How do you appropriately start a JMU football game? Any guesses? The answer is an old-fashioned tailgate, a tent full of food, drinks, and A LOT of spirit wear. I have seriously never seen so much JMU gear in my entire life. Then, it was onto the next step; walking into the Bridgeforth stadium where thousands of JMU students, parents, and alumni fill the crowd.
As the Middle Tennessee vs JMU football game began, I truly enjoyed looking around and seeing all the good energy being spread around. There was just something circling my mind, all I could think about were the issues of equality that were being faced at the game. For one, the attendance gap between the men’s sporting events and women’s sporting events. As a female athlete throughout high school who played both lacrosse and field hockey, I was able to attend my own games and then the football and men’s lacrosse games. The spectators at our events would consist of about thirty people while the men’s teams would have over 200. This issue is the same at JMU when it comes to our sporting events. The women’s teams have a good number of spectators. However, according to JMU athletics just this past weekend’s football game had an astonishing attendance of around 23,000 fans.
As you may know, Title IX, which was created in 1972 to prevent sex discrimination, took effect on July 1, 2007, at JMU. To comply with Title IX institutions, you must have the participation of athletes match the ratio of men to women on campus. JMU had to eliminate seven men’s sports and three women’s sports to do this. Although this response allowed us to have 50.7% female athletic participation and 49.3% male athletic participation, are we giving our female athletes the same amount of support we give to male athletes?
While watching the game, I also unfortunately overheard a conversation from a group of boys sitting directly behind me objectifying the female cheerleaders on the field. These boys were rating these girls based on physical appearance and choosing which ones were the “hottest” and which ones were the least attractive. It’s totally heartbreaking to know these girls hear this. No matter how the cheerleaders appear, they put their blood, sweat, and tears into what they do. Cheerleading is a difficult form of sport and those girls do more than stand on the sidelines and shake pom poms. They spend endless amounts of time working hard to perfect what they do outside of what is seen on the field as well. In fact, in 2012, the JMU cheerleading team brought home a national championship at Daytona Beach, FL.
Another issue that caught my eye on the field during the game was the difference between how male-dominated the drumline was and how female-dominated color guard was. As I stumbled on google trying to figure out the reason why there are fewer females than males on the drumline, ABC news states “The flute, violin, clarinet, and cello are considered feminine, and drums, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone are classified as male.” Why are we classifying instruments to a certain gender? WELL… I think I have an answer, old-fashioned sexism and females being discouraged from doing something that is so male dominated. Even at a young age, little girls are steered to dolls, while little boys are steered to action figures and mini drum sets. It’s crazy to think of the influences we have on each generation.
Although the JMU football program works so hard and brings the JMU community together so much it’s hard not to think about the negative impacts they have that pushes us back in gender equality and how many forms of sexism that comes with it.