Volume XII, May 2020
THE WOMENâ€™S ISSUE
8 p. 2
TRAINING FOR TWO @vikingsportsmag
| MAY 2020
STAFF EDITORS IN CHIEF
Sofia Bliss-Carrascosa Yael Sarig
Leslie Aboytes Josephine Andersen Miles Breen Jackson Bundy Eunice Cho Katherine Cheng Summer Daniel Sanaz Ebrahimi Hallie Faust Ashley Guo Ethan Hwang Hayden Jung-Goldberg Anya Lassila Chloe Laursen Kate Milne Antonia Mou Lucy Nemerov Natalie Schilling Avantika Singh Victoria Soulodre Libby Spier Emma Stefanutti Ben Stein Kira Sterling Audrey Teo Will Thomas Fiza Usman Jasmine Venet Gwyneth Wong
MANAGING EDITORS Vijay Homan Ziggy Tummalapalli
COPY EDITORS James Fetter Sophie Kadifa Leila Khan
DESIGN DIRECTOR Frida Rivera
Hana Erickson Victoria Soulodre
PHOTO EDITOR Jenna Hickey
features editor Antonia Mou
Viking Magazine Palo Alto High School 50 Embarcadero Road Palo Alto, CA 94301 650-329-3837 Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising and Sponsorship Contact: email@example.com
Viking, a sports magazine published by the students in Palo Alto High School’s Advanced Magazine Journalism class, is an open forum for student expression and the discussion of issues of concern to its readership. The Viking is distributed to its readers and the student body at no cost. The staff welcomes letters to the editor, but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length, grammar, potential libel, invasion of privacy and obscenity. Advertising in Viking The staff publishes advertisements with signed contracts providing they are not deemed by the staff inappropriate for the magazine’s audience. For more information about advertising with The Viking, please contact the The Viking by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Printing Services 2,500 copies of The Viking are printed, six times a year by Folger Graphics in Hayward, Calif. Logo Font Courtesy of Måns Grebäck All photos taken from Creative Commons unless noted. Cover and lineup art by Yael Sarig.
FROM THE EDITORS or the two of us, the past few months have revolved around a unique opportunity — an opportunity to create lasting change within Paly. Spurred on by an innovation grant that dared Paly journalists to come up with a novel idea to improve the journalism program, we decided to create a special women-focused edition of Viking in addition to our standard six issues. Featuring exclusively womencentric stories, the issue aims to address some of the shocking disparities we saw in representation of female and male sports within the magazine and in the greater sports world. We independently conducted a diversity audit of the last five years of Viking and the last 14 issues of Sports Illustrated and found that only 7.2% of Viking’s pages have featured women-centric stories; the figure rises to only 9.1% for Sports Illustrated. The pattern is harrowing; we’ve long known that sports media in particular is a key contributor to the sexism present in sports culture, but we hadn’t imagined that the imbalance could be so extreme. This disparity is one that devalues the world of female athletics, and promotes the limiting perspective that sports are by men, for men, to be enjoyed only by men. We’ve often felt that our feminist principles have made us outsiders in the world of sports, and while at times it felt that undertaking this project would only alienate us more, we both began journalism to write the stories that we thought would matter most, not those that required the least amount of work. It’s hard to tackle the inequality that we see present in the entire world, but the magazine is something we can have a direct impact on. As we’ve approached the end of our tenure in Viking, we’ve felt the uncertainty of Viking’s future looming — what will our staff-writers do with the magazine we’ve worked so hard to improve? Yet the women’s edition has given us something to latch onto; we intend for it to serve as a wakeup call not only to our own staff, but to the entire journalism program at Paly. The Women’s Issue can, perhaps, set the expectation for Viking next year, show our writers and readers that the magazine should not be allowed to revert to its old ways without facing criticism. And beyond serving as a call to action — something to inspire future journalists once we’ve left Paly — we hope it’ll be something that can prove that even in high school, with limited resources, it’s possible to make something bold and new, something better than what the world as a whole offers. When the shelter-in-place order took form and schools were shut down, many of the ways we privately imagined the Women’s Issue taking form became unrealistic. And certainly, we doubted the relevancy of the project — who cares, anymore, about a sports magazine filled with stories about female athletes?
But when we think back to the story ideas session held just eight days before the announcement of Paly’s emergency closure, we remember feeling for the first time that this magazine would undoubtedly become a reality. After all the doubts we’d had while writing the grant application, and having been disappointed by the low turnout to the initial meetings, our faith was restored when our brainstorming session ran almost two hours, and the whiteboard we’d used to write down story ideas was so full that nearly every square inch was marked by red or green ink. The Women’s Issue was, for some time, our small private joy. We knew how much we cared about its creation, and about women’s sports — for us, the magazine was an opportunity to correct long-standing injustices within the sports world, ones we’d been exposed to both as sports fans and as sports journalists. However, it was essential for us to prove that other people could care about the magazine, too. When the project received the grant funding, that mission was fulfilled: people wanted this, and could rally behind it. Victory at last. But we want the Women’s Issue to be much more than our own personal triumph. A magazine gains its meaning once it leaves its editors’ hands and makes its way into the world. We’re proud of the staff we’ve assembled, and we know the simple existence of these stories in the world represents us taking a stand. And while we think the simple act of putting these stories into the world is a powerful statement, we want certain audiences to benefit from the magazine, too. We want young journalists to see this can be done, that the first high school sports magazine in the country can also become the first high school sports magazine in the country to represent women in an unprecedented way. And we want those in Viking to read the Women’s Issue, to see in it the precedent we hope to be setting for years to come. This is our legacy, what we leave behind when we leave Viking. The future of Viking, the future of sports journalism in Paly and beyond, was reason enough to fight for the issue. Although it started as a pet project dreamed up in midnight conversations between two best friends, we always wanted the Women’s Issue to grow bigger than either one of us: we want the Women’s Issue to help form the future. Yours,
1 Point for 4
The girls varsity volleyball team celebrate a point made by libero Rebekah Limb (â€˜20) in a CCS Open Division match against the Menlo Atherton Bears.
the Vikings Photo by Jenna Hickey
| MAY 2020
VIKES BATTLE IT OUT 6
| MAY 2020
Photos by Jenna Hickey
Hana Erickson (â€˜21) passes the ball under a beautiful sunset. The game, going into double overtime, ended with Lulu Gaither (â€˜21) scoring the game-winning goal, putting the Vikings over the Eagles 13-12.
She shoots... 8
Teammate Sarah Kim (â€˜21) goes for a high-five with Mariana Kessinger (â€˜22) after she scores her second goal against Saratoga.
and scores! Photos by Jenna Hickey @vikingsportsmag
| MAY 2020
TO MAC BOOSTERS
for funding the creation of the Women’s Issue through their Innovation Grant. The Women’s Issue was made possible by your belief in our project and your trust in our vision. and
THANK YOU TO THE ANTHRO, CAMPANILE, C MAG, KPLY, MADRONO, VERDE, VIKING, AND VOICE WRITERS
who joined our staff, making the Women’s Issue a united effort within Paly’s journalism program, and for sticking with us even as schools closed down, proving that this is something that we all passionately believe in no matter the circumstances. 10 | VIKING MAGAZINE | vikingsportsmag.com 10 | VIKING MAGAZINE | vikingsportsmag.com
ZOOMS INTRO PACKAGE WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? DOUBLE STANDARDS THE SWIMSUIT ISSUE
4 12 18 20 22
YOU WATCH SPORTS?
MILESTONES OF CHANGE TRAINING FOR TWO COACH’S CORNER
THE WOMEN BEHIND THE MADNESS ON THE BASIS OF GENDER FACES OF WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UNEMPOWER PUFF DEAR BODY POSITIVY
34 36 38 44 46 47 @vikingsportsmag
| MAY 2020
Get to Know Your Vikings... By JENNA HICKEY, HAYDEN JUNG-GOLDBERG, and WILL THOMAS
Amelia Clough (‘20)
Lilli Corny (‘20)
Grace Thayer (‘20)
Photos courtesy of Karen Ambrose Hickey
Young by Big Ma
Doesn’t really listen to music
Best Paly Event?
Rowing or Softball
Lacrosse or Horseback riding
Al Lee (‘20) or Helen Maroulis
Jerry from “Cheer” on Netflix
Annika Shah (‘21)
Sport Swap? Athlete Swap?
Inside the mind of...
“Going in as pretty much the last seeded team, we were just happy to qualify. We played well at States and won, which is a moment I’ll never forget.”
“As I got older, I started to quit some sports I wasn’t as serious about, and ended up choosing golf to focus on.”
Did you ever feel like quitting?
“Golf is a pretty frustrating sport, so I would be lying if I said I never though about quitting. However, I always knew that I should stay dedicated and committed to the sport, because I knew I could have a future with it.”
“We really enjoy jamming out to throwback songs in the van on the way to the tournament.”
“We love each other and know each other very well, which I think really helps us play better.” 12
What was winning States like?
Katherine Sung (‘20)
2 0 1 9 2 0 2 0
Girls golf wins States
Girls Wrestling Place 1st at SCVALS
Cheer Wins 4th at Nationals
Top and middle photos courtesy of Karen Ambrose Hickey, bottom photo by Jenna Hickey @vikingsportsmag
| MAY 2020
OLYMPIC US Women’s National Soccer Team: 2019 World Cup Champions 4 Stars 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists TIME’s 2019 Athlete of the Year Photo by Jamie Smed via Flickr
Katie Ledecky: 5 Olympic Gold and 15 World Championship medals Holds World Records in 400, 800, and 1500 meters Photo by JD Lasica via Flickr
Has broken 14 WR in career
POWERHOUSES Simone Biles:
4 Gold at 2016 (Team, AA, VT, Floor) Most Decorated Gymnast in History 25 World Championship Medals 4 skills named after her -Biles (FX, VT, BB) -Biles ll (FX)
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Coco Gauff: 16 year old phenom Competed at Wimbledon against the best Won first singles title in October 2019 Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
| MAY 2020
Where are the Women? When we set out to make a Viking Women’s Issue, our goal was not to expose Viking’s shortcomings to our community and report negatively on our own publication, it was to show our readers a problem that systematically affects the world of sports reporting. Here, as we look through several other sports publications, we see the same problem.
of cover pages included women.
For the purposes of this data, a women-centric story was defined as an entire page of the magazine dedicated entirely to a story about a female athlete, female-only team, or topic related to female athletics.
The most recent issue of Viking Magazine was not included in the audit, but it shows a marked change in content. Of Issue 5,
of the magazine was dedicated to womencentric stories. This issue was not printed so this percentage is not by pages but rather by number of stories.
Au dit e
01 4 st 2
Text by HANA ERICKSON Design by SOFIA BLISSCARRASCOSA and HANA ERICKSON
of the magazine was dedicated to women centric stories.
of the regular magazine was dedicated to women-centric stories.
—September 2019 2019 h c ar
A large portion of these pages came from a special issue, featuring the US Women’s National Team after their 2019 World Cup win.
28% of covers contained images of female athletes.
nuary 2018-A om Ja pril d fr 20 e t i 20 d Au
of covers contained images of female athletes. As empowering as it is to inspire young boys with their favorite professional athletes, it is equally as important to inspire young girls as well. Equally representing men and women in content that impressionable children consume fosters participation in sports from all genders.
Sports Illustrated had a women’s issue that ran for 20 issues starting in March 2000. Unfortunately, the magazine sold poorly, so the last issue was printed in November of 2002. However, Sports Illustrated has been printing a different kind of “Women’s Issue” for decades, the SI Swimsuit Issue. While it is a magazine produced by a sports publication containing only women, it doesn’t focus on female professional athletes, it focuses on female models. This issue perpetuates the idea that when women are on the cover of these magazines it’s to show off their appearances, whereas when men are on the cover it’s for their accomplishments.
of cover pages included women.
