|ESPN.com: Commentary||[Print without images]|
|Diana Taurasi, left, and the U.S. women's basketball team continue to fight for respect. They've been on one of the most dominant runs in Olympic history, winning four straight golds. Yet they feel unappreciated instead of celebrated.|
Team USA's Diana Taurasi said Friday women's basketball is still fighting for respect. In the meantime, the Japanese women's soccer team flew coach to the Olympics, while the men's team was in business class. During an Olympic year which is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, what battles are female athletes still fighting and how far have they come?
By Sarah Spain
Diana Taurasi hit the nail right on the head with the word "respect." The biggest obstacle facing female athletes today is that many people don't give them the respect automatically afforded to male athletes.
The most talented, skilled and successful male athletes are deified by society; even those with unsavory personalities or a tendency to get in trouble with the law. As long as they are superior athletes, men will be celebrated and revered. It takes more than skill or success for female athletes to be respected and recognized. Many women who don't fit into antiquated ideals of femininity and masculinity will struggle for acceptance and battle unfair criticism and cruelty. Still others will be lauded for their physical beauty but never truly respected for the work they've put into their sport and the success that has resulted from that work.
Hopefully women like Brittney Griner, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and Lolo Jones will continue to impress with their big-game shots and clutch wins, proving that female athletes come in all shapes and sizes and should be celebrated as strong, confident, hard-working and inspiring, just like their male counterparts.
By Adena Andrews
We are 40 years into Title IX, yet we still deal with women being judged by their bodies and not what they do with them. This is apparent in suggestions from the governing bodies of badminton and boxing that women wear skirts while playing in order to attract male viewers.
Then there are the nonfunctional catsuits the Australian women's basketball team wore in the 2008 Olympics. I'm almost certain those bodysuits were not the preference of the women on the team, but instead that of some corporate macho men who wanted to see prettier basketball.
I really don't know when or if we will ever get past ogling women and their bodies. The notion of a woman as a sex object is getting old and frankly, I'm on overload right now. Everywhere I turn the world is trying to sell me sex, a better butt, bigger breasts and a flatter stomach. My only escape from this nonsense is sports. Then some moron has to ruin it with "Man, the WNBA would be way better if they wore short shorts."
Give me powerful athletes who can do unimaginable things with their bodies over sex kittens any day. Please don't powder-puff my sports.
By Kate Fagan
The reality is that the travel situation for most men's teams is far superior to women's teams. How do NBA teams travel? On charter planes, with first-rate food service and with takeoff and landing times tailor-made for the team's needs. They travel like rock stars. How do WNBA teams travel? Mostly commercial.
Obviously this Olympic situation with Japan highlights that inequity, and it seems especially silly given that the women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup last year. You'd hope that Japan would provide equal service for its men's and women's teams, but this imbalance happens everywhere. We're just not usually seeing it so blatantly on display.
So, Diana Taurasi is absolutely right: Women's sports are far behind men's sports in terms of respect. But by the same token, women's sports also have a long way to go until they generate the kind of profits and interest that fuel charter planes and five-star hotels.
By Michelle Smith
In the United States, female athletes -- particularly team athletes -- have been treated like second-class citizens by mainstream fans and the media on more than one occasion, but Title IX has gone a long way in ensuring that they are treated with equality in terms of resources at the amateur levels.
Clearly that is not the case in other nations. Some of the biggest battles that women will fight in terms of athletics in the coming years will come overseas, where there is no Title IX for female athletes to lean on as their foundation. The IOC can play a big role here if it chooses, as can the international sports governing bodies such as FIFA and FIBA by insisting on equity. The IOC made steps to advocate for women by helping Saudi Arabia and Qatar send female athletes to the Games. The next step is to ensure that female athletes receive the same treatment as their male counterparts and not to allow a class system develop in which athletes are treated differently because of their gender.
By Melissa Jacobs
The main battle so many women's sports still face is delivering a more entertaining product without selling out to the lowest common denominator: sex. The greatest barrier to this? Men playing the same sport at a higher degree of difficulty. Women's gymnastics, figure skating and tennis are the major exceptions, as each has overcome this issue by having a distinct sweet spot. For gymnastics and figure skating, women add an elegance and grace to their athleticism no man is capable of. And women's tennis is more thrilling to watch in large part due to its long rallies.
As for the other women's sports like basketball or golf, there is no end to the abundance of talent or personality out there. (If you have any doubt, spend five minutes perusing this website.) But the undeniable fact is there are men out there performing the same sports at a higher level. And fans prefer to watch the best. Most sports simply aren't as conducive as gymnastics to adding a female spin. There's a reason people really started paying attention to Brittney Griner only after she dunked. Honestly, all most women's sports can do is continue to develop elite athletes/role models, get them as much publicity as possible and hope the eyeballs and money follow.
Or some wise visionary can create a new sport from scratch specifically catered to the skills and body type of a female. Just please don't make it a derivative of a male sport.