Archive | September, 2010

Gertrude Ederle

29 Sep

You may recall my top ten favorite female athletes from last week. After just briefly learning about these women, I became mesmerized by their accomplishments, so starting now, you can expect a weekly brief biography on female athletes that inspire me. First, Gertrude Ederle.

Ederle was born in New York City, October 23, 1905 to German immigrants. Her father taught her to swim in New Jersey, and eventually she adopted the nickname “Queen of the Waves.”

She joined the Women’s Swimming Association when she was 13. Around this time she broke more amateur records than anyone in the world.

Ederle won an Olympic gold medal in 1924 for the 4X100 m freestyle relay, a bronze for the 100m freestyle and another bronze for the 400m freestyle.

She first attempted to swim the English Channel in 1925, but was disqualified when her trainer had her pulled out of the water.

A year later, she was successful and swam the channel in 14 hours and 30 minutes. It was a record for both men and women that stood until 1950. Only five men had successfully swum the channel before.

In 1933, after playing herself in a movie, Ederle fell down the stairs of her apartment, twisted her spine and remained bedridden for several years.

Ederle always had poor hearing due to having measles as a child and was completely deaf by the 1940s. She began swim-coaching deaf children.

She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.

Ederle died November 30, 2003 at age 98.


Did You Know…

29 Sep

That Mary, Queen of Scots, coined the term “caddy”? She called all her assistants cadets.

That Alicia Meynell, the first women jockey, beat Buckle, a leading male jockey, only a year after her first competition in 1804?

Croquet is likely the first sport played by both men and women in America?

In 1876, Maria Speltarini tightroped across Niagra falls with 38 lb. weights on each ankle?

That in 1876, 10 percent of the members of the new Appalachian Mountain Club were women?

That by 1896, 25-30% of all bicycles were bought and used by women?

Ping-pong was invented in 1899? No, this little tidbit isn’t in direct correlation to women and sports, but it’s still interesting!

The first paid female umpire in a men’s baseball game, Amanda Clement, 16 at the time, did so in Iowa in 1904?

Old Actions, New Fight

29 Sep

The Olympic Games can be traced back as far as 776 B.C. Women were excluded from them. Still having a desire to compete, the women of Ancient Greece created the  “Games of Hera” in honor of the goddess who watched over women.

Jumping ahead a few hundred years, to 396 B.C., a Spartan princess wins a chariot race in the Olympics but is not allowed to retrieve her prize in person.

So it’s clear. Discrimination against women and their athletic abilities is nothing new. Honestly, I had no idea athletic bias could be traced back that far and probably occurred even earlier in history than that.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but judging from this information, the fight for equality is going pretty well.

Yes, I know that women are not treated equally in many aspects of life, especially sports. But the Women’s Rights Movement started, what, 162 years ago with the women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls? Title IX was enacted in 1972, 38 years ago.

So historically speaking, actively seeking equal rights for women is a pretty new thing. And while I’m eager to see the day when women receive equal pay and equal coverage, I think that thousands of years’ worth of wrongs cannot be righted in a mere century or so.

Women’s Sports Foundation

23 Sep

Did you know that:

  • High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy, more likely to get better grades in school, and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
  • Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.
  • Eighty percent of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys” and having played sports.
  • More than 3/4 of 12th-grade girls are unhappy with their bodies, and one in three adolescent girls will experience depression, anxiety or eating disorders. Physical activity has been shown to improve self-image.
  • Women’s sports is only 8 percent of all print and television sports media coverage (just exceeding horses, dogs and fishing).
  • Females have 1.3 million fewer high school and 56,110 fewer college sports participation opportunities than males and receive $148 million less in athletic scholarship funds each year.
  • Women represent 41 percent of coaches of collegiate women’s sports, only 4 percent of coaches of men’s sports and 18.3 percent of athletic directors.

Neither did I.

I learned all this from the Women’s Sports Foundation site. The mission of this foundation is to promote physical and mental strength in girls through physical activity. Their goal is to break down the barriers between men’s and women’s sports, and I have to say, I’m impressed.

You should really check Women’s Sports Foundation out. The site alone is worth your attention. It has news on women in sports, events and scholarships. It’s a cheerleading squad for your athletic aspirations. So if you were ever wondering how to effect change, here’s a way to get involved!

Great Female Athletes: My Top Ten

22 Sep

I still don’t claim to shock the world with my knowledge of sports, but that’s not stopping me from compiling a list of my top ten favorite female athletes (though in no particular order.)