1 ry 20
8 to June 2019
ESPN’s Body Issue started in 2009 with a mission to “celebrate the incredible power of the athletic form.” They produced this issue to respond to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Unlike the Swimsuit Issue, the Body Issue has real athletes as the models and there is equal representation of genders and sports. The purpose is to celebrate everything that makes an athlete’s body: muscles, skin, scars, and more.
| MAY 2020
PROBLEMS POOL DECK
FEMALE AQUATIC ATHLETES STRUGGLE WITH RESTRICTIONS ON ATTIRE
Text by BEN STEIN, KIRA STERLING, and AUDREY TEO
t the highest levels of swimming, races are decided by milliseconds. From intense workouts to expensive and suffocatingly skin-tight tech suits, both male and female swimmers go to great lengths to squeeze that extra bit of performance out of their bodies, and athletes at Palo Alto High School are no different. But for female swimmers like Elizabeth Fetter (‘23), these vital racing suits, which reach from just above the knee up to the shoulders, can be the source of much discomfort. “I often do feel uncomfortable [in my tech suit] because the straps dig into my shoulders,” Fetter said. Female athletes have developed a solution to this problem so they can
between events and the more restrictive tech suit for racing. But at high school meets, the current National Federation of Swimming and Diving rules — cited by California’s Central Coast Section swimming and diving bylaws — prohibit two-piece suits for females. Furthermore, deck-changing is not allowed at swim meets, meaning that swimmers can be disqualified for changing in and out of their bikini tops on deck. So while swimmers need to deckchange in order to stay comfortable while still complying with the onepiece swimsuit rule, deck-changing is prohibited. In order to circumnavigate these rules, some female swimmers have taken to wearing shirts over their bikini tops. Although functional as a temporary workaround, the need for female swimmers to wear shirts on the pool deck makes athletes question the unequal treatment of male and female swimmers by the rulebook. — Eden Ball ('22) “I think it’s kind of a stupid rule because guys can wear their tech focus on their races rather than on suits and not have to wear a t-shirt and shoulder pain. Between events, they girls can’t even wear a bikini top [or else] relieve the tension by peeling off the get disqualified,” senior Erykah Dorigatti top halves of their tech suits, keeping said. “I don’t think it is being used fairly just the bottom portion on, and opt for because if it was, the guys should also bikinis on top. This adaptation mirrors wear t-shirts.” the more comfortable tech suits of their Other swimmers have expressed their male counterparts, which just cover their discontent around the sacrifice of their lower bodies. comfort and the disruption of their At any club swim meet, swimmers headspace on race days due to this high can be seen quickly changing between school guideline. the comfortable two-piece for waiting “It creates an environment where I have
It creates an environment where I have to think about something besides simply racing ... It makes me feel objectified, and like I'm not valued for the work I put in."
Art by KIRA STERLING
to think about something besides simply racing, and it can be in the back of my head,” Eden Ball (‘22) said. “It makes me feel objectified, and like I'm not valued for the work I put in.” These rules mandating proper suit coverage and prohibiting deck changing are essential in maintaining an appropriate competition environment for high school swimmers. But as
long as swimmers stay covered, which is especially to have a little more exposure a function that bikini tops provide, and because it is more comfortable and wear the appropriate one-piece during works better with our skills,” water competition, it’s not clear why a change polo player Chesnie Cheung (‘20) said. of uniform to serve a practical need “Having extra fabric showing leads to is prohibited. Especially if the change you being dragged around the pool, occurs in the locker room, there is no especially with such a contact sport.” reason that an athlete’s opportunity to For school-issued suits, it’s nearly compete should be jeopardized by a impossible to ensure that one suit will choice to alleviate discomfort. And when fit every player identically, since the the enforcement of these rules comes at same suit can fit different body types in the cost of athletes’ comfort, focus, and a multitude of ways. For taller players, ultimately performance, it’s a disruption for example, suits that are meant to that must be addressed. be full coverage can easily ride up Swimmers aren’t the only ones unintentionally. dissatisfied by restrictions on their attire. Cheung said that in her four years Alexandra Lee (‘20), captain of the girls playing water polo at Paly, “Every varsity water polo team, said she was water polo CCS or leagues [game] frustrated by a confrontation about the I’ve been to, there has been at team’s suits at a CCS quarterfinal game least one precaution from a in 2017. parent or official telling us “Before the game, a CCS volunteer to cover ourselves and pull called the team out of the pool and our suits out of our butts called us over,” Lee said. “She then told when we got out of the us that when we got out of the pool, we pool.” needed to immediately put on a towel or No one can dispute that a parka to, in her words, ‘cover our buns’, the rules that exist are in because there might be some old men in place for a reason, which is the stands who would get overly excited to maintain an appropriate and have a heart attack from seeing ‘our competition environment and buns.’” e n s u r e Lee said that the the safety of volunteer’s offhand all athletes. But comment struck her female players as inappropriate say they’re and said, “The tired of being fact that her told time and logic for it was time again to to protect the old “cover up,” men, and not the while their male players, really sat counterparts wrong.” compete without The coverage having to worry and shape of a about anything water polo suit is but the game. closely tied to its “If you look functionality. Suits at the guys’ that are considered suits, that’s not full coverage tend to completely be very baggy and — Alexandra Lee ('20) covering their “give a lot of room butt either and for the opposing they aren’t team to grab,” getting in which is something that is problematic trouble the same way we are,” Lee said. “I in water polo, according to Lee. And in certainly don’t think it’s fair to be holding a sport with this level of physicality and girls and guys athletics to a different aggression, every inch of fabric makes a standard, especially when it comes to difference. something like clothing that can also To this end, many players prefer higher- affect our self image and perception. cut suits that may be more revealing, but When the messaging comes from as far ensure that opponents can’t get a grip up as CCS that they care more about the and gain a positioning advantage. men in the stands than the protection of “It’s natural for water polo players their athletes, I think that is a problem.”
She told us that ... there might be some old men in the stands who would get overly excited and have a heart attack from seeing ‘our buns.’"
too emotiona passion not as st rong powerful strong p mature weaker than a and levelman headed
DOUBLE STANDARDS not an
DOUBLE STANDARDS athlete cries too
he’s a winner champ conﬁdent
much not competitor dresses like
he’s got my
respect he’s so a slut runs like conﬁdent look at a girl weak that strength
Irrational. Hormonal. Not feminine enough. These phrases, demeaning and close-minded, are oftentimes used in the media to describe the athletic feats many female athletes accomplish within their careers. Where men are described as passionate and fierce, women are oftentimes boiled down to a simplistic, dramatized stereotype. The discriminatory double standards that female athletes face are pervasive from a high-school to a professional level. Text by LESLIE ABOYTES, LUCY NEMEROV, and FIZA USMAN Design by YAEL SARIG
ne of the most memorable tennis matches in recent history, Serena Williams’ 2018 Open Match against Naomi Osaka, wasn’t the subject of mainstream media attention because the two women involved are some of the most talented and impressive women to ever play the sport. Nor was it heavily reported on because of the dramatic implications involved, the potential storyline behind William’s long-held crown being seized. Instead, the New York Times published nearly a dozen different articles covering the penalties that Williams was awarded by umpire Carlos Ramos during the match. Many of the penalties seemed to be outrageous, or at the very least undeserved, and appeared to echo something Williams has fought back against throughout her entire career as a 20
professional tennis player. made. He wasn’t subject to a barrage As a black woman who has seen of criticism that was based squarely in immense success in her sport, whose gender roles, though Williams was. prowess intimidates her opponents, For centuries, men and women have she’s been typecast as an “angry black been prescribed a set of unspoken woman” whenever she shows anger rules that they are intended to strictly on the court. adhere to. Society Compare this has created an to Steph Curry’s expectation of outburst in what is allowed Game 6 of the for each gender, 2016 NBA Finals giving women the when he hurled short end of the his mouthguard stick in the realm into the stands of sports. Whether — AISHVARYA BEDI it’s regarding the after fouling out of the uniforms, emotions, game on a call or even ideal body he considered suspect. While criticism types, differing standards between of Curry abounded — he was called genders continue to exist. unprofessional and a sore loser — no The differing public reactions towards personal attacks on his character were athletes’ behaviors poses many
They don't treat me as a golfer. They treat me as a female.
questions. Why is it that if a woman cries she is considered irrational, hormonal, overreacting, or any number of disparaging remarks? Why does criticism lodged against the clothing of female athletes fall in one of two extremes? Either they should be skimpier, sexier, more womanly, or they should cover up. Men, conversely, are allowed to simply be athletes without being critiqued like fashion models or eye candy. When a man shows his emotion on the court or field, he’s seen as powerful or passionate. Women, on the other hand, seem to be subject to incredible scrutiny. Nearly — any expression of emotion from a female athlete is psychoanalyzed by media and fans alike. Gabby Douglas has received criticism for everything from her hair not being straight enough to her perceived lack of sufficient enthusiasm when cheering on her teammates. When Megan Rapinoe became a vocal activist for equal pay for the US women’s soccer team, it wasn’t her argument that received attacks, it was her looks or sexuality — comments centered on how she doesn’t look enough “like a girl.” Because surely, a world champion should be focused on growing her hair out and painting her nails. And the disparity is not something faced exclusively by professional female athletes. Aishvarya Bedi, a Saint Francis High School senior, started playing golf when she was five years old after taking inspiration from her father and older brother. The more she played, the more passionate she became, and found herself intensely loving the sport. “It’s the way they talk to me,” Bedi said. “They don’t treat me as a golfer. They treat me as a female.” At her country club, Bedi isn’t taken as seriously as she would like. She has even been stopped in the middle of her practice so that the boys have more room. She recounts the backhanded remarks she receives from people congratulating her on staying active instead of commenting on her formidable golf skills. Her brother Rajvir Bedi, however,
receives an entirely different reaction while playing the same sport. He has an easier time gaining respect from people and is never questioned on his decision to play. Not only are they often questioned for wanting to compete, but women are usually discouraged from voicing their opinions in fear that they will be taken the wrong way and out of context. “I do want to make a name for myself in golf, but I’m afraid if I talk back to these people ANNIKA SHAH they’re gonna take it as d i s re s p e c t ,” Bedi said. “I hate being scared to voice my opinions.” Bedi has noticed this double standard prominently in the way that society responds to emotional outbursts from athletes of each sex. Where strong emotional reactions from men are seen as passionate outbursts, they are considered dramatic and unprofessional for women. “I am 100 percent confident that if I were to voice my opinions on these matters everyone would take me as this emotional and overbearing person who loves to argue and [start] problems,” Bedi said. “If a male golfer was angry and hit his golf club on the ground, he is just trying to show his frustration. It’s OK. When a female golfer hits their club on the side of the putt it’s like we are too emotional.” Annika Shah, a junior who has played basketball since kindergarten, agrees with Bedi’s statement, saying that she has directly experienced instances of gender discrimination as a female athlete. With experience playing on both male and female teams, it was not long before she could recognize the stark difference in treatment towards male and female athletes. “Male athletes are often seen losing their temper and swearing and showing attitude towards the referee, and most of the time they get left with a warning,” Shah said. “Though, if a female were to
Women are competitors like men ... and we should be allowed to show our emotions just like men.
show these expressions, it is more likely for them to receive a penalty.” In Shah’s many years of playing basketball, she has noticed how the response given by referees to athletes varies. “My sophomore year of high school basketball, I went up for a layup and got hit in the head,” Shah said. “The referee seemed to have not seen it, so I decided to let them know after I attempted the layup, so they could be more aware of the fouls.” Simply because she stood up for herself and explained her situation to the referees, Shah was given a technical foul which allowed the opposing team to obtain the ball, resulting in free throws. “I do agree that I raised my voice, but it was almost ten times less than what some of the boys do during their games when they disagree with a call,” Shah said. “I was furious because it felt unfair.” Shah continues to advocate for equality in sports and to redefine what it means to be a female athlete. Throughout her basketball journey, she has not let society influence her decision to play traditionally masculine sports like basketball. “Most sports played are male dominated due to the history of the sport, and yes, we can’t change history, but we can change the present,” Shah said. “I think people just need to understand that women are competitors like men. We are passionate about our sport and we should be allowed to show our emotions just like men.” At the end of the day, female athletes seek the same amount of respect, gratitude and forgiveness men get on their fields. “It’s OK if you are not a fan of women’s sports, but [it’s not OK] to be blatantly disrespectful to those that sacrifice their body and time to go professional, or even if they aren’t, it’s something they put their heart and soul into,” said Aurea Gingras, a D1 basketball player at George Washington University. Serena Williams throwing her racket on the floor was just an introduction. It’s time the media delves deeper and realizes that the problem is much bigger than the unfair treatment seen in that match. No longer can we hide behind the excuse that “boys will be boys,” while holding women — just as passionate, just as competitive, just as spirited — to different standards. “I don’t want to be seen through a gender perspective,” Bedi said. “I want to be seen as an athlete.”
| MAY 2020
ISSUE by ASHLEY GUO Additional reporting by SUMMER DANIEL
Even as female athletes begin to top sports headlines for their achievements and breakthroughs, the Swimsuit Issue continues to be Sports Illustratedâ€™s main coverage of women. With no choice but to confront the male gaze in sports media, female athletes take it upon themselves to define what it really means to be a woman in sports.
