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The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

Sexism in sports

Sexism is in everything and is everywhere. This article discusses the role sexism plays in sports here at West High.

 Is sexism dead? Many people seem to believe that sexism is an issue of the past. Although the gender stereotypes are beginning to break, athletics are still feeling the brunt of these issues. Will they end, or will they keep spiraling?

Biases are all around us everyday. From a young age, girls tend to start playing sports that they see other girls playing. Some of the most popular ones are volleyball and dance. From an early age, these sports are defined as being sports for girls. On the other hand, boys start out with football, basketball, or wrestling. These sports are seen to be more tough and masculine. Girls also tend to get backlash and are made to feel small when it comes to playing “boys sports”. But what about the people who don’t let these biases define them? “Girls shouldn’t wrestle;” “you didn’t earn it;” and “it’s easier for girls to play that sport” are all comments that Helen Orszula ’24 heard throughout her career of wrestling. “There’s been many instances where I’ve seen little things happen. Like at the Prairie [invitational for boys and girls] tournament, the refs only went through the basic rule stuff that everyone already knows. But as they were speaking to us, the boys were nowhere to be seen.” This brings up the question of why some people assume that girls cannot understand sports the same way as boys. A study from ‘The Guardian’ in 2023, showed that every woman in sports has said that they have been condescendingly told what to do by a man at least once.  This does discourage many girls. Amaia Martinez ’27 says “If people were sexist towards me when I played soccer I’m not sure if I’d continue to do it. It’s tough to take rough criticism and rude comments.” While that is a very valid feeling that most girls feel, on the other hand, Orszula feels differently saying, “I’d want to keep playing the sport no matter what. And if someone told me I couldn’t do it, they would only want to make me play it more.” The hate and biases people have for girls in sports just shows that they don’t really know what drives a girl to put in the work for her sport.

 Tight shorts and a loose jersey. That outfit makes up most of the uniforms for girls’ sports. This is seen not only at the high school level but also in professional athletics. Female track runners have to wear spandex shorts and a tighter tank/ cropped top. Another example is female beach volleyball players. They have to wear something that resembles a swimsuit, while men get to wear long shorts and a tank top. Many people have issues with this. At the highschool level, volleyball rules were changed. You no longer have to wear shorts to play. Wrestling also made new girl’s singlets, where they cover more sensitive areas. “I feel it was such a huge step forward in helping players feel more comfortable while playing. Players also should never have been restricted to only shorts in the first place for both religious reasons and comfortability.” Caroline Dickens ’27 says, talking about the new rule for volleyball uniforms. Trinity Myers ’25 opened up about the newer singlets made for girls saying “I’m very proud that West has come far enough to make singlets specifically for girls. And I do feel that I get a lot of choice in how comfortable I am. I can wear what I’m feeling for competitions while still being able to support my school.” Female athletes all over say that these steps schools are starting to take, make the environment of sports so much more fun and better for everyone. Michael Mettenburg, a teacher and coach here at West High School, shared a story about girls on a wrestling team in Waco Texas, where girls had to wear boys singlets that were very low cut down the middle in front and back. “When you get new singlets for girls, you’re making a statement and you’re saying, this is a priority. It’s a small thing, but actions speak louder than words and if you’re a girl on a team like the one in Waco, and you have to wear the boys singlets, its like your getting told that your not important and to move out of the way for boys, but if you get new singlets, you’re getting told that you are a priority.” It seems that even though there is still a lot to do to fix the gap between boys and girls sports, the little things, like changing the rules for uniforms to make everyone feel more comfortable and protected really do matter and make a difference for these athletes. 

