My friend and Kalamazoo College alumna Marjorie Snyder, is the Research Director at the Women’s Sports Foundation. She recently shared this video produced by the WSF about girls dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys by age 14. While our country celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX last year, the social messaging about sports and competition still needs a shot of positivity on the female side of the equation. CommonSense.org shared this information about such influences on girls’ body images. Research has estimated that girls see up to 400 messages a day telling them how they should look. By buying into the social norms, and dropping out of sport, these girls are missing out on several positive experiences that would make them stronger women.
And then along comes a March 27, 2013 article in The Nation by Dave Zirin where he calls on pro (male) athletes to help end rape. Says Zirin: “I left this meeting convinced that this is a fight we can win but not unless men themselves stand up and say “no more.” No more to the degradation of women, no more to the normalizing of violence against women and no more being a bystander when potential rape situations unfold in our presence.” Go, Dave! Now we’re getting somewhere!
But truth be told, I believe that athletes AND others have a say about violence against women. How about the marketing industry which creates these unattainable images? …Or the fashion industry telling us that this is what we need to wear to be attractive? That includes shoes. Unfortunately, most athletic shoes aren’t designed by those who are telling us how we should look. Functional isn’t often “beautiful.” We must also address the faulty thought that we can kill or eliminate that which is undesirable to us. Parents also must realize the effect of their words and actions around children. It is ALL of us who have charge of this together – our entire community. As defined in Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games, community means ‘to have charge of together.’
At the heart of violence against women is the idea that women are objects to be owned and controlled; that those objects can be manipulated to the unrealistic ideals of those who would do the manipulating. Ultimately, as is sport, this is not an either-or solution, but a both-and paradigm shift. Ending violence against women will require the spiritual engagement of the entire community of men and women, boys and girls. Whether it happens through the cultural construct of sport or through our religious or educational institutions, or even corporate America, the spiritual solution will always address the whole person, the whole community, and the whole of humanity. We need a new idea. Let’s join with the Women’s Sports Foundation and keep girls in the game, where lessons learned will always make her stronger, and where we all can work together toward something much greater.