usty women in skimpy bikinis pose their tanned and toned bodies in provocative poses on the sand. Spreads feature these beautiful models showing off their bodies. This is not Playboy — this is Sports Illustrated. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is published annually and features models and celebrities in revealing swimwear. For many models, earning a spot on the cover of this issue is considered to be an effective gateway to a successful modeling career. For sports fans, the highly anticipated Swimsuit Issue has become a cultural phenomenon. Now a mainstream symbol of what sexiness and femininity should be, the Swimsuit Issue in modern times seeks to promote inclusivity as it features more races, cultures, and body types. Last year, the Swimsuit Issue featured a model dressed in a hijab and burkini, a full-coverage swimsuit. While this is impressive, Sports Illustrated has yet to address the real issue at hand. By featuring women on the cover only once a year as eye candy — even inclusive eye candy — the swimsuit edition perpetuates the male gaze in sports media. When female athletes are recognized for their appearance on the Swimsuit Issue rather than for their athletic accomplishments, their talent and hard work is belittled by the overwhelming response that implies that how they look is more important than what they’ve done. Originally invented by editor Andre Laguerre, the first swimsuit edition was released in 1964 to fill the slower winter months where there wasn’t as much to cover in sports. The Swimsuit Issue then grew to be the major media phenomenon that it is today under the direction of fashion — read, not sports — reporter Jule Campbell, defining a new supermodel era. During the cultural shift of the 1960s, Campbell capitalized on the ever-progressing social standards in order to “stir the pot a little,” per Laguerre’s request. Instead of using the typical “high fashion” models, Campbell preferred younger, fresher models
from California who appeared “healthier.” She wanted them to appear sprightly and energetic. These models were tanner and bustier than ever. From that point on, Campbell cultivated an empire. Being chosen by Campbell meant instant supermodel success, and the magazine profited immensely. In 1997, the swimsuit edition became a stand-alone issue separate from the magazine’s standard weekly coverage. From there, it became the bestselling issue for Time Inc., Sports Illustrated’s parent company. In 2011, the swimsuit edition accounted for 7% of Sports Illustrated’s annual revenue, selling 10 to 15 times more than a regular issue. Despite being a lucrative money-making opportunity and a longstanding tradition, the Swimsuit Issue’s roots in the 1960s have proven it to be the result of antiquated gender norms, and it now only serves to remind people that an athletic woman is defined by how well she fits into a bikini. It’s a sign that the male gaze has become too dominant in our society when it takes highly sexualized images of women to increase readership for a sports publication. In a publicized instance of the male gaze at work in 2004, thenpresident of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, suggested that female soccer players wear tighter shorts to increase the game’s popularity. Blatter’s infamous comment on women’s attire is an example of the sexism that women athletes face. The leader of what is arguably the most famous governing sports body in the world famously commented that women’s soccer is supposed to portray “a more female aesthetic,” which, as he explained, is why the women play with a lighter ball. Except the women don’t play with a lighter ball. This only reflects the doublestandard in regards to comparing female and male athletic bodies. While men are expected to be bulkier, larger and muscular, female athletes are still presumed to be thinner and more petite — a bikini body — no matter the sport. As reporting of female athletes
caters to the male gaze, talented women such as Simone Biles have to reckon with the fact their perfectly trained physiques are not the “ideal,” struggling with body image issues that men would not be faced with. “Going to public school, nobody really had a body build that I did, and I was a girl, so the guys would sometimes make fun of me,” Biles said in a 2016 interview with CNN. That kind of muscular build and her perfectly attuned body was exactly what enabled her to win four Olympic gold medals at a single Olympic games — an American record. Yet people still took to social media to make negative comments about her defined physique, reducing her incredible athletic success by refocusing the conversation to the shape of her body. As a sports publication, one would hope that Sports Illustrated represents the gender diversity that exists in athletics, yet most of its magazine covers feature male athletes ranging from football players to basketball players to swimmers. While the magazine does recognize a few of only the most famous female athletes such as Megan Rapinoe and Serena Williams, women are scarcely mentioned until their turn in the spotlight comes in the swimsuit edition. When they are featured in regular issues, they are not often featured as the primary image, as many of these instances included images of women as insets or in collages of male and female athletes. Simone Biles has been featured twice in recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues, a positive step towards athletic representation in the swimsuit models. However, this does not distract from the root of the issue: why are women most recognized for being in Sports Illustrated when they’re in the Swimsuit Issue? Female sexuality and athletics are two disparate realms that mesh together far too often. Whether it is the push for more skin-tight, feminine uniforms or the shaming of the musculature of female athletes, women’s bodies have always been under scrutiny in
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“People are catching on that what the media portrays isn’t always right or ideal.” — Kimi Lillios (‘21) athletics. As a new generation of athletes rises to confront this issue, they make it clear that female athletes are not here to play to the male gaze as they take control of their own body image, confidence and empowerment. Paly volleyball player Kimi Lillios (‘21) believes that while sports can help girls build self-confidence in their abilities and bodies, certain norms and media portrayals contribute to a competitive atmosphere where athletes feel inclined to compare their bodies to an ideal. “At volleyball tournaments you’re surrounded by hundreds of girls, many of whom have stereotypical volleyball physiques,” Lillios said. “Since you’re at a competition where teams and players are inherently being compared, it’s easy to slip into the mindset that you should be comparing everything, including looks.” Volleyball has a history of viewing female players’ bodies differently than male athletes. “Volleyball definitely isn’t alone in the fact that the girl version of the sport has more form-fitting clothing than [its] male counterpart,” Lillios said. “It’s a stereotype that’s been passed down over generations, and I think now that it’s established it’s so normalized.” The way modern media portrays female athletes is part of what continues perpetuating this concept of how athletes and women should look. Working towards changing that narrative can help women slowly promote body confidence in athletics. “The influence on young girls is where the foundation of body image and body confidence is established, and a lot of girls are influenced by these media outlets,” Lillios said. “Changing the message that we are sending out to the youth would change the personal narrative within each of these girls.” While female athletes have come very far, there are still some ways to go. “Influencing the media isn’t an easy feat, so we as individuals also need to make a more conscious effort to promote 24
body positivity and self-confidence,” Lillios said. “This movement is definitely becoming more popular, and people are catching on that what the media portrays isn’t always right or ideal.” Despite these initial obstacles, her years playing volleyball have helped Lillios become comfortable in her body. “Sports definitely helped me be proud of my body, and in hindsight, I know that I would not be as confident in my own body if I hadn’t gotten into sports,” Lillios said. For athletes such as Siskens and Lillios, sports has become a source of pride, and they have come to be proud of their athletic bodies. “I think having an athletic build is a good thing and can be worth showing off because it represents the amount of effort you put in,” Siskens said. Today, some sportswear companies are taking that step to uplift female athletes by marketing swimsuits for active women. Featuring women such as water polo player and Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson, JOLYN is one such brand that stays true to this mission by always including an athlete or model in an active context. “What makes JOLYN stand out from brands like Nike is how it’s so popular and flexible through many sports,” Chesnie Cheung (‘20), a Paly water polo player, said. These steps towards positive media coverage of women make it clear that while behemoths of sports media such as Sports Illustrated continue to push out one-dimensional media coverage of women in the world of sports, there is still hope for female athletes as a new generation of athletes and sports brands takes the world by storm. While the Swimsuit Issue remains problematic and perpetuates antiquated norms, time and time again, women have proven themselves to be more than their bodies. As they find confidence in their athletic abilities, they uplift other female athletes around them.
by KATHERINE CHENG, additional reporting by SANAZ EBRAHIMI
YOU WATCH SPORTS? PERSPECTIVES OF A FEMALE SPORTS FAN S
ITTING ACROSS FROM ME, my classmate casually asked, “what was the score of last night’s Warriors game?” Shouting the question out loud, directed at nobody and everybody, he didn’t receive a response for several seconds. I spoke up, offering the answer. The reaction I’d gotten after responding was somewhere in between surprise and skepticism, but as a quiet fifth grader who had just peeked at the score on my TV the night before, I shrugged and didn’t think much of the situation. In the six years since, I’ve grown from a casual, playoffs-only basketball viewer to someone who has spent hours pouring over sports news and player stats. What hasn’t changed in those six years is the reaction and tone of surprise directed towards me each time I decide to contribute to any sportsrelated conversation. Countless times, I’ve heard the question, “Whoa, you watch sports?” from girls, boys, kids, and adults. Welcome to the boys’ club Though the “boys’ club” term, referring to a male-dominated career or industry, is often applied to the business and tech industries, it also exists in sports. There is a large gender disparity between men and women across all sports careers and sports-related entertainment. In sports journalism, female reporters are few and far between. According to a report by Ohio University’s Athletic Administration, women account for less than 10% of sports editors for Associated Press Sports Editors publications, and less than 1% of top sports talk show hosts are female. However, the disparity in careers is not a result of the lack Beyond the lack of representation, female reporters are often brutally sexualized by male fans.
of interest women show in sports. The same Ohio University report found that women make up 40% to 47% of the NBA, NFL and MLB fan base. Women make up between 30% to 40% of undergraduate sports management programs, yet hold a minuscule number of positions in the sports industry.
Beyond the lack of representation, female reporters are often brutally sexualized by male fans. They go viral not for their reporting skills, but for their outfits and bodies. Their knowledge and work are dismissed and overlooked by people paying more attention to their appearance instead. It’s our responsibility to honor the work of female reporters as professionals rather than objects. Working to create an environment where women are embraced, not ogled at, begins with sports fans themselves. Scrutiny at school Beyond sports careers, being a female sports fan even as a young girl or teenager comes with its own scrutiny and stereotypes. Though sports can sometimes serve as a good conversation starter, that conversation is almost always preceded by a tone of surprise and something along the lines of, “I didn’t know you liked sports.” Girls are expected to follow the lives of the Kardashians, not the NBA or NFL. The “boys’ club” extends beyond sports careers and into fanbases. The club has perpetuated a feeling that girls are not supposed to be interested in sports. When they do show The [boys’] club has perpetuated a feeling that girls are not supposed to be interested in sports. interest, people are quick to question their genuine curiosity. They say that girls only follow sports to impress and get the attention of boys. They quiz girls on random facts and trivia, as if it takes extensive knowledge of twenty-year-old statistics to be interested in a ball game. As someone who has never played basketball, I acknowledge the unexpectedness that comes with someone interested in a sport they don’t play. However, boys who have never played basketball don’t surprise their peers when they know NBA players and scores of games. I don’t watch sports because I want to try and impress people. I watch sports because they are one of the best forms of entertainment, because of the way they bring people together and because of the supportive community they should create.
by JOSEPHINE ANDERSEN, EUNICE CHO, ANYA LASSILA and RACHAEL VONDERHAAR
MILESTONES OF CHANGE: OVER THE PAST CENTURY, EVEN IN THE RECENT DECADES, WOMEN HAVE REACHED DRASTIC ADVANCEMENTS IN FIGHTING FOR THEIR PLACE IN THE COMPETITIVE ARENA. AROUND THE WORLD, THERE HAS BEEN AN INCREASE IN THE POPULATION OF WOMEN IN SPORTS.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress
Sports were considered “unladylike” and there were widespread, irrational fears about how too much exercise would cause women to go infertile. Certain sports like tennis and croquet were acceptable for elite women because they were considered more leisurely and also required specific outfits, which reaffirmed the femininity of the activity.
Women’s athletics were featured in the Olympic Games for the first time during the 1900 Paris Olympics — nearly three centuries after the first modern versions of the Olympic tournament had taken place. Twentytwo women out of 997 athletes participated, in tennis, horse-riding, croquet, sailing, and golf. More and more events were made available to women in the following years.
Pre 1900s 1900 26
During the Great Depression and when the US joined WWII, gender roles shifted to accommodate for the amount of work women had to take on. Women participated more in domestic labor during the Great Depression, and took over job industries during the war. With the suffragette movement and the increased female workforce, society started to view women as more capable and strong, and it became acceptable to support women’s sports. The first professional women’s baseball league, the All-American Girls Baseball League, was formed to keep baseball in the public eye while male players were off fighting. It remained active through 1954 and had over 600 members at its peak.
Photo courtesy of History by Zim via Florida Memory
Alice Coachman became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold, setting records with her high jump at the 1948 London Olympics. She trained at the all-black Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), which founded the first women’s track team in 1929. After her Olympic success, she went on to support young athletes and older, retired Olympic veterans through the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation.
Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Race officials and viewers tried to physically remove her, but she finished the race. Women weren’t officially allowed to participate in the marathon until Title IX passed.
The Title IX law was enacted in 1973, and it prohibited federally funded institutions from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sex. Now, for the first time, athletic departments were required to provide the same resources to both men and women’s sports teams. “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
In the most watched televised sports match of all time known as the “The Battle of the Sexes,” Billie Jean King faced Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that sparked a movement for women’s equality in sports. Despite being a wellknown top tennis player, in the later years of his life Riggs was notorious for undermining women tennis players by claiming that he could still beat them in a match. In 1973, a 55-yearold Riggs challenged top tennis player and women’s sports equality advocate Billie Jean King to a match. King was ultimately victorious in the match, beating Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 and winning $100,000 in prize money. Her win became a stepping stone for women’s equality in sports, encouraging new female athletes and empowering women to advocate for equal pay in the workforce. Billie Jean King’s accomplishment was more than one tennis match — she helped launch the women’s equality movement in sports. Her impact on women’s sports is still evident today and empowers female athletes for generations to come.
The International Olympic Committee made a historic decision concluding that any new sport seeking to be included on the Olympic program had to include women’s events. Unfortunately, there were still a lot of previously entered events not open to women’s participation that this law didn’t change, and for the next two decades until boxing was opened to women in 2012, women still had to fight for entry into certain events.
