Women’s Sports Are Sexist

Julia Friedman played competitive basketball all her life.

In sophomore year an autoimmune condition sidelined her.  But she stayed involved, helping the Staples girls team.

She’d run cross country as a freshman and sophomore.  She kept on with that squad too, as manager.

She referees youth basketball, and volunteers with PAL.

So when Julia — a staff writer for Inklings, the school newspaper — searched for a “Jock Talk” opinion piece subject for the October issue, women’s sports seemed a natural.

Her piece was powerful.  As she expected, it generated plenty of controversy.

Yet despite its headline — “The Athletically Oppressed” — Julia’s column did not argue that female athletes are downtrodden and subjugated.

Her thesis was that there should be no separate “women’s sports.”

No other career is separated by gender, she wrote.

Making females compete on their own teams, in their own leagues, makes them seem less important — and leads to lower attendance and revenue, she said.

She gave examples of women athletes who have competed successfully with men — from Billie Jean King to basketball players Ann Meyers and Lusia Harris to race car driver Danika Patrick.

Julia Friedman wonders: Should there be such a thing as "women's basketball"?

If women’s rights activitis really want equality, Julia argued, why don’t they compete with men on the same playing field?

Some friends like what she wrote.  Others did not.

Most adults thought it was well-written, she said, but did not agree.

“I think a lot of people thought I was right,” she added.  “But they didn’t want to say it.  It’s not politically correct.”

Thanks to Inklings’ robust web presence, Julia’s column attracted attention far beyond Staples.

People of all ages — far and wide — chimed in on the site’s comments section.  Someone told her that while everyone is entitled to her opinion, it was unfortunate Julia voiced hers.

Plenty of people called her “sexist.”  She expected that.

A woman posted several comments, including one that was longer than the column.  That proved, Julia said, that “people are really passionate about women’s sports.  I respect their opinion, and I hope they respect mine.”

Ann Gaffigan, who runs WomenTalkSports.com, asked Julia to come on her radio show.  She’ll do that, after she does some research.  “I don’t want to get ripped apart,” she said with the wisdom of a media veteran.

At the same time she’s dealing with the reaction to “The Athletically Oppressed,” Julia is planning her next column.

The topic?

“I’m thinking something about women in society,” she said.

“It may not be sports.  But I find the social relationships between genders very interesting.”

21 responses to “Women’s Sports Are Sexist

  1. Brilliant! Go Julia! Love that you are making everyone think about the possibility of a truly equal playing field. That would change the world of sports altogether! How about an after school challenge on the basketball court or soccer field?

    • The Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Staples boys and girls soccer teams will play in an event to raise funds for breast cancer research. I think the teams will be mixed — but we thank the girls team for coming up with the idea, and arranging it.

  2. I am a middle aged businessman (ugh, that doesn’t conjure a great visual, does it?). The single most overused term I have heard in the last 25 years in business is “think out of the box”. Funny thing is, it is very rare in the world of adults that anyone ever really does “think out of the box” is roundly rejected and punished for doing so. Most thinking is really quite boring and conventional. Rarely some people are provocative, just for the sake of being provocative. Even more rare are people who actually have a different take on an accepted convention. But for my money, young Ms. Friedman is being both provocative and thoughtful. I understand the arguments against her thesis. But what I find most interesting is that I can’t recall anyone ever presenting her argument in such a global way. Young people should challenge the status quo. Heck, are things so great that we don’t want change?

    Ms. Friedman’s thinking makes me optimistic that perhaps, just perhaps, we are not raising an entire generation of followers and occasionally people won’t be afraid to challenge the “establishment”. Funny thing is my generation was known for it’s radical anti-establishment ideas. Now that we are “The Establishment”, it seems we are more conventional than our parents were! We need more people who think like you Julia! Keep it up!

  3. This may be a nice intellectual exercise, but the practical effects of this would have a devastating and in some ways almost obliterating effect on women’s sports.
    And it’s not even honest to say Billie Jean King played on an equal footing with men. That notion is entirely based on one match she played against a nearsighted guy who was more than 25 years past his prime.
    I’m not sure why any of you would went to subsume the women’s tennis tour or the WNBA by saying these females have to play against men. How counterproductive.

  4. It depends on the sport. Women and men should not compete together on the football field. Few women would be able to go head-to-head with refrigerators . Having men and women compete on the same field could actually result in fewer women involved in sports. It’s not sexist to say that most women’s bodies do not have the same muscle mass as men’s. But as for soccer, basketball, volleyball, rugby, field hockey and maybe wrestling? Move over!

  5. The Dude Abides

    I do believe that the same argument has been used, both pro and con, for Affirmative Action. I say let the ladies play!!!! And kudos to Julia for suggesting it. I am not sure she will like the results but let it fly. No qualifications. Football to hockey. Hopefully, Title IX has given them the opportunity. Let’s see what level they are at compared with the men. They said a woman could run a faster marathon than men but that has not happened although ultramarathon women have won. Bring it on!!
    When she is finished fighting this battle, I suggest she might try “The Work Oppressed” where women still make 70 cents on the dollar compared with men and remain underrepresented in top management in many sectors of our dwindling economy. Let it roar, Julia!!!!

  6. Just because it’s separate doesn’t mean that women’s sports are unequal. They have all the same rights. They shouldn’t feel less than men just because they attract less viewership. If they are, then they’re playing sports for the wrong reasons.

