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?