The first Women’s World Cup was held in Italy in 1970, but at the time, many countries had still not allowed women’s sports, so it was considered unofficial. Women believed that it was unfair that they were unable to have an official World Cup, so they wanted better effort from the FIFA Congress in promoting women’s soccer. After 45,000 people attended the first women’s invitational tournament in China in 1988, women’s soccer was seen as a “real” sport, and the official FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991, with twelve teams participating.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
At the Olympic games in London, all countries participating sent female athletes for the first time. The US also sent more women than men. Qatar and Brunei sent women from their countries for the first time. The presence of women sent from over 200 countries was a big event that marked a change in women’s sports. Before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games women were not even allowed to run a marathon. With over 40% of the 10,500 participants being female, the 2012 Olympic Games were a huge success for women. Janice Forsyth, director for Olympic Studies, said “we need to celebrate and recognize” these such advances.
“Violent movements of the body can cause a shift in the position and a loosening of the uterus as well as prolapse and bleeding, with resulting sterility, thus defeating a woman’s true purpose in life,” wrote Dr. Gerson in the 1898 German Journal of Physical Education.
A little over a century ago, there was a myth that women could not run marathons because their uteruses would fall out. The unfortunate reality was that this was not just a myth perpetuated as an old wives’ tale and spread through word of mouth — doctors wrote and published this misinformation in professional physical education books. It's not surprising that a myth like this would appear in the 19th century, but what is shocking is how long this myth has carried on today. Katherine Switzer was told by her female high school basketball coach that she couldn't continue to play the same basketball men play because of how rigorous the amount of jumps would be on a woman's uterus. Even as recently as 2010, the International Ski Federation president said on ESPN that a woman's uterus might fall out on the landing of a ski jump. While uterine prolapse is a real medical issue where the uterus is out of position, the National Institute of Health does not list sports or exercise as a cause of the condition.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress @vikingsportsmag
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TRAINING FO R T WO
Hormones run amok, stomach swelling in size, and, after nine months, the birth of a new life. While pregnancy is a life-changing, celebrated process for most, female athletes are rarely able to undergo the experience free from worry. Already burdened by the expectation that they’ll quickly bounce back to their previous physical form, female athletes have also faced severe discrimination from their employers and sponsors. Text by YAEL SARIG, NATALIE SCHILLING, VICTORIA SOULODRE, LIBBY SPIER, EMMA STEFANUTTI, and GWYNETH WONG Art by NATALIE SCHILLING
t’s a sunny June morning in Sacramento, California, and Alysia Montaño bears the look of a competitor so focused on the race ahead of her that she’s immune to the effects of the heat. She’s clad in black compression shorts, a bright pink tank top, and a yellow flower tucked behind one ear, but her distinguishing feature isn’t tied to her vibrant clothing at all. Instead, it’s her bulging baby bump protruding beyond her shirt. Montaño is eight months pregnant, and she isn’t resting at home. No — Montaño is about to race in the 2014 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships’ 800-meter race. Pregnancy and childbirth have long been considered “the miracle of life” and one of life’s greatest journeys. When female athletes become pregnant, their bodies change in ways that directly affect their participation in their sport. They are no longer caring only for the body of a top-tier athlete, but are also met with the demands of a growing fetus and the resulting changes in their physique. Some female athletes choose to take time off, but others elect to train through their pregnancy period. At times this choice is simply that, a personal choice, yet in other instances it stems from a fear of losing contracts or sponsorships during their break. For those who choose to pursue their sport, there are certain risk factors associated with each stage of the pregnancy to both the mother and the fetus. According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, normal risks of exercise are heightened, and overheating, dehydration, or low blood sugar, become increasingly dangerous, not only to the fetus but to the mother as well. Should the mother have any pre-existing injuries, they can be worsened by further loss in bone density, anemia, or joint problems. One of the most notable pregnant competitors is Serena Williams, who played through several months of her pregnancy. She was formerly ranked as
the best player in women’s professional tennis, and she won the Australian Open in 2017 while eight weeks pregnant, having only found out about the child two days beforehand. Despite the news, she continued to compete with the confidence that she could still win the tournament. Holding true to her ranking as the best in the world, she secured the championship title and proved to the world that pregnant athletes have the capability to win a major sports tournament. In a Vogue interview regarding motherhood, many of the concerns Williams expressed were like those of any other expectant mother. Vogue reported that she worried frequently about whether or not she’d make a good
that most individuals experience before the birth of a child, the sudden rush of fear and uncertainty is magnified for a female athlete. Williams mentioned in the same interview that when she looks at her daughter she’s reminded of all of the goals and dreams she had before tennis took over her life. While the comment was made as an off-hand remark, it’s revelatory of a struggle that many women can identify with: being forced to choose between a career and a family. Women, historically fenced into the role of caretaker and stay-at-home mother, are still expected to shoulder the responsibility of childcare despite a modern world in which women’s labor force participation has skyrocketed. Williams wasn’t the first woman to feel as though she had to choose between career advancement and starting a family. For an athlete, their body is their career, their livelihood. They can only participate in their sport if their body is in peak shape, a shape that is dramatically changed by pregnancy. While most mothers have to consider how they’ll manage their time with a new child, female athletes must also consider how their sports performance will be affected, a consideration that makes family planning all the more stressful. The effects of pregnancy on the female body are well-documented, but the extent of changes can still be unexpected. A woman’s body drastically changes during all nine months of pregnancy. However, not all of these changes are visible. Of course, there is an expanding stomach accompanied by weight gain, but there are more changes than what meets the eye. The more
To n o s u r p r i s e , she won it all and proved to the world that pregnant athletes still have the capability to win a major sports tournament.
mother, how she’d know which rules to follow and which rules to break. In contrast to the fiercely confident persona she bears on the tennis court, Williams’ worries were a window into a side of herself that’s rarely visible: her selfdoubt. While that doubt is an emotion
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well-known effects can include morning sickness, backaches and cravings. But for athletes, there can be more changes and side effects than a normal pregnancy. In a pregnant athlete, there are different risks that can happen when their bodies are changing because of their backgrounds in high-intensity workouts. High-effort training, which most female athletes are accustomed to before their pregnancy, can pose more significant risks to the more vulnerable pregnant body. Pregnancy symptoms stretch beyond the immediately visible physical changes — there are extensive psychological effects of pregnancy. Frequent mood changes, persistent nausea, aversion to certain foods, cravings, anxiety, fatigue, sleepiness, and ambivalence are just some effects of the massive hormonal changes that occur during a pregnancy. Not to mention the fact that making it through those often-grueling nine months of child-bearing doesn’t always mean the body is home-free. Williams is perhaps the perfect example of this: she’s described her pregnancy as easy, but immediately following her labor, Williams’ world was turned on its head. Her baby, Olympia, was born via emergency C-section after her heart rate plummeted during contractions. The following day, Williams found herself feeling short of breath in her hospital bed, and refusing to worry her mother by asking for a nurse, she staggered out of her hospital room herself with her lungs peppered with several small blood clots. That alone would have been enough physical trauma for Williams’ lifetime — she’s had troubles with pulmonary embolisms before — but her case only worsened. Her C-section wound burst open due to her blood-clot-induced coughing, and during surgery for that wound, doctors discovered that
a hematoma had poured into her abdomen. For the first six weeks after pregnancy, Williams couldn’t even get
three years. The WNBA also implemented a maternity leave policy in January 2020, guaranteeing players fully-paid maternity leave for the first time in the league’s history. But the WTA and the WNBA stand alone as two of few athletic associations who take into consideration the effects of pregnancy on their athletes, and who make any considerable effort to make having a child easier for athletes. Some leagues simply lack policy to deal with the issue. Some sports sponsors, on the other hand, take the issue beyond simple ignorance, and into the territory of mistreatment. Nike, infamously, was one of those sponsors. Although some pregnant athletes might voluntarily choose to keep playing like Williams, others feel forced to continue for fear of losing their sports contracts. Last year, Nike, one of the biggest sport companies in the world, came under fire when several pregnant athletes came forward and said their Nike sponsorship did not guarantee their salary while they were pregnant. Before the recent changes, athlete salaries were determined based on whether or not they met a certain threshold that Nike expected their athletes to fulfill. Athletes who did not meet these expectations found their pay reduced without exception — not even for pregnant athletes. This forced a hard choice for many pregnant athletes as the majority of their income is supplied through their sponsorship deals from apparel companies. They had to choose to compete, threatening the health of both their baby and themselves in order to maintain their job security, or to take maternity leave and risk their paycheck. Even those who chose to continue competing would be disadvantaged: the changes undergone during pregnancy would likely hinder the athletic performance of many of the athletes, stripping them of their pay because of factors beyond their control. According to CBS News, when American track and field runner Alysia Montaño told Nike that she wanted to have a baby, Nike responded that they would pause her contract and stop
“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a f e m a l e a t h l e t e .” — Kara Goucher
out of bed. She remained immobilized in bed, recovering from massive internal injuries. To return to play after an experience like that — to have the world watching, expecting the same great player they have previously seen — is a feat Williams has rightfully been commended for. But upon returning, she lost two early matches, and entered the French Open unseeded when she’d been ranked No. 1 in the world prior to her pregnancy.
“Winning 23 Grand Slams, having a b a by, a n d t h e n coming back for m o r e ? C r a z y .” — Nike, Dream Crazy
Since Williams’ experience, the Women’s Tennis Association has made praiseworthy changes to their rule book meant to make the transition easier for female athletes returning to competition after starting a family, including a new rule enabling the athlete to use their special ranking at additional tournaments and for seeding purposes for the following
payment. Montaño wrote a scathing New York Times opinion piece entitled “Nike Told Me to Dream Crazy, Until I Wanted a Baby” — the headline mocks Nike’s “Dream Crazy” ads, one of which centered on female empowerment and even referenced Williams: “Winning 23 Grand Slams, having a baby, and then coming back for more? Crazy.” While Nike put up a pretense of support for female athletics, Montaño said that behind the scenes, Nike’s support for athletes who wanted it both ways — wanted to be both mothers and champions — was limited. “Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, who was a runner sponsored by Nike from 2010 to 2016, said in the same Times article. “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.” Another athlete, Kara Goucher, an American track and field sprinter, felt that she was forced to return to the sport too quickly due to the financial burden put on her by her sponsor, Nike. Three months after the birth of her son, she was scheduled to participate in a half marathon so she could retain her endorsement deal — Nike had told her that until she returned to racing, she wouldn’t be paid. However, when her son became dangerously ill, she had to make the hard decision between her son and paycheck. After Montaño’s article and the subsequent public backlash Nike faced, they announced a new maternity policy: guaranteed pay and bonuses for 18 months due to pregnancy. The implementation of such a policy not while female athletes were suffering, but only after a congressional inquiry into Nike’s practices and a public relations nightmare, speaks to the company’s priorities. And the issues faced by pregnant female athletes isn’t one that solely affects the professional field. Recently, local fitness instructor and personal trainer, Aurora Christensen, has had to deal with the harsh realities of carrying a child in the fitness industry. Prior to the pandemic, Christensen was a studio manager and instructor at a local fitness studio in Palo Alto, and was responsible for everything from teaching sold-out classes to working behind the scenes.
Within seven days of notifying her boss that she was pregnant, everything began to change. Despite having consistent class attendance and being one of the top instructors at the studio, her bosses immediately sought to take some of her classes away without explanation. Out of the five classes she taught, she was only able to keep four. A new instructor was brought in as her replacement, but was not able to bring in nearly as many clients as Christensen had. While Christensen wasn’t immune to the physiological changes of pregnancy, she didn’t believe it would impact her ability to teach, especially due to her studio’s scheduling flexibility. “The first trimester was pretty rough in terms of my energy levels and morning
sickness,” Christensen said. “I was pretty much on the couch or in bed like every single day up until about week 16.” Nonetheless, she acknowledges that her situation could have been far worse: “I was gagging or throwing up every day, and some women throw up like four or five times a day,” Christensen said. “It definitely did impact my energy level,” Christensen said. “In my previous job ... I was fortunate that I could make my own schedule, and that I was only required to be on site for about 10 hours a week plus whenever I was teaching.” But despite the purported flexibility of her position, Christensen found that upper management quickly became unhappy with how the pregnancy had affected her schedule.
