Feb. 7 will mark the 32nd anniversary of National Girls and Women in Sports Day when athletes and nonathletes alike celebrate the achievements female-identifying individuals have made in the athletic world.
Ohio University’s LGBT Center will host a Dine-n-Discuss session featuring two OU professors, Loran Marsan, assistant lecturer in women, gender and sexuality studies, and Heather Lawrence-Benedict, an associate professor in sports administration, along with a few skaters from the Appalachian Hell Betties.
Society mainly focuses on men’s sports, Marsan said. There should be more encouragement for girls to join sports if they show interest because too many people perpetuate the stereotype that playing sports makes someone less feminine or less attractive, she said.
If You Go
What: Dine-n-Discuss: National Girls and Women in Sports Day
When: 12 p.m., Friday
Where: LGBT Center, Baker 354
“I think it’s a way to recognize the strides that women have made in a very short amount of time since we’ve even gotten access to sports,” she said. “Women do kicka-- things in sports and don’t get recognized.”
The U.S. women’s soccer team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. Despite the team’s popularity and major wins, the players were paid less than half the amount received by their male counterparts, according to The Nation.
Days of recognition such as National Girls and Women in Sports Day could affect policy change and widen social justice movements. But more conversation needs to happen first, delfin bautista, director of the LGBT Center, said.
“Though it’s important to have these days … and the opportunity to talk about what they represent, it shouldn’t be the only time that these topics and these identities are brought up,” bautista, who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name, said.
bautista said they wanted to use their connection to the Hell Betties because it was important to bring in actual female athletes for the discussion panel.
“It sort of lent itself to, not only being able to connect folks with ‘OK, we’re going to talk about queer women in sports intellecutually, but here are queer women who are playing sports here in Athens,’” they said.
The panelists will discuss topics relating to what it means to be a LGBT-identifying individual in sports, how sports can be an outlet for LGBT-identifying individuals and how people can advocate for improvement on their teams, they said.
Official policy at the national roller derby level is changing in regards to discrimination and eligibility of players. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association revised its rules to allow anyone who identifies as a woman or nonbinary person can participate, Marsan said.
Caitlin Garrity, a Hell Betties skater, said she joined the roller derby team after college and found herself a “good tribe of female friends” who support her on and off the field.
Garrity said roller derby has been considered a women’s sport in history, but the Hell Betties are rebranding itself to show its inclusivity with new logos that don’t feature female figures.
“(Roller derby) focuses on self-identifying in a way that a lot of sports don’t,” she said.
If a female athlete identifies as lesbian, bisexual or any other sexual orientation, it’s only one aspect of that person’s identity, bautista said.
“If we don’t feel safe on our teams, we can’t play whatever sport it is to the best of our ability,” bautista said. “Ultimately, what matters is the person’s athletic ability, not their sexuality (and) not their gender.”