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A History of Sexist Terminology and The Word ‘Lady’

Olivia Herr/
The Bear River JV softball field prominently saying Lady Bruins.

With the rise in women’s sports, many are trying to abolish any sexist beliefs that stand. The use of ‘lady’ in women’s sports should not be used because of its past sexist history.
The use of ‘lady’ in women’s sports has been used as a derogatory word to put down women’s achievements.
On the Oklahoman, they tell the history of the use of ladies in women’s sports.
“The use of ‘lady’ comes from a time when girls and women’s sports were seen as less than,” they wrote.
With the history of this terminology, it is best to stop using ‘lady’ when describing our girls teams.
Although the term ‘lady’ is used when describing women in positions of power, in the context of sports it is used to downplay women’s accomplishments and create a divide between men and women.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a lady as, “a polite or old-fashioned way of referring to or talking to a woman.”
With this stereotype in mind, people named women’s teams ‘ladies’ to imply that women were not as competitive as men’s teams.
The Women’s Sports Foundation agrees with the harsh stereotypes that this word conveys about women athletes.
“By portraying sportswomen either as sex objects or as ‘pretty ladies’, the message is that sportswomen are not strong, powerful and highly skilled individuals. Ultimately, images that ignore or trivialize females undermine the importance of women’s sports and respect for the abilities of female athletes.”
Instead of using the word ‘lady’ to distinguish women’s sports, most teams could use the word women. That way, there is a way to distinguish men’s vs women’s teams while also not supporting harmful stereotypes surrounding women’s sports.
We are all Bruins anyway, so why do we need to use terms like ‘lady’ at all?
At Bear River, many girls teams use the word ‘lady’ in their title — most teams are known as the Lady Bruins.
Every weekend, emails are sent out informing the school of events that happened in the last week. In these emails, girls teams are referred by the term ‘lady’, but these are the exact words coaches send in.
“First off, the athletic information I share in the Sunday all-calls I receive directly from coaches,” Principal Chris Roberts stated. “They are not my words. However, I have no issue with the term ‘lady’ and have always felt it to be a term of respect for women and have used it as such.”
Girls soccer coach Micheal Lyman understood the harmful stereotypes that the word ‘lady’ conveys, but ultimately let the team decide whether or not to use the term.
“Last year the team chose to put Lady Bruins on the hoodie,” said Lyman. “Some parents didn’t want it on the hoodie because to them it was sexist. The team voted for the design so I didn’t change it. I feel it is important for every group to let people know what works for them and what doesn’t.”
By asking each team member what they prefer, this opens the door for the girls to reclaim the word and prove that ladies can be equally as competitive as the boys’ teams.
Senior Elaine Owyoung, who is on both the volleyball and soccer teams, finds honor in the title of Lady Bruins.
“I personally, as an avid athlete at Bear River, don’t think of the term ‘Lady Bruins’ as sexist,” stated Owyoung. “Although the term ‘lady’, has been used in a connotative sense in the past, I think of it as an honor, especially because the male athletes at our school don’t have a term like that. They are just referred to as ‘Bruins’.”
She also explains how the title Lady Bruins holds meaning within the Bear River community.
“I also enjoy the prospect of the name, especially because the term ‘Lady Bruin’ holds weight in our community due to the sheer success females in our school’s history have had,” Owyoung said. “Overall, I really like the term when I am competing, I like to think that it empowers the female population at our school with a title that male sports are not entitled to.”
While the term ‘lady’ may hold weight within the Bear River community, the harsh stereotype behind the word still stands.
If you go out to our girl’s softball field, you will find the word ‘lady’ in a cursive, delicate, font, while Bruins is bolded and aggressive.
This sign shows the severity of the harsh stereotypes that the word holds.
Is that the only field that our girl’s teams can play on? Are signs that read ‘Home of the Bruins’, only for our boys teams? This term is unnecessary because regardless of gender, we are all Bruins.
Even with the honor some athletes feel, the word ‘lady’ still promotes that female athletes are delicate and not as competitive as male teams. Women are just as capable and competitive, and sometimes more, than male athletes. The best way to end these stereotypes is to start by removing the word ‘lady’ from the names of our girls teams.

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