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The Lo-Down: How transphobia is tied to misogyny in women’s sports

Big things are happening in women’s sports. Caitlin Clark is arguably the most recognizable name in college basketball, is putting up video game numbers and broke the women’s college basketball’s career scoring record about a week ago.

WNBA All-Star Sabrina Ionescu took on the NBA’s greatest shooter of all time, Stephen Curry, in NBA All-Star Weekend’s first-ever NBA vs WNBA 3-point contest. Ionescu finished just 3 points shy of Curry, despite shooting from the NBA line, which is marginally farther out than the WNBA line

Brittney Griner — an eight-time WNBA All-Star, WNBA Champion, NCAA Champion and two-time AP Player of the Year — had her jersey retired by her alma mater, Baylor, earlier this week.

All of that should be cause for celebration from everyone bearing witness. Women’s sports in America, especially the WNBA as of late, have come such a long way in terms of gaining recognition and respect. But there is still a long way to go.

Anybody with a social media account knows how much of a cesspool of bigotry any comment section can be. In women’s basketball, that’s no different. When Clark broke the scoring record, she was met with widespread praise by the media, including a post from Fox essentially crowning Clark the queen of women’s basketball.

The comments weren’t focused on the history she has made though — they were focused on Clark’s looks. Dozens of comments questioned the validity of her gender identity as a woman over a picture they didn’t think made her look feminine enough. 

In the case of Griner, these types of comments have been omnipresent throughout her career. At 6 feet, 9 inches, Griner is one of the WNBA’s tallest players, and whether it be due to her sexual orientation, her tall and slender frame or her sense of style that doesn’t conform to traditional standards of femininity, Griner has been a longtime victim of commenters who speculate her gender, often claiming she is transgender.

Ionescu didn’t fall victim to these claims, but she was publicly talked down to live on the broadcast during her shootout against Curry by retired NBA player and current broadcaster Kenny Smith. 

Smith stated Ionescu, “should have shot from the women’s line. That would have been a fair contest.” Keep in mind, this was amid Ionescu matching Damian Lillard’s – the winner of the separate NBA 3-point contest – point total in the final round.

While he has backtracked on the statement, arguing that he was advocating for Ionescu, it comes off as hard to believe. During an extremely competitive performance, why would someone need to start thinking about one of the competitor’s gender?

Overall, whether female athletes are attacked with misogyny or transphobia, the intersection between the two exists because of the rigid gender standards women have been held to for centuries.

In the case of Griner, people will see a woman who defies traditional gender standards by leaning into masculinity and feel threatened. It’s a similar story with Clark and Ionescu dominating what many believe to be a man’s game. 

Rather than celebrate the great achievements of those making an impact in the sports world, there are people who would rather focus on the things they can use to bring down people like Clark, Ionescu and Griner. It’s sad, and it needs to change.

Hopefully, as more women continue to break these boundaries in sports and the identity and existence of transgender people become less vilified, we can start to see progress made.

Logan Adams is a sophomore studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Logan know by tweeting him @LoganA_NBA.

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