April 16, 2015: Time to ditch “Lady Marauders”

April 16, 2015: Belmont Citizen-Herald

During this year’s “March Madness” college basketball tournament, I read the book “The Whistleblower,” the story of big-time college basketball as seen through the eyes of a long-time referee. I then thought it would be fun to attempt to follow the refereeing techniques discussed in the book by rewatching some Belmont High girls basketball games from this year’s exciting season.

Much to my dismay, I found the Belmont Media Center’s reference to on-line films of the “Lady Marauder’s” 2015 tournament games.  So, what bothered me?

On further looking, I found additional references, in various places (not just BMC), to the “Lady Marauders” for the BHS varsity teams for field hockey and soccer (and to the “Lady Maraiders” given the combined Belmont/Watertown girl’s hockey team).

It’s time to ditch the “Lady Marauder” nickname for Belmont High’s girls sports.

I realize that some folks might believe that worrying about the nickname for the local high school sports teams is somewhat less important than worrying about whether the fork is laid on the table in the proper position to the knife and spoon.  I’ve seen that said.

I disagree.  Words matter.  When we see a female attorney in today’s world, we don’t say “lady lawyer.”  Nor would we distinguish a “lady doctor” from a “doctor.”  We should accord our student-athletes the same respect.

Whether I was rooting this year for Belmont’s talented guard Carly Christofori, or yelling as senior Linda Herlihy gathered yet another rebound underneath the basket, or following speedy Sophia Eschenbach-Smith break free up the basketball court against the press, I wasn’t watching “lady athletes.” I was watching athletes.

Sports participation is a strong contributor to gender equity.  According to the 2008 United Nations study on “Sport and Gender,” sports participation, particularly for early adolescents, helps empower young women by improving self-esteem.  In language applicable to our high school students, the U.N. reported that “self-esteem is essential to mental health and well-being (low self-esteem can be a contributing factor to health risk behaviours such as drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse, suicide, [and] early and unsafe sexual activity” amongst other things.

Distinguishing Belmont’s “lady” high school sports teams from our other BHS sports teams runs counter to this goal in both the short- and long-term.

“As a central element of group identity, [a] team name represents more than a label,” found two College of Education professors at Penn State University.  Reporting on “The Gendered Language of Sports Teams Names and Logos,” the PSU study continued “although the practical purpose of a team name may be to provide no more lexical content than a street sign, culture, context, and common use of language embeds a range of possible meanings and interpretations.”

“[T]eam names are indicative of the existing rules present in society,” the PSU professors said. “[N]ame labels, despite intent, are latently responsible for. . .reinforcing gender stratification prevalent in society and in sport.”

“Reinforcing gender stratification.”  When we think it’s okay to distinguish between the “Lady Marauders” and the (real) Marauders, in other words, it becomes all too much easier to make the further leap that “science and technology is for boys, but not for girls.”

Belmont High sports teams, male and female, henceforth should uniformly be called the Marauders.  To speak otherwise carries social implications far beyond the mere nickname for our local high school.

As a matter of formal public policy, collectively as a community, and individually as parents and fans, Belmont should discard the nickname “Lady Marauders” as a relic of a by-gone era.  The label does a dis-service to the young women of our community.


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