It is a help to no one when the media becomes a megaphone for stereotypes
Louisiana State University (LSU) beat the University of Iowa in the women’s college basketball national championship game. The game drew a peak viewership of 12.6 million and was the most-viewed women’s college basketball game on record. During the end of the game, LSU superstar Angel Reese was seen taunting Iowa’s star basketball player Caitlin Clark. Reese’s action sparked heated debate across multiple social media platforms, with many highlighting that Clark was the first to make a taunting gesture.
This media firestorm started many types of conversations including how the media portrays women in sport, how White women are treated compared to Black women, and how trash talking by men in sports is taken much differently than women trash talking in sports. The media often portrays competitive women in sports as being overly aggressive and less than elegant, making women feel like they don’t belong or feel like they have to hold back during moments of celebration and success.
Women across all sports have experienced sentiments similar to those seen in the LSU vs. Iowa game. Men are oftentimes seen as taunting their opponents during moments of competition. Did this moment of heated competition in the women’s game really catch some off guard as Fox News alluded to in a recent article?
In an interview with ESPN, Clark expressed her views on the double standard seen with trash talking. “I think men have always had trash talk. That’s what it’s been, and I think more and more people, as they turn on the game, they’re appreciating it for what it is. I’m just lucky enough that I get to play this game and have emotion and wear it on my sleeves, and so does everybody else, so that should never be torn down, that should never be criticized, because I believe that’s what makes this game so fun. That’s what draws people to this game, that’s what draws it to the pro level, to college level, to the high school level. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You should be able to play with that emotion. That’s what makes it so fun. Nobody wants to tune in and not see people be competitive and passionate about what they’re doing across any sport. That’s how it should be. I believe that’s what it should be, that’s how I’m gonna continue to play, that’s how every girl should continue to play. I’m just lucky enough that we have fans support us and want to watch that type of basketball.”
Anyone who has been around female sports at the college and elite levels understands and have seen forms of trash talking taking place within their sports. It’s a common part of the competitive experience seen in higher levels of sports. Since the game, many athletes have come out in support of women being able to trash talk during their competition without getting the push back that has been seen after the LSU vs. Iowa game. During a press conference after the game, Reese spoke to the media, saying that “All year I was critiqued about who I was. I don’t fit the narrative. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto, y’all told me that all year. When others do it, y’all don’t say nothing. This was for the girls who look like me.”
Many major reports have been published stating that Black women are not treated as equals to their non-Black peers when it comes to the workplace. The standards of professionalism are often unjustly held higher for Black women, who are more likely to be tone policed due to stereotypes perpetuated in the media. A study in the Harvard Business Review concluded that “any display of anger by Black women professionals is deemed a personality defect, which often results in lower performance ratings and leadership evaluations.” The example of Reese highlights the gender double standard along with how Black women are often criticized far more for using the exact same gesture that White women may. This type of mistreatment towards Black women has been seen across many sports and sectors.
In response to the criticism towards Reese after the game, Clark told ESPN that “I don’t think Angel should be criticized at all. I’m just one that competes, and she competed. I think everybody knew there was going to be a little trash talk in the entire tournament. It’s not just me and Angel.” Clark highlights how women should be able to trash talk and use their emotions during competition across all sports while also understanding that Black women are held to different social standards when it comes to being professional.
Another debated moment from LSU’s win came when the United States First Lady Dr. Jill Biden spoke, saying that both LSU and Iowa should come to the White House, which is normally an invitation for only the winning team. The First Lady spoke to the advancement in women sports as being the reason to invite both teams. This sentiment sparked controversy online as many people believe that only the winning team should be able to attend the White House. Some also believe that this invite wouldn’t have been extended to the losing team if Iowa had won, though at this point nobody can be certain.
When asked about the White House invite in an interview with EPSN, Clark had this to say: “I don’t think runners-up usually go to the White House. LSU should enjoy that moment for them. And congratulations, obviously; they deserve to go there. Maybe I could go the White House [someday] on different terms.” LSU beat Iowa 102-85 to win the national championship.
This was a game that showcased how far women’s sports have come while also indicating moments of much needed improvement across all sports and how women are portrayed within competition by the media. LSU should be proud of their accomplishments and the amazing hard work that they put in to get there along with their ability to handle unforeseen controversies while celebrating their successes.