BIRTH CONTROL WOES
Beyond coping with the pressures of pregnancy itself, many female athletes are faced with the difficult decision between hormonal birth control and peak sports performance, a struggle fueled by a staggering lack of research. by ZIGGY TUMMALAPALLI While being pregnant creates an abundance of biological hardships for female athletes, preventing pregnancy itself provides its fair share of struggles. Stephanie Cohen, one of the world’s strongest female powerlifters, was once instructed by her physician to change her birth control medication, and after asking multiple times about its effects on her performance, strength, and weight, she was guaranteed that it would have no effects and that she would be OK. Two months after the shot, Cohen reported to have put on about 3 pounds, and suffered about a 10% to 15% loss in strength. Female athletes often try to compensate for these performance changes by taking oral contraceptives that stabilize hormones and create predictable cycle lengths, according to pennmedicine.org. But while these quick fixes may sound reliable, they have underlying effects themselves. According to the site, studies show that manipulating menstrual cycles can actually have the opposite effect, and may even worsen performance. However, there remains a huge gray area in the knowledge of the effects of contraceptives on performance in female athletes. In the case of Cohen for example, her physician most likely did not have any
malicious intent, but the fact of the matter remains that large gaps of knowledge persist in the field. Given the millions of women that this issue affects, letting this gray area exist unperturbed has significant consequences. According to sportsmd. com, the effect of hormones from contraceptives on athletic performance is largely unknown, with the exception of a few studies in which the size of the study was too small. Today in the NCAA, there are almost a quarter of a million female athletes. Add this to the number of professional athletes in the US, and the rest of the world, and the number affected reaches the millions. It is clear that millions of women would benefit from conclusive research on the effects of contraceptives in their athletic performance; however the research simply does not exist. Considering the billions of dollars that are poured into the sports industry annually, the proportion of money dedicated to research for women’s athletics is meager. Instead, female athletes often have to resort to anecdotal stories from their peers about the effects of contraceptives, with no concrete answer for what side effects they may have to undergo.
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“Luckily, I was able to work from home, lying down when I needed to,” Christensen said. “There were a few times where I asked my boss, the owner of the studio, if we could postpone a phone call. And she was actually very not cool about it. She would accuse me of canceling meetings and I was like, ‘No, I just want to postpone it.’” Christensen even found that her employer was implicitly accusing her of exaggerating her symptoms, something pregnant women often cope with. Since pregnancy affects each individual body so differently, many women who experience particularly harsh symptoms are stigmatized as acting melodramatic or responding unreasonably to the changes in their health. “I’d email her like, ‘I had a really hard morning, I’d like to push our phone call out to about two o’clock,’ because I was kind of glued to the bed,” Christensen said. “She demanded a doctor’s note, which was over the top — morning sickness is
“They tried to take away the class in under seven days, and they were like, ‘OK, we’re gonna put someone else in t h i s t i m e s l o t .’ ” — Aurora Christensen
a normal symptom of pregnancy.” While those actions could be classified as microaggressions, subtle instances of discrimination, the bias against Christensen became much more overt later on. “They also tried to take away the classes I was teaching, and that is illegal,” Christensen said. “I stood up for myself, and refused to [allow them] to get rid of them. I had five, and they took one away. So I was left with four, and I fought to keep those four.” Christensen said there was little doubt in her mind that her classes had been stripped because of her pregnancy, and that while some might assume that a female-owned studio would be more understanding and accommodating of her circumstances, she was by no means sheltered from discrimination. “I don’t think the pregnancy had a positive impact with my previous employer,” Christensen said. “After they heard that [I was] pregnant, they treated me differently. I know you wouldn’t expect that from a woman-owned business, but that’s what happened.” Christensen’s experience mirrors that of many
American woman who have come to the surprising realization that protective legislature against pregnancy discrimination often falls flat in reality. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act “forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.” But employers tend to find loopholes when they’re unhappy that a female employee has fallen pregnant, or when an interview candidate discloses her pregnancy. Employers who do this tend to assume that a pregnancy will affect a woman’s ability to work normal hours, think clearly and rationally, or detest the thought of investing in a worker’s training and acclimation only to have her leave for several months on maternity leave. Note, however, that in the United States, workers aren’t even obligated to pay for
that maternity leave — expectant mothers or mothers recovering from labor must file for disability insurance in the state of California, for instance — but pregnant women are nonetheless seen as a liability in the workforce. Discrimination is as easy as citing a reason other than pregnancy for firing a worker or slashing their hours. One glance at New York Times article, “Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies,” and one is flooded with tens of harrowing anecdotes about pregnant women who faced discrimination in their corporate workplace. For Christensen, and other expectant mothers who work in the fitness or sport industry, that discrimination can be even harsher. While most women grapple with the stereotype that they’ll be somehow mentally impaired by their pregnancy — one of the Times stories describes a woman’s boss announcing to her trading floor that the most-read article on BBC’s website was one about how pregnancy alters the female brain when she stood as the only pregnant woman on the floor — someone who’s career relies on their body’s athletic performance is at an amplified risk of discrimination. For Christensen, that prejudice set in in under a week, despite having medical clearance that confirmed she could perform at the same activity level as she had before. “They tried to take away the class in under seven days, and they were like, ‘OK, we’re gonna put someone else in this time slot,’” Christensen said. “I’m not ready to give that up. My doctor has cleared me to keep my current level of activity.” And there was, from a typical business model’s perspective, no reason to slash Christensen’s hours: she claims she was bringing in more revenue for the company than any other instructor in her kind of class, including her replacement. “My classes were sold out,” Christensen said. “So from a numbers perspective, there’s no reason to mess with them. I was certainly bringing in more income for the company than the instructor they replaced me with… within two weeks [the company canceled] her second class because she couldn’t pull numbers.”
Christensen, like millions of Americans, was laid off due to the coronavirus and restructuring of the company. The pandemic has hit the fitness industry particularly hard, as gyms and studios have shut down throughout the nation. Nevertheless, Christensen has found
her own abs as she spoke. “In the second trimester, as your belly starts expanding, your ab muscles kind of sit like this together, and the baby pushes them away… it feels so weird. It cracks me up because I was actually demonstrating a pretty advanced move for one of my clients, and I fell out of it.” As of now, Christensen is interviewing at various gyms throughout the Bay Area, and remains optimistic about her job prospects after the shelterin-place order is lifted. Despite that fact, she’s wary of informing her employers of her pregnancy in the preliminary stages of applying for employment due to her experience at her past job. “I’m not worried about finding another job, [but] I am not telling [interviewers] that I’m pregnant,” Christensen said. “I don’t want any discrimination based on that.” And pregnant or not, Christensen is the same trainer she’s ever been: one whose hard work and true commitment to her field shines through in the way she discusses her clientele. Despite being a fitness instructor, she doesn’t find meaning in making people look better physically. Her purpose is to make people feel better, a priority that’s come into sharp focus as her body undergoes an everchanging metamorphosis. “I like my work ethic,” Christensen said. “I never canceled classes. If I’m feeling under the weather, it’s always like, I can do anything for an hour if I need to. I’m not gonna be disruptive to [my clients’] wellness schedule.” “I want to be real,” she said. “People have real struggles when they try to start an exercise program. And it’s very important as trainers that we don’t dismiss that. As a trainer, my job is to meet you where you are, so I can best help you. Which means I have to acknowledge the obstacles that you’re experiencing. It’s admitting that we have those obstacles … I was worn out during my first trimester, and most women, even if you’re not pregnant, you’re probably busy and tired. So as a fitness provider, I need to be aware of that and I need to be able to help you through that … it’s supposed to be real.”
“She demanded a doctor’s note, which was over the top—morning sickness is a normal symptom of p r e g n a n c y .’ ” — Aurora Christensen ways to adapt to both her new uncertain employment situation, and to her progressing pregnancy — she’s now in her second trimester, and is still hosting online classes, with slight workarounds due to her growing baby bump. “I’m going to say more than 90% of my colleagues in the industry are out of work right now,” Christensen said. “I am very fortunate that my private clients wanted to continue training just the same way we’re doing right now, virtually.” Despite her adjustments, she’s kept in constant communication with her clients and her peers, who have become a support network for her over the years. FaceTiming, Instagramming (where she’s active as @thetiredtrainer), and texting them has kept her sane, as has her modified exercise routine. “I miss teaching spin classes; I’m not doing that level of cardio anymore,” Christensen said. “But I’m trying to go on a hike or a walk every day. Although with the pregnancy, I usually need a nap afterwards, [but that] does not stop me from doing it.” “And just recently, within the last week, I’ve had to modify my abdominal workouts,” Christensen said, pointing to
| MAY 2020
coach’s corner Text by ANTONIA MOU and JASMINE VENET
THE WOMEN SHAPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ATHLETES
hroughout their career, every athlete represented more than an act of female has had a mentor that has helped empowerment. It represented Chastain’s them grow in exceptional ways and love and passion for her sport, which strive to reach their full potential. she now hopes to pass on to the next Whether it be a coach, parent, or sibling, generation of athletes. these influential figures play a significant As a former U.S. Women’s National role in shaping one’s character and work Soccer team member and two-time ethic. However, many young girls in sports FIFA World Cup champion, Chastain has miss out on the opportunity to engage had her fair share of coaches. With over with strong female leadership and the four decades of experience under her respective connections belt as a player, Chastain now coaches that emerge from such the California Thorns relationships due to I want women to feel youth girls club soccer the disparately low team, Bellarmine number of women that they are welcome College Preparatory hired to coach local or to be in coaching.” boys soccer team, professional sports. and the women’s Over the years, soccer team at Santa increasingly more Clara University. BRANDI CHASTAIN, “With time, I’ve really women have managed soccer coach found that I appreciate to make a name for themselves as coaches all of my coaches for both men’s and women’s teams more and more, and that at every level around the world. For example, in 2019, I’ve had them, they’ve helped me in San Francisco 49ers football coach Katie some way overcome some kind Sowers became the first female and first of obstacle,” Chastain said in an openly gay offensive assistant in the interview with Viking. “For me, Super Bowl. it’s been learning that all those In our own Palo Alto community, many experiences are really helpful, women hold coaching positions for all not just the ones that are easy.” levels and all types of sporting events. As the head coach for both With each and every connection made, girls’ and boys’ soccer teams, these coaches highlight the importance Chastain has found more of female leadership and diversity in similarities than differences sports. when it comes to her teaching approach regardless of gender. To Chastain, coaching is about recognizing Brandi Chastain After scoring the winning penalty goal the individual, understanding their over China for the United States at the circumstances and creatively adapting 1999 FIFA World Cup Final, soccer player to help them build their skills. “We have to allow ourselves to have Brandi Chastain celebrated the victory by ripping off her jersey and falling to emotions, we have to allow ourselves her knees in a sports bra. This became to be confident, and somewhere in the the subject of what is now considered middle is a place where we’re going to one of the most iconic photographs of make a lot of mistakes,” Chastain said. “As a coach, my job is to be a woman celebrating an athletic victory. However, that spontaneous moment as demanding as possible but
Art by YAEL SARIG
also as compassionate as possible.” Chastain says one of the treasures she has found while coaching is using the same approach with “just slightly different tilts of perspective” to get across the same intention and to cater to a player’s method of learning. “There are boys who are sensitive ... and who want you to pat them on the back and tell them that they’re doing a good job,” Chastain said. “And there are girls who really feel like they are confident and they’re strong and I have to encourage them to not be afraid to continue that because socially, girls have [gotten] the bad rap when they are confident.” According to a 2020 study published by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports, which included information on coaches at 86 universities and colleges that compete in major NCAA Division I conferences, soccer has one of the
lowest percentages of female head coaches at only 28.2%. “I want women to feel that they are welcome to be in coaching,” Chastain said. “I feel like that is slowly changing, but I think the perception, just like a lot of other perceptions about leadership, has come from a male-dominated perspective.” Although it is crucial to ensure that equal opportunity exists for women, especially on men’s teams, Chastain says that gender should not be the qualifying factor that determines a coach’s eligibility for a given coaching position. “I think knowledge, experience and leadership skills come through preparation and time, and I think personal confidence is really key,” Chastain said. “For me as a competitor, I just want a coach who is going to challenge me and push me when I’m feeling weaker and to inspire me when I need encouragement ... and I don’t think that has a gender.” Following her departure from the professional soccer world, Chastain said she felt a “big, dark chasm” in her soul because she had been playing the sport for so long — 42 years to be exact. When Chastain decided to start coaching, this hole was filled with her ability and determination to inspire a new generation of soccer players both male and female. “It’s seeing young players do the thing that we’ve been working on or the thing they thought they couldn’t do,” Chastain said. “That personal empowerment moment is what keeps my heart beating. It’s the reason I want to go out to the field, so that’s what I look for everyday.” On and off the field, Chastain acts as a role model and mentor to her players, trying to instill a growth mindset within them throughout every practice. “I try to help my players embrace this: ‘Fall down,’” Chastain said. “‘Be the first to fall down in the most glorious, most spectacular
way, and show that getting up takes courage and bravery, but is possible. And then you’re going to face that thing again, and you’re not going to allow it to get the better of you.’”
