Women's Liberation Builds Strong Bodies in Many Ways

(Undated, but probably 1975-1976) Another first person account of the battle against gender discrimination in Chicago's parks. Originally published in the newspaper Secret Storm. from Secret Storm (undated but probably 1975-1976)

(Editors Note: The CWLU workgroup Secret Storm organized sports teams in the Chicago Parks against the opposition of people who felt women did not belong in sports. This article from their newspaper-also called Secret Storm- is a first person account of that struggle.)

"In 6th grade, I won a blue ribbon for the 100 yard dash. I beat all he boys in my class. When I was a sophomore, I raced my boyfriend down the block, and he beat me by 10 feet! He was in my 6th grade class." What happened to her in those four years?

"All my brothers love sports. So do I and my two sisters, but every one thinks that girls are nuts. And they make us stay home a lot while the boys get to play ball. That makes me really mad." Has this ever happened to you?

What happens to women and girls when we play sports? Some of us close our eyes when the ball comes right to us. Some of us "know better" than to arm wrestle with our boyfriend because he goes crazy when we beat him. If we're children, we're told not to mess around because we'll get dirty. If we're older, we're told it's simply unfeminine In basketball and other sports, we're forced to play "girl's" rules. We're told boys' rules are too strenuous and we're trained throughout our lives not to try very hard. Just like we're told we can't hold certain jobs because we're women, and not strong enough. So instead, we carry around 30 pound kids on our hips all day and 30 lb. grocery bags. There's the girls' gym, with little equipment and usually no sports competition for girls. In the city park board, the men have basketball, softball, and volleyball leagues. The women have ladies conditioning, ballet, and charm classes (remember how hard it is to keep your knees always touching while you sit?). The difference between women and men in sports opportunities begins with blue and pink baby blankets, and goes to little league baseball versus girls' T-ball, football player vs. cheerleader, and basketball players to "conditioned lady." Can you guess who gets the most action?

Theses differences between men and women sure don't exist just in the wide, wide world of sports, we're taught them through out lives. Women in our society are taught as we grow up to be passive, dependent, weak, and to feel like we're not very smart. Men, on the other hand, are encouraged to be aggressive, physically strong, rough, and independent and to remind women that they're smarter. We call these ways to act "sex roles." These sex role differences end up making a big difference in whether we're trained to make a living for ourselves or trained to be dependent on someone else's salary. This difference means who takes care of the kids all the time, and gets to do all the housework, whether or not we work a job. It means inequality in hourly pay, the kind of education and training we get, and often a lot in the respect that is given us as people. It's the main purpose of a woman's movement to change those differences in our jobs, our families, our lives.

It's the main purpose of a woman's movement to change those differences in our jobs, our families, or lives. One place we want to make things equal is in sports.

We realize that there is a lot that happens in men's and boys sports that we wouldn't want in our women's sports program. We think that teamwork, sharing what we know, and friendship are more important than competition. Sports should be fun and give people self-confidence, not be a threat to their ego.

Women deserve to have equal opportunity to enjoy sports, play the sports we like, and develop the strength and coordination of our body. Sometimes how our body feels to us can mean a lot in how we feel about ourselves, and knowing our strength can go a long way when someone tells us we can't do something because we're too weak. Being able to move quickly can do a lot for a woman on the streets these days, and demonstrating that women on the whole are pretty strong can get people to wonder why these separate roles for men and women are really created!

As women, we see it's a real priority to make changes in sports programs where there is discrimination between girls and boys, men and women. This is in the grade school, especially in the high schools, and where adults play sports - mainly in the park board programs of the city.

Our experience in the park board field houses on the north and northwest sides of Chicago, is that they seldom offer seasonal sports (like softball basketball, and volleyball) for women. Some parks have real good gymnastic programs for girls. But in many cases, especially Horner Park and Welles Park, they have a real thorough program of seasonal sports for men, often extending into the women's gym and pushing us out. In a few cases, like Kelvyn and Brands Parks, they never had a women's program until we came in and proposed to them and organized the league ourselves. We look forward to playing at these parks in the future.

Our goal is to create Year-Round Sports' Programs for girls and women in schools and park board programs. If you are interested in helping us in your school or park, or have had trouble playing the sports you want to, get in touch with us and we'll see what we can do. We'd even be glad to listen to you gripe!