The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Girls Varsity Soccer Team Speak on Sexism at WIS

The girls varsity soccer team celebrates after a goal by junior Eleanor Hawkins.Left to right: Mariana Savastano, Celeste Martin, Eleanor Hawkins, Lydia May, Sarah Fertikh and Malena Suarez Touzon. (Mila Martin/International Dateline).

As each new school year begins, excitement for WIS soccer teams continues. However, many players on the Girls Varsity soccer team feel that they are treated differently than the Boys Varsity team. 

The perceived disparity stems from a number of issues including scheduling, promotion, support and general biases.

Senior and Girls Varsity soccer player Ana Diaz-Young believes that the differing treatment comes from scheduling issues, more specifically their lack of home games. As the vast majority of their games are away, the players have to leave school early to attend, meaning they have to miss classes.

*Including sixth period for upperclassmen (Data courtesy of WIS)

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The scheduling of away games means players have to return home late which further affects their schoolwork. “Because it’s my senior year, all my classes are really difficult,” Diaz-Young said. “I have so many things to do [like] college [applications] and coming home super late at night is really difficult.”

The girls team also has games that cut into class time. Their quarter-final game against Waldorf started at 2:30 and their semi-final game against Sandy Spring Friends School was at 3:00.  

Additionally, team members have noticed that the girls team is promoted differently than the boys. Regardless of home or away games, the Boys Varsity soccer team is known to have considerably more supporters than the girls. 

“I think it’s always nice to have a group of people supporting you, because it shows that people are interested in what you’re doing,” junior Eleanor Hawkins said.  “But the more difficult part is the comparison between the guys getting that support, and the girls not.”

The girls team’s lack of promotion within the WIS community contributes to the disparity in support between both teams. The boys soccer team typically receives significant promotion from spirit coordinator emails and WIS social media, unlike the girls team. 

Thus, fewer supporters attend their games, both home and away, resulting in lowered morale for the players. 

Alumnae have experienced similar problems in the past. “In terms of fan attendance, the team just felt demoralized when we noticed a lot more fans show up for the guys game which was right after ours,” Julia Brownell, WIS Class of 2020, said. 

Junior and International Student Union (ISU) spirit coordinator Juan Peltier explains that he didn’t realize the impact of the unequal promotion of the girls team until recently. “But now that it’s my responsibility, now that I know about it, and I’m focused on it, there’s more publicity that can be shown for the Girls Varsity soccer team,” he said. 

However, Hawkins also blames the team’s schedule for the lack of fans, as most of their more competitive games are away. “​​It’s not necessarily as fun, or as enticing to watch [the girl’s less competitive home games] as the [boys] game against Gonzaga, which is obviously a really good team that will have a really fun, interesting game,” she said. 

The disproportionate treatment of the girls team is visible not only in their games, but also practices. 

Hawkins explains that the girls team has to share the field with either the junior varsity or varsity boys teams, and rarely get the entire field to themselves. “Not being able to practice as a whole unit, not having that space to practice inhibits our ability to learn new skills and to practice our endurance,” Hawkins said. “There’s a lack of respect towards the girls’ practice space.”

Additionally, there is a notable disparity among the resources available to the girls team. “We have four balls that are normally not pumped, when the guys have a whole bag of mostly matching balls and it’s super organized,” Diaz-Young said.

Hawkins explains that her biggest frustration is the number of small issues, like old uniforms and deflated balls. “It’s an easy fix,” she said.

Boys Varsity soccer player Nikola Zec believes that a significant cause of the issue is people’s general biases towards women’s soccer. “There’s a stigma that they’re not as good or the level isn’t as competitive,” he said. “And I think because of that stigma, people don’t always show up to the games as much as the boys.”              

Alumna Riley Contee, WIS Class of 2021, agrees with this assessment. “I believe that a change in the mentality of the student body around supporting one team over another could be beneficial,” she said.

WIS’ new Athletic Director Floreal Pedrazo disagrees that the disparity in the girls soccer team’s treatment is because of scheduling. “It’s pretty balanced out in regards to who gets the field for practice, who gets the field for games, who gets which pass to go on away games,” he said. “And there’s no difference between boys and girls.”

He also explains that scheduling alternates annually, as one year the girls will have many away games and then next year the boys will. 

However, Pedrazo acknowledges that there is an imbalance in terms of fan attendance at the girls games in comparison to the boys. “If there’s a chance to increase attendance for girls, we should,” he said. 

“I hope to see more support and hype around girls soccer in the future,” Brownell said. “I think that would be a huge step towards improving the culture of sports at WIS.”

By Eliana Aemro Selassie and Lauren Brownell

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