As the final bell of the day rings throughout the school, Paly senior Lily Welsh rushes out of class and makes the 20 minute commute to Webb Ranch, where she spends the rest of the day either being coached in equestrian vaulting or coaching younger vaulters. Despite being a horseback rider for her entire life, Welsh only discovered vaulting when she was 13 years old after her sister began taking lessons. Her coach, Julie Divita, suggested she come to the ranch one day and try it out, and it was then that she found her passion for the rigorous and artistic sport, often described as dance and gymnastics on horseback. Nationally, vaulting is regarded as a small and relatively unrecognized sport. The low number of participants and female-dominated atmosphere allows for close connections to form between coaches and vaulters. For many Paly
student athletes, the experience of having, or being, a female coach has helped build their own values. For Welsh, Divita has helped shape her into the person she is today. “She [Divita] was the one who gave me the opportunity to coach and a bunch of other opportunities,” Welsh said. “She’s allowed me to go to competitions and she’s taken me to [Las] Vegas, and she’s just been a really large part of my life as a student, as a person, and as a vaulter.” Now, as a coach for vaulters aged eight to 14, Welsh attempts to recreate the same type of connections and illuminate the same principles she was taught by Divita with students of her own. “I hope I’m setting a good example and that they can look up to me as someone to guide them along their journey,” Welsh said. Welsh teaches a majority female class and has been trained as a vaulter with all-female coaches, with the exception of one coach. “I think it is important to have strong female role models because we’re in such a male-dominated world, but at the same time as long as you have a good coach I don’t think it really matters,” Welsh said. As a high schooler and a current athlete, Welsh is able to tap into her knowledge of young mindsets and fuse it with her developed maturity from years of receiving coaching herself. “I definitely have more of an advantage because I can relate to them more and I know how kids think, because I’m still a kid,” Welsh said. “Just seeing them progress and seeing them find the love for the sport that I found [is the most rewarding thing about coaching].” At the end of each lesson, Welsh hopes her students take away the notion that it requires more than just vaulting skills to become a successful athlete. She wants to teach them that it is through hard work and perseverance that they can improve both as a vaulter and as an individual.
Art by MEGAN ANDREWS @vikingsportsmag
| MAY 2020
THE WOMEN BEHIND THE MADNESS
by MILES BREEN and FRIDA RIVERA
The men’s NCAA March Madness tournament is practically a nationally-recognized holiday, one that disrupts normal work and life for millions of Americans. But, stuck in the shadow of the men’s tournament and underreported on by major media organizations, lies the Women’s March Madness tournament—an event deserving of equal representation and March-induced mayhem.
ach year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s Division I basketball tournament dominates the airwaves from mid-March through the first week of April. In the weeks leading up to it, avid basketball fans watch and cheer on their favorite teams as they fight to gain a spot in the tournament. Simultaneously, millions of people fill out their own brackets, in an attempt to predict the champions. Just last year, ESPN’s Tournament Challenge had over seven million registered participants. In the relentless, never-ending wave of hype that is the men’s tournament, the women’s tournament gets buried. One of the main factors contributing to this imbalance is the media’s coverage of men’s basketball when compared to women’s basketball. ThinkProgress conducted a study from March 27th to April 2nd (during March Madness 2017), where they checked both the NCAA and ESPN website three times a day in order to gather data about the coverage of the men’s and women’s tournaments. They found that 75% of the time, the NCAA website featured no women’s 36
basketball videos on their homepage, yet they tended to show eight men’s basketball videos. Similarly, the ESPN website, which is arguably the landing page for anything related to sports, was found to feature men’s tournament news nine times more than women’s tournament news in the prime sports section at the top of the website, and about three times more on the front page at all. The popularity of the men’s Final Four reaches levels that match and occasionally even surpass that of the NBA Finals. In 2017, the NBA Finals had an average of 20.38 million viewers over 5 games, while the NCAA Tournament final had 23 million viewers. In addition to the NCAA tournament, the NCAA men’s basketball regular season is wildly popular. At the beginning of the 2018-19 season, many of the major teams played in invitationals in places like Hawaii and the Bahamas. During that season, the Maui Jim Invitational in Hawaii garnered almost nine million viewers for the tournament, according to Maui Now. In recent years, Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu has risen to stardom for her
all-around talent and electric play. On February 24th of this year, she became the first player in Division I history on the men’s or women’s side to reach career totals of 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds. Having an extremely talented and energetic player like Ionescu helps a lot with publicity for the women’s game, but the problem is she seems to be the only star. As of April 15th, six of the first 10 articles and videos on the ESPNW page feature Ionescu. The lack of coverage for the women’s game results in other star athletes being virtually unheard of outside the realm of avid women’s basketball fans. This season, Ionescu received unanimous first-place votes on the All-American team. Second on that list was Kentucky’s star sophomore Rhyne Howard, who was mentioned on ESPNW 161 times compared to 3,820 times for Ionescu. In only her second season in the NCAA, Howard recorded 23.4 points per game, which ranked second nationally. Her season was highlighted by the time she scored 25 points in five straight games, three of which were against top-
25 teams. During that stretch, in a game against South Carolina, arguably the favorite to win the national championship and one of the top scoring defenses in the nation, Howard put up 28 points, which was tied for the most South Carolina let up to an individual opponent that season. Another example was Stanford’s Alanna Smith. In the 2018-19 season, Smith earned Second-team All-American status and was dubbed one of the top 10 players in the country. Smith had a historic season where she averaged 19.4 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and shot 51.4% from the field. Her senior season quite literally put her in her own category. Smith was the first women’s player in 20 years to compile a season with 70 threepointers, 70 blocks, and 600 points. In fact, in the men’s game, that feat has only been accomplished once by Shane Battier of Duke in 2000-01. Additionally, across that same 20-year span, Smith became the fourth player in women’s basketball to put together a career of 1,600 points, 150 three-pointers and 200 blocks, joining Women’s National Basketball Association legends Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, and Breanna Stewart.
You’d think that all of these stats point to someone with a legendary status. Unfortunately, female players like Smith never get as much publicity as their male counterparts. During Smith’s historic season, Stanford only appeared on national television twice – and one of those times was the Pac-12 championship game. Comparatively, men’s teams like North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky cumulatively had 78.5% of their schedule appear on national television despite playing teams like Boston College, which didn’t even crack the top 100 in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index rankings. Every single game in the men’s tournament gets national television coverage, even the First Four, which pits the teams that barely made the tournament against each other for a spot in a game they’ll likely lose to a higher-seeded team. With record deals from TBS, TruTV, TNT, and CBS, the men’s tournament always has plenty of channels to choose from to cover their games. On the other hand, for the first few rounds of the women’s tournament, the games have to compete with one another for coverage on one channel, ESPN2. Generally, in the first round, there
will be 3 or 4 games in one time slot. If you want to see your team play in the NCAA tournament, you better hope the producers deem your team’s game interesting. Or you can hope they advance to the Sweet 16, where your favorite team will finally get their own time slot. In addition to the college level, the professional level experiences a similar level of disparity. The WNBA will have seven games on ABC or ESPN this upcoming season, while the NBA has weekly games on TNT, ABC, and ESPN. In the 2019-20 NBA season that was cut short, 160 games were slated to be televised nationally during the regular season alone. It’s simply challenging to watch women’s basketball, even as an avid supporter. With better representation, the fanbase for women’s basketball could grow in size exponentially. It takes a dedicated fan to watch the women’s March Madness games when there are three or four games going on at once. It’s not that people refuse to watch women’s basketball, the problem is that they can’t — or at least not very easily. If women’s games had more airtime representation, more publicity and more recognition from the NCAA, their fan base could grow.
By the numbers During the 2018-19 season
19.4 600 total points 8.6 points per game
70 three 2.2 pointers
rebounds per game
blocks per game
Art by FRIDA RIVERA
| MAY 2020
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Examining the role gender plays in sports.
GENDER Text by KATE MILNE and ETHAN HWANG Additional reporting by HALLIE FAUST and AVANTIKA SINGH Design by KATE MILNE
eft foot forward. Right foot forward. While that may well be the mantra playing in 18-yearold Caster Semenya’s head as she flies furiously down the length of the track towards the finish line, the spectators watching her would be lucky to be able to distinguish between her feet as she runs. Her high speed reduces her muscular figure clad in a South-African-colored uniform to a blur of green and yellow as she finishes almost a full second before her closest opponent at the World Championships in the 800 meter race. Semenya didn’t just win her event —she dominated it. But later that fateful night in 2009, instead of being celebrated for the young phenom that she had trained arduously to become, Semenya came under fire for potentially having an unfair advantage as the public began to question her biological sex. The intrusive testing and inquisitions that followed affected Semenya’s ability to compete, but she did her best to hold her head high and carry on as people picked apart her prowess. Semenya’s case was just one of many that deals with the complicated role of gender in sports, a topic that becomes increasingly relevant as athletic science improves and athletes of all genders become faster and stronger than ever before. When people think of sports, their mind often divides men’s sports and women’s sports into two separate entities, with the athletes within them as strictly binary. Sports have been categorized this way throughout history with the intention of ensuring that competition that ensues will be “fair.” But how do we define “fair,” and will this rigid separation continue to be the norm in the future? In some sports, such as distance swimming, the average percent difference between men and women’s times is a slim 5.5%, according to a 2010 study in The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. In other sports, such as weightlifting, this difference is more significant at 36.8% according to the same source. Because each sport is unique in the physical challenge it presents to athletes, the same standards for legislation and rules regarding
Photo courtesy of Sydney Claire www.sydneyclairephotography.com @___sydneyclaire gender and “fairness” cannot be applied universally. Recently, there has been an increase in discussion surrounding transgender athletes competing in the gender category that best matches their gender identity. While some push back against trans inclusion in situations such as the Idaho bill passed in March that enforces genital and hormonal testing of athletes, others fight for equality in sport. Harvard graduate Schuyler Bailar — a trans swimmer who was accepted onto the men’s team and found great success and joy in living life as his most authentic self — is one of the athletes leading the fight for gender inclusivity in sports. The role that gender plays in sports is already complex—the way gender and sports will interact in the future is even more so.
Anti Inclusion Legislation
Despite a social movement towards increased transgender inclusion and a general heightened understanding of what it means to be transgender, many major sports leagues, such as USA Powerlifting, have chosen to keep their original policies in place. In a statement of the organization’s transgender participation policy, the USA Powerlifting league cited both the physical advantage of males and a ban on the androgens often used to transition from female to male as reasons for their stance. “While the term discrimination is used to catch the attention of the public, it is most often misused,” the statement read. “We are a sports organization with rules and policies. They apply to everyone to provide a level playing field.” While some question whether the USA Powerlifting policies are discriminatory against transgender athletes, the organization said it is fair in a sport largely based on physical strength and compared gender discrimination to policies surrounding age restrictions. At the high school level, some athletes have protested transgender participation in the gender category of
their choice. Recently, at a high school in C onn e c t ic u t , the families of female track runners filed a lawsuit against the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports, arguing that their female children competing against runners with male anatomy could hinder their personal chances of earning track titles and scholarships. Those who share the same opinion as those parents have formed conservative groups and are supported by legislators throughout the states that are looking to ban participation of transgender athletes in both men’s and women’s sports. For example, the Idaho state Senate recently passed Republican-sponsored bill 24-11. If signed, this bill would prohibit both trans and intersex girls from competing in the girls heats of high school and college sports. If a female athlete’s sex is questioned by a coach, parent, or administration of the other team, the future of that athlete’s participation depends on if their biological sex is confirmed by “a signed physician’s statement that shall indicate the student’s sex based solely on: The student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; the student’s normal endogenously produced levels
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of testosterone; an analysis of the student’s genetic makeup,” according to the bill. This bill fails to acknowledge that the inclusion and acceptance of transgender people and their identity is extremely important to their well being, both physically and mentally. By reducing someone to their biological sex characteristics, one is blatantly disregarding their internal identity. Additionally, this bill only targets female athletes, requiring them to go the extra step if their sex status is questioned in order to play their sport, while their male counterparts do not have to endure this same burden. This suggests that, should a woman have success in an athletic event, her success may be attributed to genetic alterations rather than talent. Kathy Griesmyer, a policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, is disappointed with this bill, citing that it is intentionally transphobic and that it makes things more difficult for athletes that already face many social hurdles simply for fulfilling their true sense of identity. “This bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while slamming the door shut for transgender student athletes to fully participate in their school communities,” Griesmyer said in a statement in response to the bill. “Idaho has not seen any issues with trans girls competing in the girls sports. This unconstitutional and mean-spirited bill prevents trans girls from finding community and self-esteem in sports, and will certainly result in litigation to defend the civil rights of Idaho’s transgender community.” In addition to being transphobic, this bill is an invasion of the athlete’s privacy and puts power in the hands of coaches or parents who may use it to place their competitors at a harsh disadvantage. In a similar proposition, legislation announced in January could prevent transgender women in Arizona from
participating in athletics teams based on their gender identity, requiring some females athletes to provide a doctor’s note stating their biological sex in order for them to compete in their sport. However, this rule only applies to women’s sport and not to male counterpart sports. The vast majority of the arguments surrounding barring transitioned athletes center solely on male-to-female athletes. Those critics cite the biological differences between men and women that, they claim, could lead to significant competitive advantages for male athletes. Most of these changes take place during puberty: a biological male undergoing puberty will see a host of changes due to their significantly elevated testosterone levels compared with biological females. According to a study comparing female to male testosterone, an adult male will have seven to eight times the natural testosterone coursing through a woman’s body on average. This testosterone is accompanied by scores of physiological changes, among them larger muscles, denser bones and a higher proportion of lean body mass— it’s these traits that lead to the “bigger, faster, stronger” notion surrounding male athletes. While transitioning to female often involves the use of testosterone suppressants and estrogen, most in favor of barring trans athletes argue that these measures don’t reverse the increased bone density, superior musculature, and other characteristics of male puberty. So despite the fact that female-tomale athletes who choose to undergo hormone therapy treatment will also have elevated testosterone levels, this isn’t seen as a threat: the vast majority of benefits will be derived from a biological male puberty, not from an addition of testosterone to a body that’s undergone female puberty. But, of course, that’s not always the case. A 2016 Washington Post article
“This bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while slamming the door shut for transgender student athletes to fully participate in their school communities.” — Kathy Griesmeyer 40
examining the “trans advantage” cites that after a year of hormone therapy, “female trans distance runners completely lose their speed advantage over cisgender women.” Similarly, individuals like Nancy Barto, an Arizona state representative, recognize that regardless of whether a male-tofemale athlete will have a greater advantage in sports than a female-tomale athlete, legislature that targets women specifically — cis or otherwise — puts up barriers to prevent their participation. This type of legislature in sport is counterproductive, introducing yet another in a long line of historical roadblocks for female athletes. “When this is allowed, it discourages female participation in athletics and, worse, it can result in women and girls being denied crucial educational and financial opportunities,” Barto said in an interview with NBC News. The recent passage of such legislation — such as the bill signed by Idaho’s governor on March 30 — raises questions about what, exactly, constitutes someone as being transgender. Legislators such as Representative Barbara Ehardt, a sponsor of the bill passed in Idaho, have said that genital exams and genetic and hormone testing could easily determine an athlete’s sex. However, in reality, sex testing may not be that simple, as it is difficult to come up with metrics to objectively distinguish between different sexes. Some of the sex testing methods that Ehardt cited may even produce contradictory results. At the 1966 European Track and Field Championships in Budapest, Polish sprinter Ewa Kłobukowska passed a genital exam and qualified as female. The following year, Kłobukowska failed a chromosomal test, and was barred from participating in the European Cup women’s track and field competition in Kiev. An analysis later found that she had a set of XXY chromosomes. A similar issue arises when it comes to hormone testing. The International Association of Athletics Federation, which sets testosterone limits for women in racing events ranging from the 400-meter to one-mile race, bans athletes who produce abnormally-high levels of testosterone from participating in women’s sports. In 2011, the IAAF set the limit for women’s testosterone levels at 10 nanomoles per liter of blood, widely considered the lower end of the typical
testosterone level among males. This limit barred Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter who naturally produces high levels of testosterone, from competition. Chand later won an appeal against her ban; the court agreed with Chand that there was no scientific evidence linking high testosterone levels to better athletic performance. The IAAF commissioned a study in 2017 and — justified with data that was highly scrutinized — lowered the limit to five nanomoles per liter seven years later, a change that was meant to “ensure a level playing field for athletes,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said. Critics argued that the data was flawed, and urged the IAAF to retract the study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. However, the IAAF stood firmly behind its study and said it would not retract the paper. “Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes,” Coe said. The press release goes on to state that most females have testosterone levels of between 0.12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter, and that no female’s testosterone level would exceed the IAAF’s new limit unless they had disorders of sex development or a tumor.
