By Neel Rao and Alley Perry
Picture this: it is a brisk Friday evening. Even from down the street, you can hear the roar of the crowd emanating from the arena during a heated basketball game. As you get closer, your excitement builds. This is what you have been looking forward to for months. You’ve been saving money to buy these Finals tickets, and you are about to witness firsthand the game of a lifetime. It’s game three, an elimination game, and these tickets are worth more to you than your own life. At the end of the quarter, the score is 25-17. Your team, the Minnesota Lynx, is on its way to winning the WNBA championship over the Atlanta Dream.
Unfortunately, this excitement is not a reality for the majority of WNBA teams, and the same holds true for many other women’s sports. But the question remains, why? Why is the difference between the two genders’ crowds so great? Is it because men’s games are more interesting to watch? Junior Bryce Sprague has his own opinion on this topic. “I know a few years ago when we had that really good girls team a lot of people went to the games, because they were good. I don’t think its so much about whether girls or guys are better, but its more about whether the team itself is good in competition.”
The team Sprague is referring to is the 2012-2013 girls varsity basketball team, whose record was 21-4, 7-1 in league play. The same year, the boys basketball team went 24-8, 7-2 in league. Although both teams were comparable and played similarly well, the support for the boys’ teams was perceived to be much higher. “I feel like a lot more people come to guys games to watch a more competitive sport, not really many people go to the girls games.” said Junior KC Grandfield.
This disparity in support is seen across the board in different sports. Although both teams were successful, why is it that some fans favor boys’ games over girls’ games? Junior Delaney Rice, a three year varsity soccer player and two year basketball player, has taken notice of the difference in the games played. “The pace of guys games is faster, its more interesting to watch.”
This might be the reason that crowds flock to boys games. This idea is reflected in the Arcata High varsity basketball attendance for both genders. In February of last year approximately 41 people attended a girls varsity basketball game. The next boys varsity game brought in roughly 174 fans. As the season went on, the disparity between crowds only increased; girls crowds got smaller, and boys crowds grew.
That’s not to say girls aren’t making their mark on the National level. Recently, 13 year old baseball player Mo’ne Davis made headlines for being the first girl to pitch a shutout game in Little League World Series History, and highschool girls are starting to take notice.
Junior Michala Pelren appreciates girls representation in media.“I think with Mo’ne Davis and what’s going on right now it’s really important that girls sports are just as important as guys. There’s a lot of girls out there where sports is their life,” said Pelren “and it’s just as important for them to be able to express that, as it is for guys. Just because you’re a guy doesn’t mean you have any more rights than a girl.”
So does the difference in popularity of sports come from deep rooted nationwide sexist attitudes or does it come down to the sheer skill and competitiveness of the players regardless of gender?
“I think that a lot of people take womens sports less seriously than they do mens sports, at every level from high school up until professional level.” said senior and Women Advocacy Club president Claire Robinson, “I think a lot of it stems from our society’s perception that women have less physical strength or capability than men, or that they’re not as entertaining.”
Stereotypically, women are often perceived to be the weaker and less physically capable sex, but men’s role as the dominant is often stigmatized as well. This is depicted in domestic violence cases throughout the media with the trial of Hope Solo and the Ray Rice controversy.
“I feel like the public thinks it’s horrible if a man hits a woman, and he should go to jail, but it’s okay if a woman hits a man, he just needs to man up.” said Granfield.
Robinson expands on this idea. “This is a whole feminist concept called toxic masculinity which is basically saying that because femininity is shamed by our society, women can’t be too feminine and also men can’t be too feminine, so it puts this pressure on men to be super buff and violent, and that’s unhealthy for boys and girls.”
Although gender stigmas are still a prominent issue in society today, athletes of every gender continue to compete to the highest of their capability. In the end it’s not about who’s playing the game, but how the game is played.
As junior Michael Martin-Kunkle simply explained, “everyone should just have fun with their own sport, because thats why we’re playing them.”