Rewriting Roles

Sports have been heavily stigmatized to belong to one gender or another over the history of American culture. The Gaucho Gazette investigates the relationship between athletics that are affected by preconceived notions of the genders they are associated with.


Photo by Sydney Pearce

Sports have been heavily stigmatized to belong to one gender or another over the history of American culture.

Sydney Pearce, Page editor

Sports have been heavily stigmatized to belong to one gender or another over the history of American culture. Football and baseball are traditionally designated for men, volleyball and softball are usually assigned to women. The same preconceived notions seem to be present even on a high school campus. The conflict is evident: why can girls easily play in sports like football, but boys have difficulty and face much adversity when they try to play for traditionally feminine sports?

Throughout the history of the school, women have sporadically been able to join traditionally masculine sports, like wrestling and football. For many female-identifying students, joining and trying out for these teams seem like any other sport, challenging, but not impossible. Senior Mackenzie Howard played football as a running back last year and voices her experience on the traditionally male-dominated team.

“I was the running back, so I was like the person who runs the ball. The quarterback can hand the ball to the running back and tell them to run it down the field. They said that this position was mine because I am small and fast and I can get through people easily. The training for running backs includes a lot of running, for obvious reasons, and we go through little obstacles to train us for dexterity and speed,” said Howard.

She describes the ease of joining the team during preseason weight training, and how she was accepted by everyone.

“It wasn’t tough to get on the team! One day during weight training before the season started I just showed up, and everyone was like ‘okay, cool.’ The coaches were all on board with me joining, most people were very supportive of me. We were like one big family,” said Howard.

Howard also told of struggles she faced while in practice at the beginning of the season.

“In some practices, we were told not to do contact, so if someone did contact with me some guys would get super angry like ‘what are you doing?’ and ask me if I was okay, but I told them that it was fine and everything was good it was just a mistake like someone forgot. No one really cared too much. During training I remember one practice, we had to hold a pad and run at each other and exercise tackling gently. This one guy hit me pretty hard and made me fall, and my helmet was too loose at the time, so I got a bit of whiplash from it. Everyone kind of freaked out about it. I don’t know if that was intentional,” said Howard.

She also noted some instances where she seemed to be the target of some violence or mistreatment from her fellow teammates.

“In one of our spring practices, we were doing tackling drills, and I was running along the field, and some guy was coming at me diagonally, to tackle me. The people before us had all done what they were supposed to do, like not really tackle each other too hard, just touch shoulders. But this guy, he tackled me onto the ground, but he wasn’t supposed to. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not, or if he just wasn’t paying attention, but like five people went before us and did the drill right,” said Howard.

Howard also wanted to report what her family friends warned her about before joining the team dominated by males.

“My family friends all have said that since I am a girl I have a red target on my back cause I’m supposed to be weaker or something. I think the guy who tackled me thought I was trying to steal his position or something and he felt threatened, but I don’t really care. I don’t want all that pressure on me,” said Howard.

She discussed how the coaches behaved toward her and how they helped her during the difficult journey.

“All of the coaches were totally fine. One of the coaches and I talked all the time, and he was really supportive. One of the practices I didn’t have a great lunch, and we were running back and forth and keep going until we could stop. I got really dizzy and felt really bad, so this coach pulled me out and sent me to Ms. Campbell [the sports medicine teacher]. He was really helpful and made sure I always knew to eat a good lunch beforehand. One of the other coaches would kind of [act] a little weird, but it was nothing,” said Howard.

However, not all of this issue is one-sided, while there may have been some complications in Mackenzie’s journey as a woman in a male-dominated sport, some men who can’t even reach the point of joining a women-dominated sport. Junior Matthew Giroux talks about his desire to participate in volleyball.

“I feel like it’s definitely good that girls can get into traditionally guys sports, but I think it should go both ways. It’s kind of a double standard, girls can play with the guys in football and stuff, but guys can’t play volleyball? It’s weird,” said Giroux.

He also admits that he couldn’t join this year but would be interested in next year’s team, as he is already committed to sports in the fall.

“I haven’t really talked to any of the volleyball coaches about this because I run cross country, but they would probably be cool with it. I just don’t think a guy has done it before, at least here. The teammates and players said that a guy joining the team would be pretty cool, but it’s never really been done before. Even in the whole league, there’s not a single guy on the high school teams,” said Giroux.

He also discusses the basis of this seeming double standard and the roots behind it.

“I don’t really know the basis of this, it really shouldn’t be an issue, but it just is. It’s kind of sexist. I play all co-ed sports, so the whole gender thing is not really a problem,” said Giroux.

While women have worked hard throughout history to gain recognition to their legitimacy of competition, men still have to work to be able to gain acceptance and enforcement for joining a women-based team. Progress has been made in the athletic field for women, but much more is needed to reach true equality.