2017-03-12 / Sports

THE PRESSBOX

Delineation, not discrimination when referencing girls’ sports

In last week’s column, I asked readers to weigh in on the use of Lady when referring to the girls’ sports teams. A reader had written to ask us to stop using the term because he found it to be a negative and a sign of disrespect.

In case you missed the column last week, here’s what he wrote: “a condescending practice meant to indicate that this score is not that of the real Hornets, which are the boys’ teams.” He went on to say, “So ingrained is this practice that it is used even in sports stories where there are no boys’ teams equivalent. Like volleyball for example. Lady Hornets do not play volleyball. Hornets do. Same for softball. So, stop it. Stop slighting the girls in this way. Their efforts are just as valuable as is that of the boys— even in this losing game against Powers.

“Now, if you are smart, you’ll admit to this discrimination and turn it into a positive editorial piece. Call upon all sports writers and broadcasters everywhere to drop the “Lady.” And lead the way.”

I received three responses. One, from a staff member, said he didn’t care for the use, either, but certainly wasn’t bothered enough about it to write a letter to the editor.

Barbara Yockey of Imlay City replied via email: “Lisa, it only makes sense to call the girls’ team the “Lady” Hornets if you call the boys’ team the ‘Gentlemen’ Hornets. It doesn’t have a good ring, does it? ‘Gentlemen’ sounds too passive; not something that a tough, aggressive boys’ sports team would want to see before their beloved team name. What is the dictionary definition of a ‘lady’? Someone who is polite or refined. Is that how a tough, aggressive female athlete wants to see her team described?

Kevin Moses, a 17-year coach seemed to understand our use of Lady and I love his line of “delineation if not discrimination”. So much so, I used it in my column headline. Moses said via e-mail: “Thank you for writing, and for soliciting feedback from your readers. Having coached for 17 years, I have spent a lot of time mentoring and instructing men and women (both high school and college students) in athletics. I completely agree with you. The designation of “Lady __” is not discriminatory; it is descriptive. That terminology does not discriminate any more than signs in clothing stores that label sections as women, men, or children. Delineation is not discrimination. Thank you for your coverage of our local sports teams, both girls and guys. And thank you for keeping a rational, even keeled perspective.”

Now, to be fair. Three responses is hardly enough to say that we will stop using the term Lady in our writing. Like it or not, those of you who object are probably going to continue to see and hear all the media and broadcast journalists continue to use the term. That’s not to say that we won’t consider carefully our references to the girls’ teams going forward. It was certainly an opportunity for us to continue to have the conversation.

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