Monday, February 06, 2012

The Lady Says it All

Been a looooong time since I've seen a pageant. All the way back to my youth seeing the Miss Louisiana events at the ole Monroe Civic Center (where it still is today, BTW). Saturday night I stepped up to get some HD footage of Northwestern State's annual event. We had promoted it with Facebook, hashtags and a memory lane run of older Lady of the Bracelet contests.

Along with several highlights, the kicker was the winner, Tori Thompson, in the evening wear/save the world question. They have two at LOB -- one about Children's Miracle Network and one random from the fish bowl.

Tori gets "what would you change about your university."

Her answer was not what you'd expect from the tiara crowd.

"If I could change one thing about Northwestern, I think I would promote women's sports more often. We get excited about football and things and I love you guys, love the team, you're great. But I'd like to see a lot more excitement about volleyball, women's basketball -- those are my girls. That's what I'd like to change about Northwestern."

Oh, this isn't just the veteran women's athletics guy getting excited. This is a bit of a landmark, something those who have promoted women's sports for decades have waited for -- women who want to see the women's game moved up.

Anyone around the sport knows you get families and niche crowds, but the general student body just isn't that into women's teams at most colleges. There remains a stereotype of gender bias or "lite" sport at the college level.

That doesn't exist as much at the junior high and high school level, where peers tend to have a little more respect for peers.

I will harken back to the 1980s, when high schools often had rules to prevent the captain of the basketball team from being the schools' "Miss High School". And it was a breakthru in the late 1990s when player resumes would list both varsity letters in cheerleading and volleyball. It was acceptable to be the best in beauty and in competition -- something that had always been there for the males.

What ultimately changes the climate for women's sports at the high levels for spectators is what happened Saturday night -- mainstream demands respect for the games. Please don't misread here. Just because the beauty queen said it doesn't make it special, or better, or some kind of back-handed insult against the stereotype of the grungy athlete.

What makes it significant is the cross of cultures. Dealing in the stereotypes, the last place one expected a pro-women's college sports statement was in the middle of the Miss Louisiana qualifier pageant. The same event where the female MC made jokes about wanting to meet Tom Brady. Do you see the on-par moment now?

When Lady of the Bracelet is calling for support for the Lady Demons (yes, they still are here) you have a watershed event. Here's to hoping it translates into the wider female population of the school.

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