Women’s sports should have contact

While the world seems to be getting more progressive as time goes on, women’s equality in the sports world continues to go unchanged.

In college level cross-country, men usually race eight to 10 kilometers, while women only race between four and six. In indoor track, while men compete in a heptathlon, seven events, women compete in a pentathlon, only five events.

The inequalities don’t end with track. Sports like lacrosse show even more imbalance. While the objective is very much the same, getting a ball across the field and into a net, men’s and women’s lacrosse are played in very different ways. The men come onto the field wearing helmets, full upper body pads, and mouthguards. Women wear goggles and mouthguards, yet no other protective gear simply because of a century-old rule which does not allow a female player to body check another player. Women’s lacrosse only allows for stick to stick contact. The only way to get the ball from another player is to hit their stick to get it out of their net. There are lots of rules surrounding how a woman can use her stick, and the game is full of whistles and stops and starts when they use their stick improperly. Removing contact to make the sport safer for women only furthers the idea that women simply cannot handle rough play like men, which is absurd.

Women’s hockey has similar rules to lacrosse when it comes to contact between players. In all competitive levels of men’s hockey, body-checking is part of the game. There are guys that are recruited to play on a team simply because of their ability to bodycheck and fight in order to protect star players. However, body checking is completely banned in women’s hockey. “I just don’t agree with it,” says Pioneer senior hockey player Sara Negrin. “We are fully padded and we should be able to hit like the guys.”

Girls can’t bodycheck in hockey simply because of their gender. The rule seems to suggest that because they are girls, they are not supposed to do things like hitting because it’s not feminine. We leave the hitting and the body checking to the boys because they can handle it and it is in their blood.  The main argument against contact in women’s sports is the increase in injury. However, if this is the case, then it should also hold true for boys and they shouldn’t be able to bodycheck as well. Girls that play hockey are just as tough as their male counterparts and should be able to use their bodies and power to play their sport properly. Like lacrosse, women’s hockey is full of stops and starts because the only way to get the puck away from an opponent is by using their stick and there are lots of rules surrounding stick use. The game slows down because the whistle is being blown much more often for infractions than in a men’s game.

Pioneer senior hockey player Zoe Homyak says that this is part of the reason people do not watch women’s sports. “More people go to men’s games,” she says. “It’s more entertaining.” In fact, the closer men’s and women’s sports are in terms of rules and physicality, the more the fan base for women’s sports increases. While there are equipment differences such as ball size and net height in basketball, the rules regarding physicality in men’s and women’s basketball is similar. This past season, the WNBA experienced a 36% increase in viewership. Last June, the Sparks played the Seattle Storm and enjoyed over 378,000 viewers. Golf is also similarly matched between women and men, and the LPGA is finding major increases in viewership in recent years. Yet women’s hockey and certainly lacrosse are neglected by ESPN and other sports networks, and one of the reasons is that their games need to be on par physically with their duplicate men’s sport.

Women should be able to play tough sports with the same restrictions given to their male counterparts. The time has come to reject notions that rough play is unbecoming and not ladylike. Stop blowing whistles and let the girls play on. They want it, they can handle it, and their sports will become much more fun and interesting to watch as a result.