Fox Sports has compiled a list of women that can hold their own against men in the sports world — because everyone knows the real measure of a female athlete is how she competes against dudes. Fox starts their “Girl Power” list with Rachel Alexandra. Perhaps you’ve heard of her: She’s a horse.
Last weekend Rachel Alexandra became the first filly in 85 years to win Preakness Stakes. And if horses can do it, so can humans!
Which female athletes had the good fortune of an equine comparison? Well, there’s Katie Hnida, first woman to score in a NCAA football game, but she was entangled in a rape-allegation scandal, Fox notes. There’s Michelle Wie, but of course she faced “substantial criticism” when she only qualified for one of 14 PGA events. Legendary athletic phenomenon Babe Didrikson Zaharias is also mentioned, plus that one time she didn’t qualify for that one event.
See, it’s important to remember that while these women were able to compete against men, they weren’t necessarily very good at it.
The women women who escaped the “but they lost” clause were Billie Jean King, Candace Parker, Danica Patrick, Hayley Wickenheiser and a few others.
Of course my problem with this list is that exists at all.
When Pat Summitt became the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history, the debate rattled on for weeks about whether or not she could truly be considered great if she never coaches men. When Candace Parker dunks, the criticism is that she can only do it in the open court, making her somehow inferior to men who can dunk in traffic. And when Danica Patrick or Michelle Wie place well against men, the argument is even dumber: Well, it’s not like driving a car/swinging a club is actually a sport!
It seems to be common practice that when women reach elite levels in their individual sports, society insists on juxtaposing them to their male counterparts. Sure, she’s good — but is she as good as a Tiger Woods/LeBron James/Patrick Rafter?
While athleticism in men has been encouraged since forever, it’s only been in the last couple hundred years that women have been allowed to participate in athletics. Americans didn’t even begin recording women’s sports results until the early 1960s. Since that time, the gap seems to be closing. The men’s marathon record each year is usually broken by an increment of about 60 seconds, whereas the women’s marathon record decreases by about two-and-a-half minutes.
But does it really matter? Do women need to compete against men to be considered great athletes? My answer, obviously, is no.
Why, then, do you think it is that society insists on comparing them?