Sports have been a quintessential part of high school since as early as the 1700s. However, since the day girls sports were introduced in schools, young female athletes have faced adversity. As a Franklin student, I find myself frequently hearing about the latest incident in Franklin sports that has made someone feel lesser. While there is no longer the same level of discrimination that there once was in women’s sports, it would be foolish to ignore the everyday instances that show our female athletes they don’t hold the same level of importance, or that being women outweighs being anything else. For example, Violette Creel (12), a soccer player at Franklin High School mentioned feeling that women’s sports weren’t given the same recognition as men’s, and additionally shared her experience with harassment at games. In reference to her experience at her own soccer games, Creel says that, “[she] would get catcalled, before and after practice. Sometimes even by people watching the games.”
Many of us hoped that the end of school dress codes in Portland Public Schools (PPS) signaled the end of shaming young women for their clothing, however dress codes are still alive and well in the girls sports community. Selma Biberic, who participates in swim, golf, and volleyball at Franklin, says, “For the swim team, [Oregon School Activities Association] has a dress code for us, but it’s mainly targeted at girls… Basically, you can’t have your butt, any side boob, or cleavage showing, and if any of that is even slightly out of your swimsuit you can be disqualified. But for men they’re allowed to be basically almost naked.” Yes, students must dress appropriately for sponsored activities, however, when there are rules for girls that have no equivalent restriction for boys, it is clear that it is about more than keeping a clean cut image. Dress codes like this, despite sometimes being unintentional, make girls feel ashamed about things they cannot control. “A lot of girls are upset, especially those who are naturally curvier. It’s really stressful when you’re being told that girls who are born a certain way have to worry about being completely covered, when you’re swimming and you can’t constantly be adjusting your swimsuit,” said Biberic. On the whole, uniforms for mens sports have noticeably more coverage than the uniforms for womens sports.
If you are a Franklin student reading this, I prompt you to think of the last time you remember a women’s sports match being advertised to you, either via social media, the intercom, or by word of mouth. Perhaps it is because I am not very involved in sports, but I can’t recall the last time. Talk amongst the student body surrounding football, for example, is not lacking by any means, and I even feel like I hear more about men’s soccer than I have ever heard about any female-heavy sport. Students becoming more involved in women’s sports, and showing up to support more than just the football team, can be a way to ensure that female athletes are getting equal recognition.
I am in no way saying that our women’s sports program is bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, through dress codes, and an obvious gap in attention, it is evident that unfortunately that sexism in sports is still a very relevant issue. While a situation may be better than it has been in history, there is often room to take action and make things even better for the female athletes of tomorrow.