Gender Bias in ERHS Sports

Pictured above: Gender Bias in Eleanor Roosevelt High School Sports.

Rylie West

Pictured above: Gender Bias in Eleanor Roosevelt High School Sports.

Rylie West, Writer

Growing up as a female athlete all of my life, I have gotten used to the fact that female athletes are treated differently. Whether it is at the national level dealing with equal pay for the US Male and Female Soccer teams, or at the high school level, dealing with equal attention for girls and boys sports, female athletes are not treated the same. Recent events here on our campus regarding lack of support for girls’ sports has sparked my interest in pointing out the bias we have at ERHS. It’s time to step up and acknowledge the difference in treatment towards our female athletes. I am no longer going to sit back and accept that women are treated as second class citizens. Our world may treat us like second class citizens, but if we truly are “The Best at Getting Better” we can start change here on our campus that can make our female athletes feel equal.

This past week, our ERHS Girls basketball team played in two CIF home games. Two home games, in which our school of over 4,000 students didn’t attempt to fill up our bleachers. To put into perspective how easy it is for our school to fill up one side of bleachers, it takes three separate pep rallies to fit all of our students using the entire gym. Three pep rallies in which only students may sit in the bleachers, so if you were to add the attendance from family members and adults it should be even easier for our bleachers to be full of support. It was heartbreaking to see the lack of support that our students, staff, and faculty gave our girls’ basketball team the past two games. I got the chance to ask sophomore varsity basketball player Leiora Davidson how she felt about the lack of support her team received and here is what she said, “Last year the girls basketball team made it to both CIF and State Semifinals, but literally no one knew and the announcements never really said anything about us. This year, we’re D1, while the boys aren’t, yet they still get so much more recognition. They get DJs at all of their games, Popeye’s sandwiches for sale and a whole lot more support. At girls’ games, we only get parents there, although our games are so exciting. When we were in CIF they didn’t even say we had one of our games, so I had to ask them to put it in. When they do talk about us, it seems like they just try to skip over us as fast as possible.” Girls basketball lost by one point in overtime to end their season on Wednesday, but who knows what they could have accomplished with the bleachers full of support?

Leiora Davidson is not the only female athlete who feels as if her sport is treated differently, there are girls from all the programs who agree with her. In order to fully understand how ERHS students of both genders feel about this issue, I created a poll on my Instagram for students. The question that students were able to answer yes or no to was: “Do you believe there is a lack of support for girls sports at ERHS?” After 17 hours of the poll being up, 103 students who either currently attend ERHS or attended voted yes and only 9 students voted no. 92% of the total votes agreed with the fact that there is a lack of support for girls’ sports. The votes were not just female athletes, it consisted of male athletes and even students who are not athletes. I also added a question box that students could add their response to why they felt there was a lack of support. Over 30 students added their input. Students like Thomas Ferrer who said, “Girls sports are not talked about enough. The school has to make it more known and push students to go”, student-athletes like Kenzel Lawler who said, “Girls sports are under-appreciated”, and student-athletes like Joey Severino who said, “Our girls are monstrous and deserve more recognition”.

Last year CIF Southern Section named ERHS the number one public school for girls sports in the 2018-19 school year. Girls Water Polo won CIF, Girls Track and Field won CIF, and Girls Softball and Basketball made it to CIF semifinals all adding up to a point total to make us the number one public school. Lauren Lofflemacher apart of the 2018-19 CIF championship team for water polo feels as if, “Sometimes the girls’ sports are better than boys. In 2019 girls water polo won CIF but nobody knew since we were overlooked.” Alongside female athletes like Lauren Lofflemacher, Song Team member Amber Schelling said, “We won nationals last year and gave the school banners. They wouldn’t put our banners in the gym like we didn’t deserve it or something. One of the three banners got put up but it got put up in the hallway where no one sees it.” Alyssa Argomaniz, varsity softball member lead her team in the 2018-19  season to CIF semifinals to help make Roosevelt history. Argomaniz feels as if, “It’s all about exposure and recognition and administration prioritizes boy sports more”. Varsity athlete Isabella Rivera said , “I don’t think a girl’s soccer game was ever promoted in morning announcements”. Rugby Member, Sha’kasia Smith said, “The lack of support for rugby at the school, especially girls is really upsetting me. We spend hours training and practicing just like any other team on campus, and it’s like we’re nonexistent. We’ve had to fight to be called a club for the past four years! The boys get a little extra help because majority of them are football players so they have connections. They always tell us to chase our dreams and strive for our goals but never back it up with support, never come to the games. Matter of fact, we had a trophy ball that we won at our first ever tournament when we got third place. We all signed it and gifted it to Shires because we were proud to represent Roosevelt and win.” Smith said that the ball has been in a cabinet for two years, “But the whole front office is filled with basketball and football awards and pictures. It’s heartbreaking wearing my school’s name proudly and knowing that no matter what we do, no matter how much we win, we’ll never be as important as football, we’ll never be as important as basketball. Or any other male sport at that.”

