By Fabiola Aceves, Sept. 5, 2023
I was walking to one of my classes in Building 1 when I was stopped by a man who was selling books about meditation and asked if I was interested. I decided to look at them because I was still adjusting to being back to school in person and felt more stressed than usual. He made conversation with me about school and my career, so I told him I wanted to work in sports media. I continued talking about why I wanted to be a sports journalist and how playing sports influenced that decision. It suddenly became awkward as I stood there appalled and laughed awkwardly as I did not know how to react after being told, “Oh, so you are more than just a pretty face.”
These words were said to me by the man after I said I played volleyball for six years and won a championship.
Those 10 words made me feel that if I hadn’t played any sports, or grew up watching them, then I would not earn a spot at the table in the sports industry.
When I was growing up, my father tried to expose me to as many different sports as possible, helping inspire me to be a sports journalist. Whether it was baseball, soccer, football, basketball or even hockey — if there were tickets available then we were there.
My father has always been one of my biggest supporters since I told him what career path I was choosing and has always been proud of my accomplishments.
Although he has been in my corner since day one, he did not seem to understand why I was bothered when I told him about the interaction I had on campus.
In his mind, he thought I was being praised because my background as an athlete showed I had the knowledge. However, in my mind, it felt that if I didn’t mentioned my background as an athlete, then my career choice would therefore be invalid.
As a woman trying to succeed in the sports industry, we are often undermined by our abilities to perform in every way.
If you say you like a certain sport or team, nine times out of 10 the follow-up question will be “OK, then name five players from the team?” or “How many championships has the team won?”
Men are quick to assume a woman cannot simply enjoy the sport without having some sort of attraction to the athletes.
In sixth grade, I remember vaguely mentioning to a group of boys at school during the NFL season that my favorite team was the San Francisco 49ers. At that time, Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback for the team.
The obvious reaction to my answer was I only liked the team because I thought Colin Kaepernick was attractive and not because I believed him to be a talented player or a great leader for the team during his time as quarterback.
Women are not only undermined in trying to succeed in sports, whether it is in the media or simply as a fan, but also as an athlete.
The National Women’s Soccer are a group of women I have always admired for their talent and their ability to win championships. Yet it does not come as a surprise when I read an ESPN article mentioning how in a previous contract cycle with U.S. soccer, the women’s team only earned one-fifth of men’s team earned. Not only do female athletes have to work twice as hard in order to prove to the world they are extremely talented, but they must do it for less pay.
No matter how hard women try to be two steps ahead, there will always be something pushing them five steps back.
As someone who has recently become a fan of Formula One, the fanbase is male dominated and full of masculine toxicity. I will admit I found an interest in the sport through the Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive.”
However, through other social media platforms, I discovered many female F1 fans are judged by the male audience when they mention they grew an interest in the sport through the docuseries. Because of this, they do not really understand the sport and once again only find the drivers to be attractive.
The Red Bull team principal Christian Horner gave an interview to Laura Wood from talkSPORT where he talked about the latest season of “Drive to Survive” and the process of making a TV show and how it has brought a lot of attention to the sport in general. He made a comment in an interview regarding the situation.
“F1 is bringing in a young generation,” said Horner. “It’s bringing in a lot of young girls because of all these great-looking young drivers.”
Due to the social media backlash, he clarified women should be more involved in motorsports in roles like management, engineering and driving.
Even when women try assert their position in sports by obtaining a high-profile job that can be done by a male, they are still not taken seriously by the male eye.
As I am still learning about Formula One, I was grateful to have stumbled upon a YouTube short posted by the McLaren Formula One team.
The video showed one of the members of the team who was a woman explaining why F1 cars created a spark during a race. When I looked at the comment section, I was disgusted to see most of the comments were about her appearance and how attractive the woman was.
The comments made me realize even though the employee was just trying to do her job by explaining an important factor about F1 cars, women in sports will always be seen as shiny objects in the industry and always have their performance undermined.
As I continue down this road, I hope the industry can still strive to make bigger changes regarding women in sports.
Women should be allowed to be sports journalists without the constant criticism about their knowledge or appearance. Women should be allowed to have the same praise as male athletes when their performance proves it. Women should be allowed to just be sports fans.
Feature image by Lauren Wong
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