I’m not an athlete. No matter how much I enjoy being active, I’m too clumsy for sports. Too uninterested in competition.
But I raised an athlete, and we’re a family who enjoys watching sports of all kinds. An intense amount of dedication and determination goes along with athletic achievement. I know about the time, money, and support it takes to improve your game. I know about both joy and sorrow on the field—my son still carries a particular defeat with him, twelve years after it happened.
My love for athletes helped me write Gender Inequality in Sports—I wanted to champion the strength of women athletes who fight stereotypes and disrespect on top of the work they do for their sport. I want to recognize the perseverance of these competitors and share their stories with young people.
This hard work deserves to be recognized, and I want to highlight two women’s stories who didn’t make it into the book because they happened just in the last few months: Paige Bueckers and Lia Thomas. Both young women are notable competitors, succeeding at their sports’ highest levels. Both are also barrier-breakers.
Paige Bueckers is an elite basketball player from the Twin Cities. Both her high school and college career with the University of Connecticut (UConn) are the stuff of legend. But thanks to the new name/image/likeness regulations for NCAA athletes, she’s achieved something no other college athlete has accomplished: in the fall of 2021, she was the first college player of any gender to sign an endorsement deal with Gatorade. Imagine how proud Bueckers is to be the first—and to be a woman. Imagine how many young women will see her and be motivated to their own athletic success.
Lia Thomas has been swimming since she was five, and she now swims for the University of Pennsylvania. In the spring of 2022, Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA Division I national championship. Her event is the 500-yard freestyle race. Most sports fans don’t know testosterone suppression and hormone replacement therapy reduce both muscle mass and strength—Thomas had to train even harder to gain back her losses created through transitioning. Though Thomas has received both praise and support for her historic victory, she’s also had to endure ignorance and hate. Despite this vitriol, Thomas’s win shows young trans girls that they, too, can become great athletes.
Fifty years ago, Title IX started chipping away at the difficulties women athletes face. We’ve still got a long way to go, but these two women are helping us make progress. Bueckers and Thomas inspire me, as do all the athletes included in this book. I’m grateful for their reminder that we can, and should, do hard things (like writing books!). I’m grateful to share their stories with others.
Gender inequality still exists in sports at all levels, even in the face of the landmark law of Title IX to protect against discrimination and sexism in federally funded recreational sports. Girls and women—including trans and intersex women—face sexist attitudes and unfair rules and regulations and the continued struggle against unequal pay, discrimination, and sexism at every level of competition. Read more about the history and impact of Title IX, learn about the athletes at the forefront of the struggle, and explore how additional changes could lead to equality in Gender Inequality in Sports: From Title IX to World Titles.
“Necessary reading, particularly for those who think the battle is won and done.”—Kirkus Reviews