As female athletes, we never mean to undermine the many accomplishments of our fellow male athletes and we never mean to undermine the effort that some of our faculty has put in to get us better support. We compare our accomplishments to the boys in order to point out the bias our school has against us even when we do just as good or better. To point out the difference in support girls and boys sports get, I took a picture of the bleachers during the girl’s basketball CIF game on Wednesday and the boy’s basketball CIF game on Friday.

Boys basketball game on Friday Night
Girls basketball game Wednesday Night

Both were during the same week but just two days apart. One picture shows what promoting a game through “Free admission for Class Council and ASB” looks like as well as morning announcements saying “Lets pack the stands for the game Mustangs”. The other picture shows what it looks like for coaches and staff to not encourage their teams and students to attend. Some of the main events that show the lack of effort the school puts in for us athletes includes the fact that the cheer team is required to go to boys’ basketball games, but it is optional for them to attend girls’ basketball games. As well as the fact that ASB only uses clubs like Stampede Club during football season to encourage students to go to games and to make posters for the games. Lack of effort is shown through forgetting two seniors of the posters for the senior night for girls soccer. Not always making senior night posters for the girls’ softball team makes our athletes feel less recognized. Reasons like having the gym filled with posters on the Friday night basketball game for the boys, but not a single poster made for the girl’s game on Wednesday. What more could our female athletes have proved in the 2018-19 season to receive the same effort as the boys?

Let’s just say there was a way to prove that our staff and students put in the same effort to advertise attendance to all sporting events. Let’s just take money and fundraising out of the equation. Should our school settle with what they are doing knowing athletes like Sha’kasia Smith and Leiora Davidson feel heartbroken about the support they get? Maybe equal treatment isn’t enough to get our girls on the same track as our boys’ sports. In fact, there hasn’t always been female sports in high school until the Title Nine movement, so female sports across the country are already years behind regarding support. Softball adviser and teacher, Mrs. Oberdank doesn’t believe that the lack of support is intentional but says, “I think that when we think sports/athletics, we (society in general) think of the larger male sports: football, baseball, basketball. Because of this norm established in society, women have had to work hard to be recognized in this realm”. After acknowledging the fact that there is a lack of support in society and even at our school do we sit complacent with what we have done? Mrs. Oberdank also says, “Changing the norm is hard, but I honestly believe that when it comes down to it, it only takes seeing a female sports team once to become a fan and supporter”.

Change needs to happen and I propose a challenge to athletics. In order to implement change starting next year, I believe each sports program on campus should have to sign up to attend three sporting events during the two seasons in which they are not fully active. I can agree with Mrs. Oberdank when she says, “I think it’s important to note that just because we want to see female athletic support thrive and get respect, it doesn’t mean that male sports don’t deserve their already existing support or respect” which is exactly why programs can sign up to watch them as well. Spots for watching each team should be limited to ensure that each sport, and especially female sports are getting the support they deserve. There could even be a trophy or a prize for the team who attends the most sporting events that year. Hopefully, by starting a trend like this within the athletic community, we can influence the entire student body and start a tradition here on campus. It only takes a bit of effort to accomplish something like that.

I thank all of the athletes who had the courage to share their stories and all of the students and staff members who provided me with information and input which allowed to me point out the bias we have at ERHS. Congratulations to all of the female athletic programs on successful seasons, and good luck to the spring programs as their season starts. All we as females athletes ask for is support because it is based on effort. Posters are effort, acknowledging our accomplishments is effort, change is effort, “Being the Best at Getting Better” is effort.