Playing for the wrong team

My ears rang. My body shook. My feet gave in to the vibration of the wooden stands. Sweat gathered on the bridge of my nose as I caught a glimpse of the lively court, just barely able to see above the blur of bouncing bodies in front of me.

Students pressed against my back and chest, I was only able to score a spot in the bleachers by standing sideways–and even then, I could only judge the events of the game by how the kids around me cheered.

The crowd roared following a three-pointer by the Wolverines, and I heard a festively outfitted student below me mutter to another, “I wonder how the girls’ team did yesterday.” The other just shrugged, and continued to celebrate the shot.

As a member of the Harvard-Westlake community and as a considerably active Fanatic for sports on campus, it is far too often that I hear these conversations, and admittedly more often that I partake in them. Athletics is a core component of student life, and having grown up playing sports, I can confirm that support and encouragement from fans can dramatically affect both the mental mindset of the players and the outcome of a game.

As the battle for gender equality and feminism rages on in the outside world, it disappointingly, yet unsurprisingly, has penetrated our “diverse and inclusive” student body.

The Harvard-Westlake Fanatics are, by definition, expected to be the voice of all sports teams on campus. From blasting Facebook daily with posts about coming events, score updates and live-stream links, students rely on the leaders of the group to inform them of important game days to prepare for.

Time and time again, I’ve found myself in the mob of hundreds of students flocking to costume shops and party stores to pick up “essentials” to be outfitted appropriately and spiritedly for said games.

So what happens if a game isn’t advertised?

No one goes.

And this is the reality for a majority of female sports teams at school. Empty stands. Quiet celebrations. Unannounced victories.

In a modern world, it’s hard to imagine a group or individual purposefully discriminating against females, and that certainly isn’t the intention of the Fanatics, who pride themselves on being the most supportive group of campus sports teams. However, becoming a bystander and silent witness to the urgent issues of feminism is incriminating enough–or at least according to the feminists and female athletes in the Harvard-Westlake community.

Female athletes endure equally as strenuous practices and study equally as rigorous curriculums as males, yet their events are scarcely attended and rarely acknowledged by the Fanatics and thus are virtually non-existent to the student body.

To be blind to the preferential treatment of male sporting events by the Fanatics is naive. To accuse them of anti-feminist activity is extreme. So where is the line drawn?

Unfortunately, it’s just a fact that sports are male-dominated throughout the world. Remembering the last time you went to a professional female sporting event is probably a hard thing to do for the majority of the population. The Fanatics cannot be blamed for this, but our culture can be.

The Fanatics’ shortcoming is not intentional, sexist promotion of masculinity-associated activity, but instead its failure to fulfill its mission to support all school athletics. As opposed to standing idle to a worldwide issue that continues to plague females financially, developmentally and mentally, they should be actively working to change the way we look at athletics.

We live in a world where feminism naturally subsides and regresses if it is not overtly supported. It is crucial to the growth and future of our society that we all take measures to effectively integrate gender equality into our lives–not just sit back, nod and agree that there is a problem at hand.

The Fanatics have agreed to construct their own mission statement that will initiate and declare their new dedication to promoting female athletics, which is a small, but nonetheless important step in the right direction.

However, no mission statement nor change in attitude can single-handedly transform a culture. We must all take initiative to show up to support all sporting events regardless of gender, and quite frankly, regardless of the sport.

All of the Facebook posts and Twitter updates in the world cannot force you to attend a sports game–that is where we, as individuals, have to put in our own effort to make the changes that we want to see.

Now that the Fanatics have begun to take part in a revolutionary process of changing the way we look at athletics, it’s our turn as a community to step, swim or run up to the plate and take our best shot at creating equality for the girls and women in the world who undeniably deserve it.

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