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Becoming Household Names: Women in Sports and Beyond

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

I don’t watch basketball. NBA, NCAA, none of it.

But I know Caitlin Clark.

At only 22 years old, Clark has become probably the most prominent name in women’s basketball. Over her past 4 years at the University of Iowa, Clark’s popularity has skyrocketed, praise pouring down on her from the masses, and even from famed basketball player Magic Johnson, a man commonly regarded as the greatest point guard of all time. Is she the “GOAT?” That’s up for debate, but what isn’t is the fact that Clark has driven ratings and sold tickets at levels unseen. She’s a dynamic force that captures the average viewer.

For years, when women asked for equal pay in sports, the conversation would be squashed by mentioning differing levels of viewership. 

(Huh, it’s almost as if women were kept out of playing sports for decades and their skills continually diminished based off of sexist ideals of what women “can and can’t do…”) 

However, women’s sports, both college and professional, have been breaking records, year after year. For example, in 2023, the Nebraska Cornhuskers volleyball team had 92,000 people in attendance, the largest audience in women’s sports history. More and more people are tuning into women’s sports and attending games, whether college or professional, in fact, for the first time ever, the NCAA women’s final outrated the men’s. Figures such as Caitlin Clark are doing incredible work to legitimize women’s sports in the eyes of the masses, simply because of their talent.

Another figure I can comfortably say most know the name of is Megan Rapinoe, three-time Olympian, and two-time Olympic medalist. Rapinoe, easily identifiable with her pink hair, has led the United States women’s soccer team to to victory on many occasions, winning silver in 2011, and winning gold in 2015 and 2019. In fact, the U.S. women’s team is more successful than the U.S. men’s team, but that was constantly overlooked. Not surprising, but still very disappointing. 

You can’t have a conversation about household names in sports without mentioning Serena and Venus Williams. Serena Williams is considered to be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, if not the greatest tennis player of all time, and even the greatest athlete of all time. Venus Williams is the second player in Olympic history to win gold medals in both singles and doubles at the same Olympic games, in the year 2000 in Sydney. Both Williams sisters have won multiple Grand Slam titles–23 and 7, respectively–and have revolutionized tennis. 

While on the topic of tennis, one must mention the iconic Billie Jean King, the woman who made women’s tennis a major professional sport. King was challenged by Bobby Riggs, a former number 1-ranked tennis player and self-described male chauvinist, to a tennis match, which is referred to today as the “Battle of the Sexes.” This event garnered 90 million worldwide viewers, and it ended with King beating Riggs in straight sets, winning $100,000, and disproving his sexist assumption that women’s tennis was inferior to men’s. 

The work of women like King, the Williams sisters, Rapinoe, Clark, and so many more have made so many female athletes household names, practically indistinguishable from the sports they play. This also creates room for women to assert themselves in fields that have been male-dominated for generations. Women have been increasingly joining STEM careers, as an example. Beyoncé’s country album Cowboy Carter has reached dizzying heights in the country music sphere, a genre dominated by men. Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B have both come to be some of the most important voices in the rap community, another genre dominated by men. Greta Gerwig stands out as a female director in a who tells stories about women in an industry that has been a boys club for years. The courage and talent of all of these women, as well as those before and after, has done so much for equality in so many fields. While there is still much to do, it is important to look back and see how far we have come.

Eliza Disbrow

Washington '26

Eliza Disbrow is a sophomore at the University of Washington with a plan to major in European Studies with a double minor in Spanish and business. Eliza is a writer, covering a variety of topics, from music, to books, to anime. Beyond Her Campus, Eliza serves as the co-vice president of the University of Washington Euro Club. In her free time, Eliza can be seen taking in the sights of Seattle on any of the available forms of public transportation, normally with a book in hand and headphones in her ears. She plays guitar and bass, mainly as an excuse to play either Fall Out Boy or Ghost to family and friends.