An example of a female athlete with higher than usual levels of testosterone is track champion Caster Semenya of South Africa. She began running seriously at age 12, and by the time she became an adult, she was competing in the Olympics. Due to her incredible success and ability, suspicion arose regarding Semenya’s biological sex and levels of testosterone. She soon found herself the target of an extremely intrusive media investigation and was eventually barred from competing; after an investigation discovered that she was born with XY chromosomes, Semenya’s genetic makeup was ruled an “unfair advantage” over her competition. On August 19, 2009, Semenya won the 800-meter event in the World Championship by a landslide, but following this impressive feat came a seemingly never ending public investigation into her biological sex and sex characteristics. Along with stripping Semenya of any type of celebration or praise for her accomplishments, the public reduced
her feats to her gender. The scrutiny Semenya endured is disproportionate to her situation, as she is seconds off the world record and is relatively competitive with other female athletes, disproving the idea that she has an unfair advantage — she is simply talented at what she does. Typically, it is women who endure accusations of this nature. Michael Phelps’s abnormally long wingspan is never labeled as an unfair advantage; it is simply a tool that makes him successful. Most professional basketball players are extremely tall compared to the general population, making them genetic oddities, and this is never labeled as an unfair advantage. Yao Ming, for instance, is a staggering 7’6 tall, a height that’s inspired countless conspiracy theories about whether the star was bred in a lab rather than born to his 6’3 mother and 6’7 father. Tinfoil hats aside, Ming’s height enabled him to tower over even his fellow NBA competitors.
one central notion: men who are good at what they do are not held to the same unreasonable standards or stigma as their female counterparts.
Maria José Martínez-Patiño: The Caster Semenya of the 1980s
Although Semenya’s case has gained notoriety, she is not the first female athlete to face restrictions from her sport when her performances were deemed, essentially, too good to be true. Maria José Martínez-Patiño, an internationally-recognized hurdler turned college professor, has a history that eerily parallels that of Semenya, so much so that MartínezPatiño calls herself the Semenya of the 1980s, according to a profile with the United Kingdom’s Times. MartínezPatiño faced little scrutiny or public attention initially; at 22, she was given a
Along with stripping Semenya of any type of celebration or praise for her accomplishments, the public reduced her to her gender. Ming is nearly a full foot taller than the average NBA player, who stands at 6’7, and nearly two feet taller than the average American male, who stands at 5’9, which gives him a clear competitive advantage based on his genetics. And instead of protesting Usain Bolt, society hails him as the fastest man in the world, despite his body being described as “built for speed” due to his abnormal proportions. In a BBC News article, former Great Britain sprinter Craig Pickering said, “Bolt is a genetic freak because being 6’5 tall means he shouldn’t be able to do what he does at the speed he does given the length of his legs.” The main goal of most professional athletes is to be the best they can, so why was Semenya punished for her gift? The examples listed above are few compared to the gifted male athletes celebrated for the genetic gifts that enable them to compete leaps and bounds ahead of most athletes. And the countless examples seem to point to
“certificate of femininity” after passing a sex test — the title is often awarded after enduring humiliating and intrusive tests such as gynecological exams, MRIs, and ultrasounds — enabling her to advance to the quarter finals of the 100-meter hurdles at the world championships in Helsinki. But in 1985, her troubles began. At the World University Games, a new test — karyotype analysis that examined her chromosomes directly — found that she had an XY 46th chromosome, the chromosomal pattern typical of a biological male. Martínez-Patiño’s story was more complex than her chromosomes — she has androgen insensitivity syndrome which means her body doesn’t respond to testosterone in a typical fashion, so any advantage she was perceived to have was likely naturally negated — but the storm of public backlash that poured down on her was indifferent to that fact. After her test, Martínez-Patiño was ruled ineligible to participate in female
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athletics, and even encouraged to fake an injury to leave quietly. She suddenly found herself barred from the sport she’d played and loved all her life and newly privy to information regarding her sex that would leave anyone’s head spinning — if not reconsidering what they’d thought was the truth about their gender their entire life. If the sudden onslaught that had struck MartínezPatiño wasn’t already enough, the humiliation and shame of being pushed to lie, to leave gracefully — not to make a scene — was the final straw. Despite her initial compliance with the injury scheme, Martínez-Patiño chose to fight back. In 1986, despite the public media skewering she’d endured, she entered the Spanish national championship’s 60-meter hurdles event. She was told she had two options: withdraw from the event discreetly, or face public condemnation. She chose the latter. After competing and winning, she was stripped of her scholarship and athletic residency, and faced consequences in her private life that were far more hurtful than any Spanish press article. In The Times article, Martínez-Patiño describes how she suffered after the test. “I lost my boyfriend because all the media said I was a man,” Martínez-Patiño said. “On many occasions, I thought the best thing was to die because I could not stand so much suffering and injustice. I had to leave my residence in a highperformance center in Madrid within 24 hours. I was on the street. The most complicated thing is having to publicly demonstrate your status as a woman before the whole world. You feel as if everyone is talking about the amount of woman that you are. And this stigma accompanies you for the rest of your life.” Similarly to Martínez-Patiño’s situation, when she was told to cease competing until her chromosomal test results were returned, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, or IAAF, requested Semenya to refrain from competing until there was a definitive conclusion from sex verification tests. As this all occurred, Semenya, her family and her team upheld the statement that she was biologically female and had identified as a woman since birth, regardless of her abnormal hormone levels. However, this type of testing is not as accurate or conclusive as many hoped it would be. According to many studies and Dr. Gerald Conway, an endocrinologist who worked on the study of Semenya’s 42
“I was just ecstatic and it was as much glory as I would’ve gotten in first place. Probably more, because I was myself.” — Schuyler Bailar hormones, while it is true that higherthan-usual levels of testosterone can give an individual an advantage in sport, this is not always the case. “There is an advantage to exposure to testosterone, which is why people use testosterone as an anabolic steroid,” Conway said. “There are natural conditions, where women normally have more testosterone in circulation, and they would have a biological advantage in many sports arenas.” But the quantitative level of testosterone in one’s blood isn’t the end all be all, as some women do not react to having high levels of the hormone because their bodies simply don’t recognize it. Katrina Karkazis, a cultural anthropologist and research fellow at Yale, co-authored the book Testosterone: An Unauthorised Biography with Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist. In it, Karkazis and Jordan-Young critique and dismantle the previously believed effects testosterone has on the body. In an interview with The Guardian, Karkazis discussed misconceptions about the actual impact testosterone can have on an athlete. “Testosterone is a very dynamic hormone,” Karkazis said. “It’s actually responsive to social cues and situations. For example, if a coach gives you positive feedback, that can raise your testosterone level … Where we run into trouble is trying to make comparisons across individuals based on testosterone levels. Sometimes it’s individuals with lower testosterone who do better. So it’s not as simple as saying more testosterone equals better performance.”
Schuyler Bailar made history as the first openly transgender swimmer in the NCAA. As a member of the graduating class of 2019 from Harvard, the Virginia native took a gap year after high school during which he came out as transgender. After becoming a star swimmer in high school, Bailar had been
recruited to swim for the women’s team at Harvard, although after coming out he was unsure if he would be able to swim on the men’s team once his education at Harvard began. In an interview on the Ellen Show, Bailar said that while he has not been as competitive in men’s heats in comparison to the dominance he showed when racing against women, he doesn’t mind. Bailar admits that while he is no longer placing first, he is holding his own in races, defying people who support barring trans athletes from existing as themselves. “I’m not winning anything, but I think I’m not awful,” Bailar said with a smile on his face. “I keep up with my teammates and I keep up with the people around me, but I’m not winning anything like I used to and that’s definitely humbling.” While some people may argue that trans athletes fight to change which gender category they compete in for an advantage or other external reasons, Bailar is simply living life in a way that feels true to himself and because the sport is important to him. Along with being a swimmer, Bailar has become a public speaker, and aims to raise awareness about transgender youth in sports. “It [not winning] has helped me develop something I was working on before, which was learning to love swimming just for swimming, and I think that there’s a lot of other kinds of glory in that,” Bailar
Title IX passed: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be ... subjected to discrimination ...”
said. Bailar has found that having the support of his team and improving on his own personal times can be just as exciting and rewarding as a medal. “In my last meet, I got sixteenth place, which obviously is not first place,” Bailar said with a laugh. “But the whole team was on the side of the deck and they jumped up and were screaming for me because I dropped a lot of time from my best, so I did really well relative to myself, and I was just ecstatic and it was as much glory as I would’ve gotten in first place. Probably more, because I was myself.”
Elizabeth Edwards, an 18-year-old senior at the Urban School of San Francisco and a transgender woman, believes legislation which requires sex testing doesn’t work and unfairly discriminates against transgender women like herself. “The requirement of ‘gender reassignment surgery’ is ridiculous, especially considering the absurdly strict medical standards currently held in the US to qualify trans people to undergo them,” Edwards said. “Also, sex verification standards leads without fail to unfair standards of gender expression normativity that bear down on cis people, and result in cis people being disqualified on bases of uniquely high/low chemical levels that result from normal variance in such factors across the cisgender population.” A study conducted by researchers from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University found that as many as 2% of the population have traits which deviate “from the ideal male or female,” including “hormone levels and the structure of
Intersex hurdler Maria Jose Martinez-Patino kicked off Spanish track team, stripped of medals
the internal genital duct systems and external genitalia.” This seems to suggest that sex testing would not necessarily be as straightforward as critics suggest. According to Edwards, at the professional level, the highest reasonable requirement should be proof that an athlete has undergone hormone reduction therapy for 18 months. “By that point, trans and cis people are chemically identical, and such quoteunquote ‘biological dis/advantages’ such as bone density will have fallen to the wayside,” Edwards said. While research on this subject has hardly reached a consensus, a meta-analysis of eight research articles conducted by researchers from the Nottingham Centre for Gender Dysphoria and Loughborough University concluded that there is “no evidence” that hormones such as testosterone give transgender female athletes an advantage. The analysis also reviewed 31 sport policies from various national and international competitions and found that rules restricting participation from transgender athletes discourage transgender athletes from participating in sports. “Within competitive sport, the athletic advantage transgender athletes are perceived to have appears to have been overinterpreted by many sport organisations around the world, which has had a negative effect on the experiences of this population,” the analysis reads. The researchers also write that sports organizations need to improve their policies to be more inclusive. “Given the established mental and physical health benefits of engaging in physical activity and sport, the barriers transgender people experience are a significant limitation to the promotion
Caster Semenya is subjected to sex verification tests to determine her eligibility to compete in women’s events
of healthy behaviours in transgender individuals,” the analysis reads.