  7. Timothy Reardon

    I don’t think “viewership” was the point of the article. And your argument was used by the Whites in regard to segregation.

  8. I have tremendous respect for Julia – her commitment to excellence in writing as well as her love of sport shines through in all that she does. For that I will forgive the naivete of her “modest proposal”. As thought provoking as her sentiments are, this much older female athlete reads through the prism of pre-Title IX America where opportunities for competition and scholarship/education for women in sport were nearly non-existent. Equal Opportunity is worth fighting for, but equality can not and should not be measured by 50/50 participation (and popularity) in all areas of life.
    I guess it’s all about perspective. I think women have come so far & Julia laments any existing barriers. I watched the “battle of the sexes” and Julia googled it – an event that took place some 20 years before she was born. Kudos to a wonderful young lady for pushing the envelope!

  9. Pop: That seems somewhat patronizing and condescending. If “equality can not and should not be measured by 50/50 participation . . . in all areas of life,” how SHOULD it be measured???? When it is convenient for you men to change the rules? Julia is not pushing the envelope, the mail has been delivered. Welcome to the 21st century Pop.

    • JAM – please read carefully. (1) I AM a female as posted, and (2) my comment said “participation and POPULARITY” . I disagree with the premise that women must play with men to be equal to them. My comments were sincere and I applaud voices like Julia’s who will keep women’s issues in the forefront.
      In response to your question – I don’t believe the workforce needs to have an equal number of male/female teachers, doctors, firefighters, scientists or actors AS LONG AS there are no barriers to women choosing to pursue their career passion. You seem a little angry JAM, and in your hasty reply you missed the key points of my post. You’re preaching to the choir!

      • Thank you for your reply. I am too old to be angry but I did endure the discrimation that we both recognize. As I understand your statement, you disapprove of barriers to equality but dislike any quotas that would facilitate that goal. I am not sure that is a practical solution for the male still runs the roost. Thus, I would much rather see Julia standing at the pulpit rather than sitting in the choir.

  10. Arthur B. Benjamin

    Nice article. I like the premise: equality of the gender in every aspect of the our society. But women have attempted to make the cut at PGA tournaments and have not faired well. Billy Jean did beat Bobby but couldn’t score a point against Jimmy Connors two months later. I am not sure either, with women’s professional sports hurting big time and many depending on their success, for Julia to be taking a jab at enterprises that have done much to advance the independence of women.

  11. I liked the article as well, and as a father of two athletic teenaged daughters — and the son of a woman who had to scratch and claw her way into male-dominated fashion illustration in 1940s NYC before making it a lifelong career, and the brother of a woman, Staples ’65, who had to start at CBS in ’69 as an HR secretary before carving out a career as a CBS News senior producer that is ongoing — — the premise as well. However, as Mr. Benjamin states, facts are facts. Regarding the fragility of women’s professional sports in a 50-50 world, the same was said about the fate of baseball’s Negro Leagues after the integration of MLB was underway. And the Negro Leagues were among desegregation’s first, albeit unintended, casualties. Later, as American society slowly desegregated, black-owned businesses also became unintended casualties. Still, I like the premise.

  12. Julia wrote an amazing article!

  13. I strongly disagree with a couple of Julia’s fundamental points.

    First, with respect to women’s pro leagues, Julia wrote that she did not see “their purpose or place in society.” I sincerely hope that Julia did not intend this to be an attack of Title IX, which has led to unprecedented opportunities for girls in sports at the scholastic level. Successful pro athletes such as Diana Taurasi and Mia Hamm have served as an inspiration and/or role model for many young girls. (And, neither Diana nor Mia would have had nearly the level of success if not for women’s sports, and thus they would have never attained the stature as an example for girls to emulate.). For this reason alone, women’s pro sports do have a place and purpose in society.

    Julia also wrote: “The fact of the matter is, that women’s sports leagues were created just to satisfy participants of a feminist movement.” Women’s sports leagues were created for the same reasons men’s leagues were: to hopefully make a profit. The owners, organizers, and sponsors are not altruists; the bottom line is, they’re capitalists. And although you find women’s professional sports “abysmal to watch,” the owners and commercial sponsors of these teams believe there are paying customers who don’t share your opinion.

    Furthermore, women’s pro golf was created well before the rise of the feminist movement of the sixties.

  14. I do believe that Julia was somewhat “tongue in cheek” when she wrote the article. The equality issue is more significant than the number of spectators in the stands.

  15. I’ll hope that JAM is correct, and Julia is someone who can surely turn a phrase and make a coherent argument.
    I’m a little more chagrined with some of the comments of adults ( I think they’re adults) here. The main goal was always equal opportunity for women to compete. But ….heck, you know what? I’m not even going to say anymore. This is almost as pointless as trying to discuss politics with Tea Party folks. If people can’t see that the arguments here, if taken their logical conclusion, would wipe out about 90 percent of the careers of current women’s sports professionals, then you are willfully oblivious and blind and have a stunningly twisted notion of what “equality” means.

  16. I think JAM may be correct re Julia’s possible tongue-in-cheek intent in the same vein as “A Modest Proposal.” Still a compelling topic, though.

  17. taurasi is playing for fenerbahce. she socred 26 points today in euroleague match

    she is a pretty woman