Commentary: Female athletes criticized for showing passion for their sport

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Women’s sports have seen a tremendous amount of growth over the last few years, with increased participation, greater media coverage and higher levels of competition. However, despite this progress, a double standard still exists when it comes to female athletes and their behavior while playing their sport. 

With the increased media coverage, more female athletes are being scrutinized in the media for showing immense passion for their sport. Whether that passion be trash talking, showboating or getting angry with the refs, female athletes are expected to play their sport without a competitive edge. 

This is especially true in collegiate sports, where female athletes are expected to be more “ladylike” or “classy” than their male counterparts. 

This year’s NCAA women’s basketball finals featured two electric teams between Iowa and LSU. However, the real rivalry was between LSU’s power forward, Angel Reese, and Iowa’s point guard, Caitlin Clark. 

Following a heated game between the two college superstars, Reese was shown taunting her competitor after LSU’s win by pointing to her ring finger and following Clark around the court

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Following the incident, social media blew up with harsh comments about the LSU superstar calling her “classless” and some media personalities such as Dave Portnoy referring to the athletes actions as being that of a “f*cking idiot.”

Male athletes have engaged in similar passionate behavior for decades now. The most notorious instance was the 15-yard taunting penalty in the 1991 Cotton Bowl where the Miami Hurricanes were seen being “too mean” to the Texas Longhorns after a blowout. 

Throughout all the rivalries in men’s NCAA sports, like Michigan vs. Ohio State, Texas vs. Oklahoma and North Carolina vs. Duke, we have seen more taunting in historic men’s sports rivalries than in an entire decade of women’s sports games. 

The biggest contributor to this double standard is the fact that women’s sports are often seen as less important than men’s sports. This can lead to a lack of resources and support for female athletes, which can make it harder for them to compete at the highest level. During the 2021 womens march madness tournament, a popular female athlete for the Oregon Ducks, Sedona Prince, highlighted the weight room, or lack thereof, that the women athletes were given and then compared it to the grand one that was given to the men. 

As a result, female athletes may feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles in order to be taken seriously.

This stereotype can be damaging to female athletes, as it can discourage them from expressing their true emotions and can limit their ability to compete at the highest level. It may also lead to a lack of respect for female athletes, who are often seen as less serious or less committed than their male counterparts. 

As seen after the NCAA finals game between LSU and Iowa, the actions made by Reese turned half the nation against the female athlete and distracted from the conversation about the historic win for LSU. 

Ultimately, all the progress that has been made in women’s sports will not matter if progress does not continue to increase.

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