Family Practice: Is turnabout fair play?Written by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Inspired by the rousing appearances of the U.S. women’s soccer team in last summer’s World Cup and this summer’s Olympic Games, my 9-year-old son informed me that he would really like a women’s soccer video game. He already has a few games showcasing the premier men’s soccer players in the world, so he was hoping to also add the premier women’s players to his collection. We reserve such purchases for birthdays and holidays, but I decided to take a peek at what was out there for future reference.
Somewhat surprised, I decided to dig a little deeper into the gender equality of the sports gaming world. After some searching, I found that the reality-based video games do tend to computer generate many more male athletes than female athletes. EA Sports, the maker of the Madden franchise, offers computer-generated versions of the NFL, NHL, NBA and FIFA, along with NCAA football and basketball. However, I could not find any games featuring female WNBA, FIFA or NCAA players.
I did find video game representation of real-life female athletes included in EA Sports’ “Grand Slam Tennis” and “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” series. From other manufacturers I found a “Shawn Johnson Gymnastics” game and two female athletes depicted in “Supremacy MMA,” a mixed martial arts game. I eventually tracked down a Mia Hamm Soccer game … released in November of 2000 … for Nintendo 64. I see.
As a woman, I feel I should be outraged that my gender is underrepresented in sports-based video games. After all, I was very athletic as a child, playing everything from soccer to softball to varsity tennis. I even quarterbacked my otherwise all-boy flag football team. I spent my Sundays glued to NFL games and asked for sports memorabilia for my birthday. I was a female athlete before cleats and mitts came in pink to please the athletic female masses. Yet, somehow, I’m just not overly appalled that female athletics sometimes take a back seat to male athletics.
Despite my own affinity for sports, I have a daughter who couldn’t care less about them. However, I’ve still encouraged my mechanically-inclined, fashion-minded, no-interest-whatsoever-in-sports middle child to play anyway, because society now says that girls should be involved in sports. I personally just want to see her do whatever it is she enjoys, but growing up in the Title IX era I can’t help but think that it’s somehow my responsibility to ensure that she picks at least one sporty side dish for her life’s main course.
On the flip side, I have a son who has an affinity for sports that far surpasses even my own as a child. With very minimal nudging, he has realized an inherent love for soccer and for the sporting world at large. There is something about it that strikes a chord in him and gives him not only an understanding of athletics but of life in general.
So, I just happen to have a boy who lives for sports and a girl who could easily live without them. They are easily only two cases in a sea of millions, and their personal preferences could no doubt be vice versa. Yet, I can’t help but hold some concern about them both having the freedom to pursue their individual interests as time goes on.
Due to Title IX requirements and the higher cost and gender-partiality of certain sports (namely football), some universities now offer more women’s varsity sports than men’s varsity sports. In fact, our largest local university only offers six men’s varsity sports as opposed to nine women’s varsity sports. One of the sports that got the Title IX boot locally was men’s varsity soccer.
My daughter, who couldn’t care less, will have the opportunity to play collegiate soccer just down the road from us, but my son, who may actually want to do such a thing, will likely not be afforded that same chance because of his gender. In fact, life often becomes unfair in the name of fairness, because equality is ultimately in the eye of the beholder and not in the lines of well-meaning laws. Equality comes more in the form of respect and opportunity for those who take an interest than in the form of evenly split monetary, gender and other ratios.
With that in mind, I’m honestly OK with things like an unbalanced supply of male to female athletes in the world of video games if it reflects the demands of those who do take an interest. However, when my fair-minded, sports-loving, video-game-collecting son points out that he would like to see a league of determined and talented athletic women get a fair electronic shake, it’s time to send an email to EA Sports.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.