Meet Makenna Marisa and Anna Camden: A Q&A on the Impact of Sexism on Female Athletes

HC: What obstacles have you personally witnessed or experienced related to being a woman in the sports world?

Makenna Marisa (MM): Being a female athlete comes with a lot of criticism because we are not as “strong” or “fast” as men, therefore people don’t want to watch women’s sports. You see endless negative comments on social media with women’s sports content. Being a Women’s basketball player, I have seen comments about Women’s basketball Including comments about how no one watches the WNBA, how they should just get rid of the WNBA, how high school boy’s teams can beat Women’s pro teams, and how “Women should just get back in the kitchen”. These are the kind of comments female athletes have to hear every day. On top of that, Women’s pro Athletes don’t make nearly as much as their male counterparts. To give an example, the WNBA’s AVERAGE salary is $71,000, and the MINIMUM salary for the players in the NBA is $838,464.

Anna Camden (AC): I would say some of the biggest obstacles would be simply the disrespect we face every day. Between the negative social media comments and the utter lack of support in the stands that female athletes get in comparison to males, it can be hard not to have moments of feeling defeated and degraded.

HC: What kind of common views and opinions have you noticed people hold regarding women in sports?

MM: People see women’s sports as “not as fun to watch as men’s sports” because they aren’t as strong, fast, or athletic. Specifically, people use the common example of not many women being able to dunk in the WNBA but almost every male in the NBA being able to.

AC: Overall, I would just say people view as us inferior to our male counterparts. Obviously, women aren’t genetically wired to be as fast or strong as men. That’s basic science and none of us would argue that. The problem comes when the facts can’t be separated from sexist and gender-confining opinions that place women in the kitchen or shopping and getting their hair done instead of competing on the court or field.

HC: Going along with the previous question, are there any of those views you would like to dismantle?

MM: I can’t argue that men aren’t stronger, faster and more athletic because they are and that is just how it is, but female athletes work just as hard as men do. We put hours of dedication, hard work, and preparation into our sport and craft. Speaking for the WNBA in particular, you will find that there is more of an emphasis on skill, IQ, and teamwork rather than the NBA who you will find plays more individual basketball than the WNBA. There are NBA players who learn from the WNBA because of the high IQ plays that are made. People who are true basketball lovers or sports lovers will enjoy the sport no matter what gender is playing it.

AC: One of my biggest pet peeves would be remarks that “WNBA would get more fans if the players were more attractive”. Let me be clear when I say that we don’t play our sport to be spectacular for the male population. Despite popular belief, females actually have motives and desires that are completely separated from men. Sports is one of them. Let us play and respect our game instead of checking out our bodies.

HC: What do you think the biggest factors have been in shaping the way people view women in sports?


MM: The media and stereotypes, I believe, have played the biggest factors in shaping how people view women in sports. If it weren’t for comments in the media and the media not giving women’s sports enough airtime, I feel women’s sports may be treated with a little more respect. Additionally, stereotypes play a huge role because people believe women to be soft and not strong, but if you paid attention to female sports you will find that most of them are incredibly strong, powerful women. Also, men love to throw around the line “women should be in the kitchen” on female sports accounts, which is another stereotype that shines females in general in a negative light.

AC: I mean the way women are viewed is due to centuries of oppression. Bring into the fact that the female sports started generations later than male sports would naturally cause us to be farther behind in gaining attention and respect. The tricky part is that instead of creating our own standard, as the NBA did, everything we do now compared the NBA because they came first.

HC: How have you been impacted by sexism growing up as a female athlete?

MM: Answer: Growing up, I played and enjoyed many sports including soccer, basketball, softball, etc. I felt at times that maybe instead of continuing to play sports that were considered “manly”, I should switch to sports considered more feminine, like cheerleading or dance. This was because I didn’t want to be thought of as manly, which is an image people talk about female athletes being. Eventually, I got over that and just said screw you to whoever would think that because they aren’t worth my time anyway. Luckily, throughout my life, I have been supported by friends, family, classmates, and people in the community for the sport that I play. So, I have not been impacted in that aspect. People in my community and my life have been extremely supportive and I am thankful for that.

AC: Left and right you hear comments, “you’re good …for a girl” or “girls’ basketball is a joke”. In all honestly, the sexism that I faced and still face every day just fuels me even more to become the best athlete I can be. Why not prove them all wrong? Why not become the name everyone talks about despite how much they want to see you fail? It makes me work harder.sports

Woman's back muscles Scott Webb

HC: Is there any specific instance that you remember being impacted by sports sexism? How did you handle the situation and what did you take away from it?

MM: There was a comment on a twitter post that kind of hurt to read. It was on Penn State Women’s basketball account. The comment said that our women’s basketball team should not exist. I believe it also mentioned our losing record and us being a women’s team. I guess I was hurt and shocked because this was the first time, I’ve felt I faced criticism. The comment only hurt for a second until I realized I have no idea who this person is and they have no idea what our team goes through and the hard work we put into this sport daily. I realized all the criticism our football team and other teams and players here face on campus. That’s when I remembered a quote, I had heard somewhere by Brene Brown: “If you aren’t in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback”.

AC: ’ll never forget my senior year of high school when we had a double-header with the boys’ basketball team, who in all honesty sucked that year. My team had one back to back state championships and had two 1,000-point scorers on it—we were amazing. So, you’ll imagine the fury I felt when our game finished, and as the boys took to the court the stands filled up with not only fans but with a band that the school administration hired only for the boys game. It was a moment I’ll never forget, a time that showed me how much farther we have to go towards equality. I had done everything I could have possibly done to prove myself to my community and it still wasn’t enough.

HC: What changes do you hope to see in the future regarding sexism in all levels of athletics?

MM: I hope to see more airtime for women’s sports on television and a slow rise in the number of people who watch and respect women’s sports. Additionally, I hope the pay that women athletes receive increases. I hope people will realize how much work we female athletes put in and have more respect for us.

AC: I hope that people will stop holding women to a standard of testosterone-filled men. Our game is different. Respect and admire both.

HC: Do you think societal views of women in sports affect whether women decide to play sports or what sport they decide to play?

MM: Yes, I do think it affects. Little girls are on social media and they see and hear what negative comments people are saying about women’s sports and they aren’t going to want to play anymore seeing all of this. For example, there is a huge population of TikTokers that are young girls and they follow their female athlete inspirations, and them seeing the criticism in the comments is going to make them want to quit. Additionally, there are a huge number of girls that stop playing sports for the very reason for all the criticism that comes with it. They do not want to deal with that. Also, the image of female athletes being manly turns women/girls away from sports.

AC: 100%. Girls are told their whole lives that sports aren’t meant for them and aren’t respected so many choose not to play or to drop out.

HC: Is there any specific advice you would like to give young female athletes?

MM: Prove the world wrong and chase your dreams. Don’t let insecure boys/men with fragile egos push you away from your dreams. Show the world you are strong and powerful and you are going to do what you want. Then when you reach the top, inspire the next generation of young girls and encourage them to do the same.

AC: One of my biggest goals in life is to be a role model that makes younger girls want to be great at basketball—makes them want to chase their dreams. My advice would be to ignore the bitter and insecure people in the world. Nothing should be able to take away your passion for the game, especially people who will never understand what it's like to love something so much despite not receiving an ounce of credit or glory for it. It’s a different kind of fire that fills your heart—one untainted by contracts or fans or politics. We play because we love the game, and that is something no one can take away from us.

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