Take the sexism out of sports

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Sports are a huge part of my life. I love playing them and I love watching them. I have been excited for the 2016 Olympics since the 2012 Games ended.

Like many other viewers of the Olympic Games, I love watching gymnastics. Just walk into a room and ask people about their favorite Olympic sport. Half those answers will be gymnastics or ice skating. The fan favorite Olympic events are the ones where women dominate the conversation, but the amazing athletes that compete in these events don’t get half the respect of their male counterparts.

During spirit week, I was watching the Carnegie Mellon University vs. Case Western Reserve University women’s soccer match. The match was intense, and all the athletes were playing well. Five minutes into the game, though, I was ready to leave. It had nothing to do with the game itself, but rather the rude group of boys next to me demeaning women’s soccer.

It sickens me to hear people rag on women’s sports. Just because women are playing doesn’t mean a sport should matter any less. What differences are there between women’s soccer and men’s soccer that give people such polarizing opinions of the two? Gender isn’t a good enough answer, but it seems to be the only one people have.

That kind of talk discourages young girls from aspiring to higher levels of athletics. Maybe one day we could have a WNBA league as large as the NBA, but if people keep undermining women’s sports it will never happen.

It’s fine not to like watching women’s sports, but saying they are less interesting or less intense than the male counterpart is blatant sexism. There is literally no point in ruining women’s sports for everyone else based solely on personal opinion. Women’s sports matter to half of the world’s population, and more to little girls who aspire to be athletes. Enjoying women’s sports doesn’t mean enjoying men’s sports any less, it just means appreciating the hard work of every athlete. Female athletes train just has hard as their male counterparts and deserve the same level of respect.

It might be easy to believe women’s soccer is finally getting the respect it deserves due to the U.S. Women’s team crushing the competition at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The final match vs. Japan shattered the record for the most viewed soccer match in America, male or female. But their prize money was only 5.7 percent of what Germany’s team earned for winning the Men’s World Cup. As soon as the World Cup ended, people slipped right back into old habits of teasing female soccer players.

If there is to be real change, we need to give more respect to female athletes. Women are becoming more visible in sports reporting as well as in coaching positions, but until we see more women being celebrated on the actual field of play, the sexist undertone of the athletic community will never fade. Athletes are powerful and inspirational, regardless of their gender. As sports fans we should offer them our respect or disdain based on our fan affiliations, not on gender.

So next time you want to make a rude comment about women’s sports do the world a favor; shut up and keep your sexist views to yourself.