10. Venus Williams

9. Serena Williams (Some say your cocky. I say you deserve to be!)

8. Gertrude Ederle-first woman to swim the English Channel and the fastest person to do so at the time.

7. Madge Syers-won silver medal in figure skating in 1902 and created such an upset that the International Skating Union banned women from competing against men in that competition.

6.  Jackie Mitchell played  minor league baseball.  In  in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, she served as pitcher. She struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

5. Michell Kwan-I was mesmerized by her all through the 90s. I wished for Winter Olympics year-round.

4. Nadia Comeneci-First ever perfect 10 in gymnastics in 1976.

3. Chloe Zwaicher-University of Iowa rower who aims to rid the world of its stereotypes about female athletes. And she’s awesome for letting me write a profile on her.

2. Mia Hamm-She’s so talented a soccer player that I knew of her even when I was going out of my way to ignore the sporting world.

1. Michell Wie-an extraordinary golfer, Wie started golfing professionally at age 16, showing greatness isn’t age-specific. And she attended Stanford!

What Can Be Done?

22 Sep

There is not doubt that when it comes to women and sports, it’s an un-level playing field. Change needs to happen, but how do we start?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

“Femininity discipline begins working upon females during childhood (perhaps even infancy) by transmitting to children a mental connection between femaleness and weakness and by forcing girls to embody that weakness in their bodies,” said Amanda Roth in her article “Femininity, Sports and Feminism.”

It’s true.

What is so genius about the evil scheme that is gender profiling is that it begins immediately. Practically in the womb. Hell, maybe even there. Girls are consistently goaded into “being a lady,” that is, embodying the idea that an “ideal” woman is submissive, weak, soft, dependent. Youngsters can’t yet deduce that this profiling could be confirming an overgeneralized stereotype of the woman. I mean, I’m over two decades old and the magnitude of the effects of gender profiling are just starting to hit me.

Of course, the door swings both ways. Boys are also constantly being conditioned to be “manly.” Stereotypically, that would be strong, muscular, aggressive, oozing testosterone, independent. Boys are “supposed to” reject all things feminine, except for the woman herself.

After realizing the effects of gender profiling, it’s become increasingly clear to me when parents are egging their kids to behave according to the cultural norm.

A couple weeks ago, I volunteered at an Iowa Children’s Museum event called “Move It! Dig It! Do It!” My station was a “Cozy Coupe” track, where there were six “Coupes” for small children to ride around it: blue coupes, fire truck coupes and pink and purple coupes. A father, mother and son approached my station and the little boy, I’m guessing age two or three, immediately ran for the pink coupe. The father chased after the boy saying, “No ____, not the pink one!”

Other examples of gender expectations are present in studies Roth cited in her article.

“[There was] a study that involved parents sitting in the middle of a room blockaded by pillows; their toddlers were left outside the blockade trying to get to their parents. Parents were likely to lift girls over the pillows while encouraging boys to climb over them. Similarly, Iris Young (1990) pointed out that girls are taught not to get hurt, not to get dirty, not to tear their clothing, and so forth so that their movements are con- strained, and they eventually come to have a feminine (i.e., constricted) walk, way of sitting, and other movements. For instance, a study of 2nd graders found that boys threw with their dominant arm 72% faster than girls did. Yet when the same children threw using their nondominant arm, boys and girls performed identically. The boys’ better performance on the first task was not a matter of sex but of practice (Dowling, 2000). Because girls typically are not taught how to throw in this society, girls’ bodies are not as able as boys to do so.”

What can be done to eliminate gender profiling?

I think the most important thing is to recognize it. Participation in gender profiling cannot be stopped it you don’t know you’re doing it.

Sex is All They Get to Be…

15 Sep

I like a challenge. That’s one of the things I like about blogging a required 3 times a week.

Will I have enough to say?

How much research will I need to do?

The answers?


And practically none.

I wanted this post to talk about a female athletes’ abilities, targeting one or two in particular and putting them on a level playing field with male athletes.

But as you may remember, I don’t really know sports.

I don’t really know athletes.

Google to the rescue! I type in “female athletes.”

The top four hits are all lists of the hottest female athletes. Most (but not all) on the lists were shot in minimal (if any) clothing and provocative poses.

So, the message this sends to little girls? Big girls? Basically any girl or woman who ever dreamed of being an athlete?

F*** athleticism. Just look good dry-humping a Porsche in a bikini.