As a former Division I female student-athlete, I experienced gender discrimination my entire life. I was teased often because of my passion for sports, since it was more of a “boy thing,” and was body-shamed for my strength and athleticism.
Sports are about strength and perseverance. I always struggled with the fact that men got to use their muscle and athleticism to fight through sports while women needed to lose their “masculine” muscles and become skinnier and toned. I’d say this is just one example of gender discrimination. But, it keeps going.
The pay. We just witnessed the United States women’s national soccer team fight tirelessly because of wage discrimination. The players on the World Cup-winning team earn less money than their counterparts on the men’s national team. Explain that one.
And, finally, it took a cheerleader who was fired for posting a picture the NFL team deemed inappropriate on her PRIVATE Instagram account to bring attention to the demanding, clearly discriminatory, rules for their cheerleaders.
An article was published by The New York Times just the other day detailing the rules and restrictions placed on NFL cheerleaders, particularly on how they conduct themselves outside of work. Nail polish? Jewelry? Who to date, socialize with? Personal hygiene tips? Shaving? And, seriously, the proper use of tampons?! Some teams even require cheerleaders to be weighed-in regularly, requiring they stay within three pounds of their ideal weight. And, finally, for some, wearing sweatpants in public is not allowed.
Cheerleading is a sport. Cheerleaders have to go through rigorous training and practice all the time to perfect the routines that are displayed at games. They have to be able to either lift and toss or be lifted and be tossed. The ones being tossed have to trust their lives with the people assigned to catch them. If they are misplaced, a neck could easily be snapped and a life could easily be lost. This requires significant athleticism and talent. Trust me, I could never do it.
Why shouldn’t they follow their dreams? Why shouldn’t they be treated like other professional athletes, particularly NFL players who they cheer for? On top of that, they are getting paid very little, and most have others jobs to help support them. Their requirements are the same for Ballerinas, Gymnasts, and Professional Dancers. So this brings me back to my point: an NFL Player was accused of rape one day, and played in the game the next; but an NFL Cheerleader wears sweatpants in public or posts a picture on Instagram and is fired. This. This is gender discrimination at its best. And, while women have come a long way, the fact is, it still exists.