Steps taken to address gender inequality in sports

The gap between the equality of women and men in sports


Brooke Herstein

The emptiness of the stands. The silence in the air. The intensity on the field.

The players ran, preparing to score, but not many people were watching. The team had won the game, and smiles stretched across the players’ faces; however, cheers arose from half-empty stands.

This occurrence is more common than one may think. Around the world, female athletes have struggled with obtaining equality, ranging from differentiation in pay between male athletes to the uniforms that female athletes are required to wear. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team stood up for themselves and female athletes by filing a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.

According to the New York Times, “The discrimination, the athletes said, affects not only their paychecks, but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they recieve, and even how they travel to matches.”

Since the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team felt that they were treated unequally in comparison to their male counterpart, they stood up, took action into their own hands and got results. The most prominent change is the amount of money earned by these female athletes.

Another way that female athletes have taken a stand against gender discrimination is through expression of hairstyle. Female skiers and snowboarders wear the front pieces of their hair outside of their helmets to show their femininity to the world under all of their padded clothing. 

Some may think that female athletes are not capable of the success that male athletes are, but these pieces of hair are worn by female athletes to push back against this idea.The slang term “slut strands” — as the female athletes who wear them describe the style — is not used to call a female a “slut” or to shame her, but rather is used by women to show the world that female athletes are just as capable of succeeding in their sport as male athletes.

With sports in Oak Park, some female student-athletes expressed that they feel that the male team of their sport generally has larger crowds at their games.

When asked if the crowds at boys’ games were larger than girls’ games, varsity girls’ soccer player Ava Demott’s eyes opened wide.

 “Oh by far! I went to only one boys’ [soccer] high school game this season because our games are usually at the same time so we can’t go, but there was a special case for that [this particular game] and the stands for the boys’ game were filled up. I have never seen a crowd that big for an Oak Park game besides football games,” Dermott said.  “When the girls had an important game, there were only a few people in the stands, and those were our friends who we told to come, whereas the boys’ basketball team and the boys’ volleyball team came to the boys’ soccer game.”

On the other hand, Oak Park High School sports administrators have expressed that among most sports, there has been similar attendance between boys’ and girls’ sports games; however, there is a discrepancy between sports attendance statistics and how female-student athletes feel about attendance at their games.

“I would say that for boys’ and girls’ soccer, they have attendance counts that are almost the same. The reason why I think that is because primarily the people that go to those events are friends and family, not as much student body involvement,” Oak Park High School athletic director Tim Chevalier said. 

However, no matter how many people attended games, there are major issues in equality between men and women in athletics. To help neutralize this problem, Title IX Laws were implemented across the entire country. 

According to Know Your IX, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” 

With Title IX laws in place, educators and sports administrators nationwide have had to adapt to new laws of discrimination on the basis of sex, further ensuring that all athletes, male or female, recieve equal opportunities.

“The OPHS athletic program has made many steps forward in female sports.  With that being said, Title IX is something we are constantly addressing to make sure there’s equal opportunity for males and females here,” Oak Park physical education teacher, girls’ soccer coach and assistant athletic director Kathryn Klamecki said. 

As Title IX Laws are changing equality for the better, the Oak Park community can contribute to this action and do their part as well. Even embracing equality for men and women’s sports in one’s home can be a way of spreading awareness and educating future generations. Students and athletes can spread awareness as well through supporting female sports at OPHS. 

“On Sunday mornings, I like to watch girls’ [college] basketball with my two girls because I want them to see that just because the boys can do it, doesn’t mean that the girls can’t, and that they can also do it at a really high level,” Chevalier said.