Women in Australia now have the opportunity to officially become professional athletes, with the introduction of the first ever Women’s Professional Australian Football League. Australian football may not have that much of an impact here in the United States, but this is a big deal for women everywhere.
This introduction of a Women’s AFL team sparks a popular topic: women in professional sports. Over the years, we have seen women introduced into the world of professional sports more and more. Though we still aren’t living in a world where generally, women can truly make a living as an athlete, we are slowly getting there.
Take the United States Women’s Soccer team, for example. The team has become known around the globe, thanks to their many victories in the Olympics and the World Cup over the last five years. Athletes such as Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Hope Solo have become household names. Seeing these names in various commercials and other forms of media has been a major jump for women athletes. Women have since become recognized as athletes, progressing this past summer to the press coverage of the United States Women’s Gymnastics team.
The Boston Marathon is one of the main markers of women’s equality in athletics. Take Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb in 1966: She was originally denied entry to the marathon. The letter she received from race director Will Cloney stated, “This is an AAU Men’s Division race only, women aren’t allowed, and furthermore are not physiologically able.” She didn’t let this stop her. She snuck into the race and began at the starting line in Hopkinton, MA. She crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds—more than 13 minutes ahead of the 2017 Boston qualifying time for the 18 to 34 age group—and finished in the top third of the group.
Bobbi Gibb finished the marathon, but that wasn’t the only accomplishment she made that day. The media was drawn to her story, and she eventually influenced the AAU to change the official rules of the Boston Marathon to allow women runners. Kathrine Virginia “Kathy” Switzer became the first registered woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, and many followed in their footsteps.
This year, 4 more teams will join the Women’s AFL, with more anticipated to join in the future. Women’s equality is a major issue, but the foundation of the Women’s Australian Football League is a major step in the right direction.