COLUMN: Sexism still remains in collegiate athletics

Women in sports have always fought an uphill battle. When sexism comes from the very organizations that control the sports themselves – it only proves how much work we have left before women are fully accepted and welcomed in sports.

Undoubtedly, Central Michigan University’s female athletes are still greatly impacted by gender stereotypes. We must be very conscientious about how they behave and dress in the public eye.

I am going on my fifth year of playing volleyball for CMU, and the aggravation I get from the subtle sexism has been prevalent each year here.

Something subtle that caught my eye while being an athlete here is the lack of media coverage women in athletics get.

In 2019, our team was on a 17-2 start to their season and a 12-game win streak, which was tied for the highest win streak in program history.

On the day of volleyball’s 13th win streak game, every student at CMU received an email from the university to attend the CMU football game. There was not one mention of the home volleyball game that evening.

Female athletes have to constantly promote their games themselves. It’s hard to build a fan base around your sport if no one even knows when your sport is playing and/or winning due to lack of promotion.

The primary source of collegiate sports is football, and this causes the majority of resources to go to the team. This means that women’s sports in particular are the last ones to receive these resources, and this makes workouts, along with other activities, a bigger challenge than it needs to be.

For example, if women’s volleyball is in the Indoor Athletics Facility during their designated workout time, you’d think they would get full reign of the facility, right?

Not quite.

During 2021 Summer workouts, we were kicked out of the turf bay during our designated workout time because football was in there too. We weren’t even in the same area as football; our team was off to the side doing med ball throws onto a wall.

Not only did we get relocated, but our team also heard the football coaches say that volleyball needs to get out of the turf bay because the football players are getting “distracted.”

However, there have been multiple occasions where the volleyball team has been at workouts and running sprints and football players have walked through our sprinting lines, even brushing up against us.

If anyone from a women's team ever even came close to messing up a line of sprints in football, they’d get into trouble.

Another rule that women here must follow is the “no jewelry” policy. During practice and games, my team is not allowed to wear any kind of jewelry, a rule established by the NCAA.

This sounds like a small rule, but wearing a chain/necklace or any of that sort actually raises an athlete's confidence and comfort levels. Take a look at almost every football and baseball player during their games, and almost all of them wear a chain.

If Olympic volleyball players, the highest level of volleyball you could possibly play, are allowed to wear jewelry, why aren’t Division I players? Volleyball is not a contact sport.

It seems as though no matter how many times female athletes are vocal about the sexism experienced, nothing is ever done and it is looked at as a low priority in athletics. It has gotten to the point where informing the ones in charge seems pointless, and that we are left to deal with it in silence. 

Being a female athlete is frustrating when women’s sports at CMU are not supported as much and treated as equally as men’s sports due to this lack of knowledge.

The misconception that men’s practices, workouts and games are harder and are looked at with a higher priority than women’s is insulting. What’s worse is women work just as hard and produce good – if not better – results, but still receive less recognition.

Women are still being treated differently in comparison to men in the collegiate world, and those in charge of the Athletic Boards of schools and the head of the NCAA have to start making a difference sooner rather than later.