When Ohio University announced its lineup of freshman soccer recruits last week I was pleased to see my daughter’s name on the release. (And I will find the right time to tell her that one should not list “listening to music and going to concerts” as a hobby—especially if one is a member of an elite high school choir that gives concerts.)
I was also comforted to see that one of her fellow soccer recruits hails from my hometown of Hudson, Ohio. Go Explorers!
Except, this reminded me that girls who play for Hudson High School are not called the Explorers. They are called the “Lady Explorers.”
How could that still be true?
Let us set aside the fact that “Lady Explorers” sounds like a euphemism for “womanizers”: He’s a real “lady explorer,” if you know what I mean.
Let us instead focus on how far women’s sports has come since the days when girls played six-on-six basquette. Since someone invented field hockey, seemingly to teach girls how to use a broom. And since the most serious girls’ sport was this:
Perhaps while watching Billie Jean King, or Martina Navratilova as a kid—or in 1999, when the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup and woke the world up—the whole “ladies’ sports” thing stopped sounding right to me. Not just as a term, but as an idea: The notion of women’s sports existing because girls needed an after-school activity, too.
Certainly during a preseason of gonzo journalism with Chicago’s professional women’s football team a dozen years ago, any remaining condescension toward women’s sports was chased, speared and sacked out of me.
In the years since, I’ve been amazed and repeatedly moved by the intensity, athleticism and competitive equality in women’s sports that I’ve seen from far—and from near, on the sidelines of my daughter’s games. And across the tennis net from her. And as she’s tickled me on the couch and made me beg pathetically for mercy, shoulder-checked me into slow banks and had to pull me out of them. I’m a very solid athlete. She’s something else altogether. Her gifts are no more “ladylike” than is the acrid odor that explodes from her soccer bag at every unholy unzipping.
And yet, the badass shoulder-throwing, frozen rope-hitting, head-lowering, slide-tackling, pick-setting, gang-tackling, head-first-sliding, stone-cold-killing female jocks in Hudson, Ohio, in 2021, must take the field, court, pitch and diamond in uniforms that say, “Lady Explorers”?
That doesn’t make any more sense to me at this stage in our so-called civilization than insisting on calling a woman pilot an “aviatrix” or a woman comic a “comedienne.” But maybe I’m just a Gentleman Explorer who moved from Hudson to Chicago 30 years ago and thought it made me modern.
Ladies, let’s get your perspective?
Michael Zimet says
1. Congratulations to Scout — and her proud parents!
2. Here’s hoping that, compared to their predecessors a generation (or two) ago, the female jocks in Hudson (and elsewhere) have learned that the name on their uniforms isn’t nearly as important as it is to play the game of life with full measure and enjoy (as we communicators would say) earning their seats at the table.
Betsy Pasley says
I’m actually working on a book about the history of womens sports at my alma mater and I have a LOT to say about this topic … but will keep it short.
Nicknames are still problematic as are general references (e.g. males are on the basketball team, but females play on the “women’s basketball team.”) Some women and girls are afraid their femininity will be questioned when they play a sport, but no man has to worry about not being masculine enough.
And you only need to spend five minutes recalling the NCAA Final Four escapades last March to realize we have a way to go for your daughter to have equal opportunity.
But back to nicknames; my fave male/female twins from the 70s were Bruins/Bruinettes, Lumberjacks/Ladyjacks and (my personal fave) Bobcats/Bobkittens.
Keep up the great writing. And congrats to Scout.
Rosemary King says
David – HUGE congrats to Scout. That’s awesome news & I couldn’t agree with you more. A few yrs ago there was some pressure to call our girls hockey club “Ladies whatever” but we put the kibosh on that immediately. No effing way. Well said in this piece and I hope you have a lovely holiday. PS – Did you see Randy’s email? A generous offer to round up emails which will help MST.
David Murray says
Thanks Mike. Betsy, right on. And Rose: You’re one of my heroes in this business of advancing women’s sports—a project which should be led by women like you, relegating fellers like me to our proper role, on the cheerleading team!