The rows of bleachers are packed during the home boys basketball game. Yet just hours before during the girls game there were quite a few less people. There are huge differences between who comes to boys games, and who comes to the girls. Many events are set up this way. Wrestling meets are scheduled for girls to go first, then following, the boys have their meet. The time for boys is a more convenient time for most people to be able to go. This is how the basketball games are set up as well. “Not that many people come to our games at all. Way more people go to boys games and it lowkey sucks because it just shows that no one even wants to watch our games, just the boys’ games.” Sasha Baldwin ’27 says about the girls basketball games. Many girls on the team are concerned that no one will come watch them play. Nate Frese, a teacher and head coach of the girls basketball team says “I think it’s more a symptom of society. Even being a coach for the boys team for a while, I saw the difference in the turn-out. I just think it’s more of what America has done and that is prioritizing mens sports over women’s.” Many people have come up with the idea of switching when the girls and boys play. Yet, BJ Mayer, the athletic director at West High School shares about the outcome of that idea, “When I was the girls basketball coach we switched the times so the girls game was after the boys game, and right after the boys game everyone got up and walked out. We’ve kept it the same as girls games before the boys because the girl players have said they would rather have more people show up for half or even the end of their games rather than never at all.” Although many people still try to support the cause for more people to show up to the girls games with things like fundraisers, it’s in the hands of the student body to show up and support all sports and who is playing them.

West High offers many different sports to play, though there are some that aren’t offered for girls and boys. For instance, boys don’t have a volleyball team for them to play on. They have to travel for club teams, which causes not many people to play. Another example is how there isn’t a girls football team. Many girls would enjoy playing football if there was a girl’s team. Amaia Martinez ’27 and Caroline Dickens ’27 say that they would both give football a try if there was a girls only team. They both agreed that it would be really fun to do and if it would happen many girls would get involved. Wrestling has done a better job with this, just a couple years ago officially sanctioning the girls team. BJ Mayer [athletic director] shared the process of getting the girls team sanctioned saying “It had been an ongoing process that was a tough path to get finalized. The IGHSAU [Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union] needed a certain percentage of girls going out from each school, and most schools had that number which made the whole process happen. ” Even though West High School and the state of Iowa has done many things to tackle sexism, many raise the same question saying has West High School done enough for the student-athletes? Mayer, says that West High has done many more things than other schools getting ahead of the game “We have a wide diverse population of people who are involved not only in sports but in clubs and many other activities. We also try to include everyone possible on as many teams as we can. We don’t love making cuts, because we feel that everyone should be able to have a chance on a team.” Another person who seems to agree with this is Nate Frese, the head girls basketball coach saying “I think we’re trending in the right direction right now. I significantly hope this isn’t the apex or peak of where we’re going, but girls sports will continue to keep growing. Especially as we try to include everyone, and try to have a team for everyone no matter what skill level they’re at.” West High continues to put in a great effort in athletics to make sure that everyone feels welcome and that they have a place in the sport that shares their heart. 

Sexism is just another joke to some people. Yet do they really know how much they are affecting the target when they attack? West High School has taken many steps to assure that students feel like they can play the sport they want to play without hate. But what is the future of West athletics? Students at West feel like they are wanted in all sports and that the future of West athletics is bright. Trinity Myers ’25 says “I think West has done what they can for different programs especially girls wrestling, and that’s been more than enough. I 100% think that women’s sports will continue to grow and get better as more time and opportunities open up here at West. There are more and more girls with the courage to step out and try new sports every year, and it’s an amazing thing to see.” This thought could be shared through many people as they talk about what West High has done for them. Emma Peach ’24 said “I think West has done a great job at advertising both genders in all sports equally. I have also always had support when competing, especially from my teammates.” As we step into the future of equality for all, we take the steps to assure that everyone can play the sports we want to. A famous line from the Iowa Women’s Wrestling team is “for her”, and many female athletes at West High have felt the support of that quote here.

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About the Contributor
Defne Bayman, Communications Coordinator, Artist, Reporter and Photographer
(they/she) Defne Bayman is a senior this year, and has been on Print for two years and joined Web this year. They are the communications manager for all of WSS, along with an artist, designer, photographer, and reporter. When they're not in school, they're at work, out shopping, or watching a new niche movie.
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