Is gender discrimination a problem for Blazer participation in sports games?
On Feb. 28, at the Blair Boys' Varsity basketball team's playoff opener, the crowd erupted in cheers as the Blazers won dominantly with a score of 70-52. Just three days before, the girls' team had played an amazing game as well, winning their playoff opener against Paint Branch with a score of 45-29. However, in contrast, the "crowd" at the girls' game was not much of a crowd at all.
The Blair Girls' Varsity basketball team and many other Blair girls' teams have experienced these types of situations consistently throughout their season this year. Junior Natalie Frost, shooting guard for the Girls' Varsity basketball team, attributes the lack of audience participation to a difference in intensity between the boys' and girls' basketball teams. "I feel like [there's] a stereotype surrounding girls' games and girls playing sports in general. People think that boys' games are just more fast-paced and intense and aggressive so they like to watch that instead," Frost says.
Blair Athletics department director Rita Boule provides another perspective. "I think it depends on the sport. Even though boys' are definitely faster and stronger, especially in high school and in varsity levels, it's not always the most fun to watch. You do like watching the technique and the play of the girls or the strategy or teamwork sometimes more than the boys…And girls' sporting events with soccer get as many fans as the boys' [team]," she says.
In contrast, senior Natalie Morales from the Girls' Varsity soccer team has noticed a lack of audience members in girls' games versus in boy's games. She believes that the time of the game really impacts the overall amount of audience participation. "If the girls had [their game right before the boys], … maybe towards the end of the girls’ game, you'll see that a bigger crowd will start to come in because they're getting here for the boys’ game. For Senior Night, for example, the boys had the 5:30 slot and we had a really great turnout, which was great, but once our boys had won and the team had gone to their dinner, you could see that the crowd would slowly get smaller during the girls’ game," she says.
Moreover, coverage and advertising for the girls’ games at Blair is seemingly less than the advertising for the boys’ teams. Both the girls' basketball and soccer teams noticed that Blazer Ragers were mainly promoting boys' sports such as football and boys' soccer, although they have been getting better at more well-rounded advertising. Blazer Ragers' oldest Instagram posts from the end of 2020 were mainly focused on football. Their more recent posts have expanded to include girls' sports that are not often covered as much, such as girls' field hockey and girls' volleyball.To encourage more people to go to their games, the girls' basketball team reached out to Blazer Ragers to ask them to advertise their games more.
Frost shared that their team had to go out of their way to ask Blazer Ragers to cover them more. "The [Boys' Varsity basketball games] are definitely more advertised. For Blazer Ragers, … we had to message them and say 'Can you post about the girls?' to let people know we play. Then they got better at it," Frost says.
Senior Dalton Reyes, a member of Blazer Ragers, believes that they have been trying to support the girls' teams as much as they can. He believes that the lack of audience participation is mostly due to the audience and not the advertising. "We want to represent the girls' teams as much as we can, we want them to have as much support as we can get them…but it kind of just comes down to the fact that people would rather watch the guys, unfortunately," he says.
To corroborate his claim, the posts with the most likes on the Blazer Ragers Instagram page do tend to be the ones that advertise the boys' games. For instance, the top three most-liked posts, with around 300 to 400 likes, are about Blair football games. However, posts about girls' games generally only have around 100 to 200 likes.
Moreover, Blair Network Communications (BNC) made a short introduction video for the boys' basketball team, but not for the girls' team.
The difference in the amount of marketing between women's and men's teams is an ongoing issue in the professional world as well. According to a study by Sports Illustrated, women’s sports consist of only 5.7 percent of ESPN’s total coverage. To counter this problem, Buick launched a program called "See Her Greatness" this month to promote an increase in coverage of women's sports. Buick is not the company to start raising awareness on the undervaluing of women's sports by sports streaming channels, Fast Studios based in LA plans to launch the Women’s Sports Network which will partner with other prominent organizations such as U.S. Ski and Snowboard, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and the World Surf League. Major networks are starting to recognize their lack of advertisement of womens' games and are working to create more gender-equal coverage.
The culture of undervaluing girls' and women's athletics is not just an issue unique to high school sports; it is global and has roots in the earliest days of organized sports. The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, attributed these differences to the anatomy of women and men in 1896. “No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks," he said.
While gender pay disparities are a prevalent example of sexism in the professional world, sexism is not as much of an issue with the funding of Blair's sports. According to Boule, teams are funded solely based on their need for equipment. The teams that need a lot of equipment will get more funding. The amount of funding that a team gets for a year ultimately depends on the last three to five years of the sport as well as the uniform rotation of who is up for uniforms, but not really on the gender of the team members.
Although there aren't funding disparities between Blair girls' and boy's sports, boys' sports continue to get higher audience turnout as well as better coverage and advertising. The Blair community is likely not giving enough attention to girls' sports because of gender stereotyping. Audience members may believe that boys' games are more interesting to watch because boys' games tend to be stronger and faster due to the physiological and hormonal differences between the two sexes. To counter this problem, Blair publications and social media accounts – for instance, BNC and Blazer Ragers – can advertise girls' sports more by posting more updates and information about their games.
To best support our girls' teams, Blazers can come to their games and cheer for them. "If you can just go out and support the girls teams. It really does mean a lot to the athletes," Morales says.
Sophia Zeng. Hi! I'm Sophia and I'm a staff writer. I enjoy playing the piano, biking and listening to music. More »