Want Models? Role Models? WNBA Embodies Female Athlete

Copyright (c) 2005 The Arizona Republic

Publication: The Arizona Republic
Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Sports
Page: C8
Illustration:Color photo


By Kayte Christensen, Special for The Republic
This week I am making an exception from my usual light-hearted subject matter to respond to an article recently written by conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel comparing the WNBA with IndyCar driver Danica Patrick.
I feel it is my responsibility as a WNBA player to address the idiocy and insults presented in “Lesbian Basketball, Season 9 vs. the Indy Chick,” posted on Schlussel’s Web site.
According to Schlussel, whose credentials include writing for the New York Post and guest appearances on the O’Reilly Factor, the difference between WNBA players and Patrick is that Patrick looks like a woman, as opposed to the 169 players in the WNBA, who look like men.
Unlike Schlussel, I don’t want to take any credit away from a female trying to succeed in a man’s world, but let me point out a few obvious differences between the “raven-haired, petite Patrick” and the athletes in the WNBA.
The WNBA is a contact sport that requires extreme physical strength, endurance, talent and mental toughness. By the time an athlete makes it to the highest level, which is the WNBA, she already has been participating in this physically demanding sport for at least 10 years; our bodies are a reflection of this.
As professional athletes, certain muscle mass is necessary to prevent injury. Keeping our bodies strong and healthy does not make us men, nor does it in any way make us ugly.
Since when has being “good looking” been a requirement for any professional male athlete?
So why are professional female athletes judged so severely? Men are judged solely on their performances.
Our fans attend WNBA games because they want to see a fun, exciting style of basketball in which women are being displayed in a positive light. But Schlussel maintains that because the WNBA includes lesbians, unwed mothers and tall, “unattractive” women among its players, we are bad role models for young girls.
Explain to me how professional male athletes who admit to having sex with thousands of women, who stand trial for sexual assault, murder, drug charges and so on, are better role models for the youth of this country than someone like Anna DeForge, a player who was cut from her WNBA team but had the dedication to her sport to return to the league years later and become one of the league’s top players.
It is disgraceful that we live in a society where women are proving themselves qualified to compete vs. men in the business world, political world and on playing fields, yet as a society we can’t get past the idea that being beautiful is the most important thing a woman should strive to be. It is disgraceful that Schlussel, as a woman, can’t see the importance of the WNBA not only as a sports league but as an entity that is fighting to provide women with the same opportunities as men.
This is why NBA franchises, Commissioner David Stern, WNBA President Donna Orender and team owners are willing to lose money while giving this league a chance to succeed in all realms, not just financially. They realize the importance of the WNBA to changing our society’s narrow-minded view and giving women the chance to make their marks on a world of professional sports in which men have had a 50-year head start.

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