GENDUSA COLUMN: Breaking the Glass Backboard

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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The NCAA March Madness is over.  However, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark will remain in the record books until another phenom arrives on the court.  Caitlan and her basketball peers know what many knew long ago… girl’s basketball is a winning ticket!

In my daughter’s home hangs a shadow-boxed framed letter sweater of purple wool adorned with an embroidered basketball that proudly spells, “1935 Mid-State Champs.”  Gold medals are attached near the large wooden buttons, which appear as if they were sewn yesterday.

My mother was a 5’ 7” mountain girl who weighed 99 pounds in 1935 and played center for Monterey Tennessee High School.   Crowds filled the gym each game they played and cheered them to victory repeatedly.

At age 15, Mom also won the Middle Tennessee State free-throw contest held at the University of Tennessee, sinking 48 out of 50 attempts.

Tennessee applauded girls’ basketball before many states knew females could hold a ball.  Now, 90 years later, folks around the country are shouting, “WOW!!”  And I reply, “Duh!”

When I began walking, my mother put a basketball in my hands.  It was a part of my life, and try as I might, I could never come close to the skill she possessed.

Dad hung a netless goal above our garage.  My court was a gravel driveway, so dribbling was nearly impossible.  I diligently practiced and finally made the B-team at some point.  The A teams consisted of many young players like my mother, who could run rings around most of the fellas who played the same game.

Just before we moved to Georgia, I decided to try to join my new school’s team.  I would be a sophomore, and if I practiced more, I would become a phenom like Mom.

I envisioned the crowd roaring with my every long shot and each assist.  Oh, yes, I was going to be famous and one day have a letter sweater with medals and wooden buttons.

It only took a few minutes in my new high school to learn that my silly dream would never become reality.  My school had a stellar male team, but females?  No way!  Yes, no girls’ basketball.   I was astounded, and as much as I kept saying, “You guys are crazy not to have a team!”  My words fell on deaf ears.

Today, I just say, “I told you so!” with great pride and joy.

I wonder when folks will fully recognize that women can achieve greatness in sports and every aspect of life.

Where would we be without Madame Marie Curie’s groundbreaking discovery of radium and polonium or nurse Clara Barton, who founded the Red Cross?   Rosa Parks exemplified sheer courage and will, while Mother Teresa spread the love of God to the poor among us.   How many lives were saved or transformed by the power of these and so many other women?

In 1848, Elizabeth Cody Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony believed women deserved the right to vote.  They all died before women’s voting rights became a reality in America in 1920.  It took over 70 years of struggle to achieve such a feat.

Inequality, bias, and outdated perceptions of women, not only in sports but in many aspects of life, are still unjust.

Since 1982, women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, and since 1987, more master’s degrees.  Lastly,  since 2006, they attained more Doctorates than males.  Yet, they make up only 8.8% of the CEOs in this country.

According to Forbes Magazine, pay equality will not be achieved until 2056.  At that rate, Caitlan, who broke more records than any of her male counterparts, may see her daughter be paid according to her ability on the courts.

It took 90 years for a large section of the mainstream public to watch girls perform outstanding feats on a basketball court.  Seventy years passed for women to finally achieve the dream of entering a voting booth.  How long will it take for bias to end, and how many years will it be before the yet-unknown female scientist finds the cure for cancer?

Will it take another century for the world to see, allow, and encourage excellence from girls in all areas of life?  It will never be a reality without women supporting and applauding each other and our endeavors.

In the beginning, God created a man, and then he made Eve when he realized that Adam could not live alone.  Maybe he created women to do so much more, even if they needed to dribble a basketball on rocks to break the glass backboard or ceiling one day.

“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”

Hillary Clinton