As one of the sports co-chairs on the college student committee, Mtuseni is organizing a soccer tournament this Friday to mark Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service. I asked him if his co-chair, a female student, was helping out. He said “Nope, I’m not doing girly stuff.” We had a similar conversation a few months back when he organized an “intense” foosball tournament. I asked if it was guys and girls, and he said that girls aren’t interested in that.
Funny… I remember a female engineering student in my early UMass days who could drink anybody under the table and kick anyone’s ass in foosball. I think she even played rugby.
From what I hear, women in South Africa might play netball — a wimpy-sounding version of basketball that, based on a UK friend’s experience, seems to involve some half-hearted passing and shooting until everyone decides to go have beers. As for other South African female participation in sports… I don’t know. Maybe jump rope? Hop scotch?
This year the US is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the law that mandated equal participation in and support of activities at any federally-funded public school. The biggest impact always noted from the law has been the huge growth of girls’ sports programs and activities. Over these four decades this has led to women’s soccer teams, a professional basketball league, women playing hockey on ice (not just on a field in goofy skirts), softball domination in the Olympics, and a wide array of sports for girls and women from elementary school through college and beyond.
I’m not really a sports guy myself aside from tennis, and I’ve never really paid attention to the periodic social commentary on Title IX. But when I think of all the opportunity for self-discipline and teamwork and healthy activity that American girls have through equal access to sports — and hear about places like South Africa and the United Kingdom where girls’ sports are limited — the value in promoting gender parity in sports is clear.
Mtuseni and I have had some go-rounds about chauvinistic attitudes toward women. Thinking back to how he was a couple years ago, “he’s come a long way, baby.” Still, I’m working a back channel to get that student committee to do something to bridge this male-female sports gap.
Girly stuff. Ha!
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