Not a sport. Not real basketball. Nobody cares. Make me some sandwiches. Go back to the kitchen.
If you’re a regular Twitter user, you don’t even have to think twice about these seemingly inconsequential phrases to understand their supposedly sardonic intent. If you steer clear of the internet trolls, consider yourself lucky. Replies like those flood the mentions of any major sports account that ever tries to tweet about the accomplishments of a single woman athlete, or a women’s team.
The UConn women’s basketball team is certainly no exception. Even when Kobe Bryant, one of the most loved and respected NBA players of our generation, tweets his congratulations to Geno and his squad, people still feel the need to completely deface it and immediately make crass, sexist jokes.
One would think that maybe, just maybe, the 13-year-olds with the unfortunate ability to say whatever they want without ramifications would take a break, quiet down and actually take a moment to appreciate what UConn has done.
But they can’t. Because they’re women.
I was honestly shocked to see the negative comments almost outweigh the positive ones. I guess I put too much faith in the Twitter-verse to actually be decent for a change. The game earned an 0.9 rating, which makes it the highest-rated college basketball game on ESPN2 this season for both men and women, but people still continued to comment that they are ruining the game and that nobody watches.
While thinking about waiting outside in the absolute freezing, windy winter cold for four hours to barely get a front row seat to this historic spectacle still fills me with elation, I can see now that the feeling is not mutual; most people really just don’t care. I don’t know why I expected them to.
The reality is, female athletes and teams like the UConn women continue to defy expectations and perform at a dynastic level, but sexism in sports may be more rampant than ever. And if this didn’t do the trick, then I don’t think anything can ever stop it from being a prevalent issue.
So where do we, as sports fans and as a society, go from here?
Well, they always say that the first step toward recovery is admittance. Even if people making sexist comments claim to be joking and brand you as a “whiny snowflake liberal” for calling them out on what they think is a harmless joke, there’s no denying that the remarks are deeply rooted in unconscious (or conscious) sexism, and there is no amount of backlash us decent human beings can give them that will make them change their mind. We just have to admit that prejudice is always going to exist, no matter what.
The second thing to do is pinpoint exactly where the double standards lie. People continue to make fun of Brittney Griner because not only is her physique and her voice reminiscent of a stereotypical male, but she is also lesbian, fulfilling two awful stereotypes that society has about female athletes that make Griner easy picking for the trolls.
On the flip side, people tend to oversexualize female athletes with a body type that society finds appealing, and put emphasis on their “nice butt” or how good they look in a swimsuit, often completely disregarding their success as an athlete in whatever sport they might play.
It’s a lose-lose situation. People always want to see female athletes as just ladies in bikinis, but the moment Brandi Chastain took off her shirt in celebration, she was ridiculed. Even when a franchise proves their athleticism much by winning 11 national championships and 100 games in a row, they’re dismissed because they are female.
People want competition, but once they get it, they suddenly become uncomfortable with the idea that a woman can be athletic and successful that they immediately start reducing the athletes to their body, or their voice, or which way they put up their hair.
Serena Williams has been combatting sexism forever, and she’s the champion of the cause. She’s written powerful open letters that aren’t addressed to sexists, but rather to the young women trying to break through every barrier that seems to pop up every time they break one down, boldly claiming that “we should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.”
While Williams focuses on other technical issues like equal pay, she has been correctly conveying the message that we all ought to replicate. Sexism is always going to exist, and bad people will always be consumed by prejudice. But if we tell youth early that fighting extra hard to earn accolades is exactly what makes you stronger than everyone else, then there’s no need to try and terminally end sexism.
One hundred wins in a row matter because the UConn women continue to play incredible, dominant basketball despite how many people dismiss their accomplishments solely because they’re female. One hundred matters because they defied expectations in what was branded a “rebuilding year.” One hundred matters because they’re showing the world what a team is capable of with enough hard work and dedication, regardless of gender.
As long as we try to inspire enough people and watch them grow up to be strong-minded, then maybe, just maybe, we can supply them with the tools to steer society down an infinitely better path, in a future where the UConn women are going for their 200th-straight win.