you even know the CU women’s soccer team has won 6 of their 9 games this season? Or that the volleyball team beat CSU 3-1 less than a week ago? Everyone is talking about the three football games so far, but I haven’t so much as heard a chirp about the successes of our women’s teams. Social media is clogged with football ads, I overhear classmates talking about the Buffalo offense, and even teachers remind us to attend home games, but when it comes to advertising women’s sports, we as a community need to step up our game. Yes, it is easy enough to google the volleyball schedule, but part of the reason why attendance at women’s games is so low is because much of the advertising online and in-person is male-dominated. This is yet another form of bias against female athletes which, while is no one’s fault in particular, undermines the talent of half of the student-athletes and contributes to the much larger problem of sexism in sports.
PUSHING FOR EQUALITY
My whole life, I have been a sports fanatic. Both of my parents taught me to throw away gender stereotypes and instead encouraged me to be aggressive, tough, and strong-minded both on and off the court. My idols growing up were Lindsay Vonn, April Ross, and Micheal Oher. My gender only became an athletic barrier for me when I hit puberty and suddenly PE teachers joked around with the boys more than the girls, all the boys were chosen for dodgeball before I was even considered, and I started getting dirty looks for pushing against people in basketball. I remember leaving practice in tears because in the 90℉ gym the boys basketball team played without shirts but when my teammates rolled up our sleeves we were scolded. I resented the claps on the back the boys got after losing a soccer game, while no one even knew about my volleyball game. Because high schoolers can be brutal, I assumed this sexism was just a prepubescent issue and when I went to college the female athletes would be respected more.
Now, after just a year at school, I am upset all over again. Of course, I love football games and am counting down the days until I can go to my first college basketball game, but am frustrated that the female athletes are in the shadows. Any Division 1 athlete, no matter their gender, is an elite athlete and deserves credit for their years of training. Just like bands hope their concerts are crowded and loud, all athletes want people to watch their games. Furthermore, ticket prices should be closer in price and all sports should be advertised.
When I have a daughter she will be just as gritty, determined, and passionate about sports as I am. Most importantly, though, I hope my future daughter will not have to learn about the glass ceiling in the sports industry because absolutely no woman deserves to have her dreams downplayed by a man. Absolutely no woman should put in the same effort as a man just to stand in the shadows.