I’m sexy and I know it: the double standard in women’s sports

I’ve had the privilege of being involved in sports for a good part of my life. Ever since I was 10, that first rush of adrenaline had me hooked. I guess I have my parents to thank for that opportunity. It has greatly influenced what I want to do in my life.

However, this privilege of playing sports hasn’t always existed for women like me. In June 2012, the 40th anniversary of Title IX was celebrated. Title IX states that no educational institution receiving federal funds can discriminate on the basis of sex. This led to the creation of college sports for women and inspired thousands of young women to get into athletics. There would finally be an equal playing field. Or would there?

This past summer, ESPN played nine separate episodes of a documentary called “Nine for IX.” The last episode, named “Branded”, told the experiences of women athletes trying to make a living doing what they love. I won’t go into too many details, but it said that women’s sex appeal made them more money than actual skill.

This is made quite clear in a couple of sports. In 1999, U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain kicked the winning goal in the World Cup final. In celebration, she took off her shirt wearing only a black sports bra underneath.  The next day, the media talked more about her sports bra than the actual talent is took to kick the goal. Men soccer players take their shirts off all the time and there are no comments about it.  Is it really fair to judge women’s ability in sports based on their looks alone?

Women have had to depend on their looks due to the lack of stability they receive in their salaries. In the episode “Branded,” it showed a statement that said of the 50 highest earning American athletes in 2013, none of them were women. Men are able to live well off their salaries in their specific area of sport.

Women have to earn sponsorships and endorsements from businesses in order to keep doing what they want to do. They are stuck between two worlds: the world of a serious athlete and competitor and the world of being a soft, hot, feminine object.  I don’t think any woman would want to be considered as just a sexual object, especially now in this day and age.  I certainly think women have more to them than just their body.

In order to understand why this is happening, we have to look at the bigger picture. Our society’s view of women is still very traditional. Women have more independence, but are still under this “glass ceiling.” There are some places that women can’t get to because men are the power behind them. Therefore, in order for women’s sports to survive, there has to be an interest for men to have a part in the viewership and in the overall success.

There are so many young women and children that want to grow up participating in athletics. Is this the message that we want to send to them?  Women should use their bodies instead of their athletic ability to take advantage of the popularity and fame that comes in the sports world?  Our society has come a long way on many issues and I hope it can change about this topic as well.