*the following opinion does not necessarily reflect that of middbeat as a whole
“Men’s Alpine Dominates Day One at St. Lawrence Carnival”
This is the headline on the Middlebury Athletics homepage that greeted me after my first and historic carnival win. Deprived of the full story, it probably seems quite innocent. In reality, it is an inaccurate, sexist and unprofessional headline that reflects the general attitude towards women in sport. Let me tell you why.
The men’s team did not dominate. They skied admirably, claiming 6 of the top 15 spots and I am so proud of their grit and perseverance, but they did not dominate. In fact, the women’s team, who placed 4 in the top 12, trailed the men by just 5 points and both genders placed second behind Dartmouth and UVM respectively. Since we are scored together (along with the Nordic team but we will leave them out of this discussion), the sensible headline would have been that we—men AND women—actually won the Alpine side of the carnival on Day One!
Or perhaps they could acknowledge my dominating performance that set a record for the largest winning margin in NCAA Division I Giant Slalom history: 3.89 seconds. But no, not according to Middlebury’s Athletic Communications Department. Let’s keep the focus on what really matters: the men.
Sitting at the dinner table with my team and my parents, I reluctantly clicked on the article to see if it could somehow be salvaged. Not surprisingly, they spend a paragraph talking about the men’s team before getting around to the women’s performance. I immediately sent a screenshot to my coach Stever, who was arguably more upset about it than me. He went to work, promising to make it right. Contacting the writer proved to be an incredibly difficult task but we waited together until they finally made an adjustment. Refreshing the page optimistically, our heads dropped when our eyes met the new headline.
“Men’s Alpine Dominates, Bartlett Wins at St. Lawrence Carnival”
It felt like a slap in the face. I realize this is coming from a place of incredible privilege, but I have never been so obviously placed as a subordinate to men, in a Middlebury College publication nonetheless. It so naively spells out the additional battle that women fight every time we compete. We are an accommodation, never to steal the spotlight from our male counterparts. I am not upset about this headline out of vanity. This isn’t about my ski racing career. It is about my life as a woman, my experience, and my discomfort in having to plead my case and assure you that yes, I did indeed dominate. More importantly, it is about all the other female athletes whose successes go unrecognized and uncelebrated. We are not simply side notes to be mentioned “in addition to”. We aren’t the opening act. I shouldn’t have to rely on my male head coach to write emails, make calls, and leave voice messages just to be treated as equal while I worry about coming off as conceited.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of the word dominate: be the most important or conspicuous person or thing in. Synonyms include: overshadow, rule, dwarf. In the most twisted of senses, this headline is actually spot on. The men DID overshadow, they DID rule, and they certainly DID dwarf. But instead of dominating the competition, as implied, they dominate me and the rest of the women’s team. This headline saga represents a trickle down of what hundreds of thousands of people marched to fight on Saturday. Although I could not participate in the march, I hope that my timely interaction with the patriarchy, on the very day Donald Trump was sworn into office, can perhaps tame Middlebury’s contributions to it.
I realize that a headline is not the end of the world and it is hardly an oppressive force in my life. But I could not stay silent on a small employment of the same glass ceiling that denied Clinton her victory and simultaneously denied millions their security.
Had it been the original, the final headline is balanced if not a touch dull. But absent of the word dominate, it leaves a gaping hole for the writer’s bias to shine through. It seems as though the word cannot be used to describe a female performance and furthermore, a female performance is not worthy of a captivating headline.
“Panthers Strong On Day One of St. Lawrence Carnival Led by Bartlett’s GS Win”
I am left with two questions.
- Why do we have an Athletic Communications Department that approves sexist, inaccurate, and quite frankly boring articles that diminish the successes of women?
- Can women ever dominate?