Kay Svenson, a Paly alum and recent graduate of Wellesley college, is a trans activist and believes that trans people, like all people, have the right to be treated in accordance with their gender identity, and this includes sports. “Sex-based discrimination is prohibited under Title IX, and that amendment is not up to the free interpretation of the (potentially transphobic) governing bodies of the state or local school district,” Svenson said. “We need to work harder to ensure that differences in birth anatomy do not shape our definition of athletic fairness.” Svenson believes that it is important that transgender people have the means and support to pursue their personal athletic careers, free of judgment. “Trans athletes have just as much of a right as cis athletes do to compete in the gender category that they identify with,” Svenson said. While there is no explicitly correct answer or proposed set of regulations surrounding the role of gender identity in sports today, if athletes and fans alike continue to ask hard questions respectfully and work towards giving everyone the opportunities to enjoy sports, compete as themselves, and make sure matches remains competitive, it will be a victory for everyone. Nonetheless, as gender identity and societal views surrounding the gender spectrum become more well understood and allencompassing, the issues described will only become more complex. It’s time to have conversations about this topic now so we’re ready for the more complex questions later.
Schuyler Bailar is first transgender swimmer in the NCAA. He swims for Harvard
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FAC E S OF WO M E N ’S BASKET BA L L The growth of the WNBA in recent years has led to the creation of modern-day woman’s basketball stars. But preceding them all was a girl from Riverside who took the world by storm. Text by VIJAY HOMAN Design by YAEL SARIG
ost people — even those who aren’t basketball fans — know who Michael Jordan is. He is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time, and the best player on the best team of all time. Jordan’s recognition is justified — he is a fourteen-time All-Star and six-time NBA champion. On the other hand, the greatest female basketball player of all 44
time is largely unknown in the basketball world, an unfortunate victim of an era that didn’t encourage professional female sports. Cheryl Miller could ball. By NBA Hallof-Famer Reggie Miller’s own admission, his sister Cheryl was better than him. As the WNBA has become the highest level of competition for female basketball players, it is now apparent that it couldn’t
have been created without the female basketball icons who paved the way for today’s legends. Cheryl Miller walked so that players like Sabrina Ionescu, Candace Parker, and Britney Griner could run. Cheryl Miller was born into an extremely athletic family. Her brother Darrell played in the MLB, her sister Tammy played volleyball at Cal State Fullerton, and her
brother Reggie played 18 seasons in the NBA. At Riverside Polytechnic, Miller became the first basketball player ever to be named a Parade All-American for all four years of high school, as well as breaking the California records for points scored in a season and career. The defining moment of her high school career came on January 26th, 1982. In a game against Riverside Norte Vista, Miller became the first woman to dunk a basketball in organized play. She took an astounding fifty shots, and missed only four. Her team would win by a margin of 164 points. Her brother Reggie came home from his game later that night and bragged about scoring 39 points. Cheryl congratulated him — and then noted that she had scored 105. This set a national record for points scored in a high school women’s basketball game, one that wouldn’t be broken until 2006. Miller had a lot of options for college following her decorated high school career, and she ultimately decided to join the Trojans at the University of Southern California. As a four-year starting forward for the team, she averaged 23.6 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. The Trojans won the NCAA championship in her first two years with the team, and Miller won the Naismith College Player of the Year award three times. She led the US Olympic team to a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and helped the US to silver and gold medals in the 1983 and 1986 World Championships. An All-American for all eight years of her high school and college career, Miller was poised to continue her playing days professionally in the U.S. There was only one problem: there wasn’t a league for her to compete in. When Miller graduated from USC in 1986, there was no WNBA, or any basketball league for women to play professionally at all. Without an established female professional league, Miller had to look to other leagues to continue playing. She was drafted by the Staten Island Stallions in the United States Basketball League in 1986, making her the first female player in the league, which was created only a year prior. Yet just as opportunity was presenting itself, tragedy struck. Miller tore ligaments in her right knee, which she would need surgery to fix. The injury would keep her from playing on the 1988 Olympic team, and eventually, from basketball altogether. In the women’s basketball community, Miller is widely
regarded as the best that never was. Miller’s dominance among her peers ushered in a new era of female basketball stars. With the emergence of a women’s professional league in 1996, the WNBA, superstars such as Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, and Sabrina Ionescu have followed in her footsteps. While Miller didn’t play professionally, she demonstrated the rising viability of having a career in women’s basketball. After her playing career, she coached at USC, as well as in the WNBA, as the coach of the Phoenix Mercury. She currently coaches at California State Los Angeles. Today, there is a new face of women’s basketball: Oregon senior point guard Sabrina Ionescu. Growing up playing basketball with her twin brother Eddie, Ionescu developed a competitive nature that helped her develop into a McDonald’s All-American. While playing for the Ducks, Ionescu became the first NCAA player— male or female
— to amass 2,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds, and 1,000 career assists. After a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four in her junior season, she had 24 hours to decide whether or not she wanted to declare for the WNBA draft. After much deliberation, she decided to stay and attempt to bring a championship to Oregon. Unfortunately, her senior season was cut short by the novel coronavirus, ending her dreams at an NCAA championship. But as one door closed, another opened. Ionescu entered the WNBA draft, and was drafted first overall by the New York Liberty. Her accomplishments and fame have led her to become a role model for many basketball players, including Thea Enache, a sophomore basketball player for Paly. “She has an incredible work ethic and radiates that energy that makes everyone around her work as hard as they can,” Enache said. “It’s really unique and amazing to watch.”
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Design by CHLOE LAURSEN Text by JACKSON BUNDY
A game to let women shine in a predominantly male sport, yet a name to enforce the gender divide.
alo Alto High School used to be home to a plethora of different traditions. However, throughout the years, they have been slowly taken away or transformed. Powder Puff was one of these traditions that many looked forward to. The world of football is usually dominated by male athletes, and Powder Puff existed in order to give women the chance to play a sport usually only involving males. Some believe that the existence of Powder Puff sexualizes female participants and for that reason, the sport should no longer be played. Despite a sexist name that ties women’s football to makeup, the tradition of Powder Puff itself was far from demeaning. The sport itself does not sexualize female participants, and if anything empowers them to play a sport that they’ve traditionally been barred from participating in. Powder Puff traditionally consists of junior and senior class girls playing a game of football in order to create school spirit or excitement for a certain
school event. At Paly, Powder Puff was played by every class in a tournament style. It’s important to note, too, that in Paly’s version of Powder Puff, there was no alteration of the rules — the game involved all the roughness and grittiness of traditional football, with the participants full-on tackling each other. And according to Jerry Berkson, Paly’s assistant principal and a firsthand witness of Powder Puff, the women didn’t hold back when given the chance to play. “The girls hit harder than the guys did,” Berkson said. At the time, Powder Puff was a beloved tradition that came around at the end of every year. The school would gather on the side of the lacrosse field, and the games would begin. That was until ASB decided that the school should get rid of the tradition and replace it with something else. Then-senior-class president Maya BenEfrain and sports commissioner Livi Musil claimed that ASB decided Powder Puff was not progressive, and no longer served the Paly community; Musil claimed it was a sexist tradition, and according to a Campanile article, that the activity was “stuck in the 1950s.” In reality, the only part of Powder Puff that is sexist is its name. Beyond the adjective “powder” already implying an inherent softness to the game, an actual powder puff is a tool used by women to apply makeup. Reducing a female version of the sport to a feminine, soft counterpart, and tying it inherently to makeup and therefore to external beauty, is derogatory and pointless. The entire aim of a women’s version of football is to empower women, not to create a “Football Lite” that still perpetuates
tired beauty standards and reaffirms that a female athlete will always be weighed by her beauty. Paly’s own experience with Powder Puff showed that the tradition is far from soft and gentle. The sport of football is usually left to only the boys to be played, and girls are rarely ever on teams, but judging by the hard hits Paly’s female players delivered, it’s obvious that this gender disparity is based more in tradition than in gender differences between men and women. Powder Puff gives women a chance to display their athleticism for the whole school to witness — to be cheered on by an entire roaring stadium, just as Paly’s male football players are. However, some believe that the game is sexist for an entirely opposite reason: because the game solely consists of girls playing, as ASB allowed no boys to play. This created a problem in 2014 when a boy attempted to sign up for the game. To call Powder Puff sexist for limiting participation to female athletes is laughable; this exclusion is what makes the sport special. The exclusivity of Powder Puff allows women to display their athleticism without having to directly compete with men, just as innumerable other sports are split into men’s and women’s teams to give each their own individual limelight. Men have never been involuntarily excluded from football; leaving them out of one spirit event in order to uplift women is entirely reasonable. To Viking, the benefits of offering female students an empowering chance to play a sport that women have been restricted from—implicitly or explicitly—for nearly all of history clearly outweigh the detriments of not enabling male students to play a sport already readily open to them. With a simple name change, ASB could bring back the beloved sport.
dear body positivity, Before I dive into your flaws, let me address your strengths. I love your message that skinny isn’t the only shape that’s beautiful, that curves and rolls and cellulite are beautiful. I believe you — beauty comes in all shapes and sizes — tall, short, dark, light, round, skinny, muscular, fleshy, the list goes on. I want everyone to know that their worth isn’t defined by a certain physique. I want to love you, Body Positivity. I want to support you. But as much as I appreciate the fact that you say someone’s worth isn’t defined by inches or numbers on a scale, I don’t think you should care. I don’t fault you for saying it’s okay to love. I fault you for saying it’s okay for everyone to catalogue the way people look. You’ve set a precedent that teaches people that as long as they’re not making “negative” comments, it’s acceptable to talk about someone’s body. If you look at comments on Instagram — and even in real life — you’ll see people saying, “Your legs are incredible!” “Embrace your curves!” They’re positive, sure, but isn’t that still defining someone’s worth by the shape of their body? No matter the person’s shape and size, aren’t you still saying that it’s okay to stare and catalogue someone’s body? To have someone outright tell you their unsolicited opinion of your body — and feel justified in doing so because it’s “nice” — is outrageous. Even wellintentioned, it only reinforces the notion that people are looking. People are judging. Why should everyone have an opinion about how you look? Tell me, why are we talking about other people’s bodies at all? Instead of Body Positivity, I propose Body Neutrality. Stop telling people what you think about their body. It’s their skin and their skin only. They decide, not you.
The problem comes when you break a whole person into the sum of their parts: their arms, legs, waist, butt, chest, neck, face. I’ll advise you this: if you’re going to pass judgment on the way that someone else looks, pass judgment on something they can change in 10 minutes or less. Otherwise, you’ll leave them agonizing over their inability to change whatever it is that you said. Body Neutrality doesn’t mean a lack of acceptance or a lack of support, it means a lack of judgment, good or bad. Imagine slaving away in the gym to build muscle, only to have someone say “Wow, you look so slim!” How defeating must that feel? I publish this anonymously because I don’t want you to focus on me, I want you to focus on yourself — the feelings your words incite in other people, and the feelings their comments incite in you. Even if you don’t mind the comments, are you certain that your friends feel the same way?
by ANONYMOUS I don’t think I know a single person who likes every part of themselves. Each and every one of us has an insecurity. For some it’s their nose, their waist, their butt, or their legs; the common denominator is that fear. I’ve seen girls cry over not fitting into a pair of pants and boys afraid to take their shirt off at the beach. F o r them, f o r myself, and for virtually everyone with an insecurity, I ask people to stop making it okay to say things about someone’s body. Stop making it a focal point. Our bodies will wither away; “perfection,” whatever it may be to you, is fleeting. The bodies that we have today will not be the bodies we have tomorrow. The people within them will be what remains. Focus on them. Stop saying people are beautiful regardless of whether they are skinny or fat. Call them intelligent, call them creative, call them funny, just don’t look at their waist before you think of an adjective to describe them — even if it’s supposed to be positive. Sincerely, A concerned disbeliever
try body neutrality
PALO ALTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT PALO ALTO HIGH SCHOOL 50 EMBARCADERO ROAD PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA 94301
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the girls basketball team huddles together during their CCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
Photo by Jenna Hickey
This special edition of Viking Magazine feature exclusively women-centric stories in order to address the staggering disparities in sports j...
Published on May 12, 2020
This special edition of Viking Magazine feature exclusively women-centric stories in order to address the staggering disparities in sports j...