Why do we hate women in sports?


Rachel Choi

Illustration by Rachel Choi

By Mariyam Quaisar, Managing Editor

On April 3, SportsCenter posted a video of Demi Bagby, a fitness influencer, throwing the first pitch at the San Diego Padres versus Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. Bagby performed a backflip followed by a split jump, ending with a split on the grass as she threw the ball. The post accompanied this caption: “She had one of the best first pitches you’ll ever see!” Unsurprisingly, the comments depicted a different story. 

@tony_bestbets uncleverly commented “*proceeds to sniff the grass*”; famous comedian Bruce Bruce commented, “Sportscenter a bit thirsty today huh”; @real_kanjo_inspired said “That’s future ex baby momma right there”; @og21z said “Doing way to much all for attention”; @gatez__ said “Got my knife and fork ready. Time for a piece of that cake”—and the list goes on. 

On accounts like SportsCenter’s, every (maybe) 50th post is about a female athlete, and without fail these—already rare—posts host comment sections full of immature men spewing disrespectful, disgusting, and sexist jokes. 

The sexism goes further than just the comment section. Women in sports—athletes, reporters, or gym enthusiasts—are degraded and disrespected as a collective. Women athletes are rarely covered by sports news outlets, news outlets rarely hire women sports reporters, all the while ‘gym bros’ see women in the gym as nothing more than eye candy. 

Is it toxic masculinity? Is it societal norms? Is it “just dudes bein’ dudes?” It’s all of the above. 

Women in sports—or just simply out of the kitchen—is unfathomable for our society. Day after day, society reinforces disheartening gender norms, either blatantly or unknowingly. No matter how many human rights movements we commit to, old fashioned ideals of men being better than women will never cease to die. Any accomplishments women make in athletics are countered with the classic, “just go make me a sandwich.” Knuckle sandwich… hardy har har. 

As such, basic respect ceases to exist for women in any athletic environment. In the recent March Madness tournament for college basketball, men’s basketball received daily coverage from major news outlets. Comparatively, women’s basketball got most of its attention because of a “cat fight” (as described by those many toxic Instagram users) on the court between Angel Reese of Louisiana State University and Caitlin Clark of Iowa State in the championship game. 

In the last seconds of the game, Reese taunted Clark by doing the “U Can’t See Me” hand gesture, popularized by WWE star John Cena. In men’s sports, little tiffs between competing athletes happen all the time—men are even praised for their masculinity—but in women’s sports the same interaction warrants a national headline. 

Reese was labeled “unclassy,” and her Blackness was brought up to reinforce unnecessary stereotypes. She was dissed for “childish” behavior, and so much more—all the while, the two athletes themselves didn’t care at all.

“Men have always had trash talk,” Clark said to ESPN. “You should be able to play with that emotion… that’s how every girl should continue to play.” 

This famous March Madness tournament, hosted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), didn’t even think to include women’s college basketball until 2022. The first tournament was held in 1939. 

Women’s basketball as a whole represents a grim history for women in sports. From its humble beginning in 1892, female basketball players endured uniform scrutiny by being forced to wear floor-length dresses on the court, and rules that allowed dribbling no more than three times. The horror of on-court nicknames, like “Queenie,” shook society, because the thought of “well-bred” ladies showing excitement was unheard of. It was not until 1971 that they even began playing on a full court. It’s true women’s sports have come a long way, but it’s embarrassing that comments like “don’t ask me the color of anything” are posted when a commendable woman does a split while throwing a pitch.

Female athletes are underrepresented, underappreciated, and underpaid. In a 2021 professional sports salary comparison, evidence shows the average American woman earns around 81% of what an average American man earns. Moreso, “male athletes in basketball, golf, soccer, baseball, and tennis make anywhere from 15% to nearly 100% more than female athletes.” How can a statistic like that exist in the year 2023? 

Well, according to sexist men, women have one role and that’s to be their “ex baby momma.”