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2015: Women and Sports

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Was 2015 the year women moved significantly toward something like equal to men in the sporting world? Zirin makes the argument.

 In many ways 2015 could not have ended with a moment that was more on the nose. Serena Williams was named Sports Illustrated Sports Person of the Year: a glaringly obvious choice after three grand slams at the age of 34. Yet a small sector of social media erupted with anger that the award—for Sports Person of the Year, remember—did not go to a horse, triple-crown winner American Pharaoh. It was dead-enders showing their own irrelevance, while Serena literally took the throne.

Time will tell, but I believe that we will remember 2015 as a pivot point when women in sports took it to that next level and through their play offered the sharpest possible rebuke to what has at times seemed over the years like an anchored, immobile state of second-class citizenship. Let’s see what 2016 and beyond will bring, but for the father of a daughter who often thinks sports is not for her and a son we’re trying to raise in the 21st century, 2015 was a game changer. This was the Year of Women in sports, and over the next years I think we will see the reverberations of last 12 months well beyond the playing field.

Maybe, although in my world equality means pay equality first and foremost and we know that ain’t happening for female athletes anytime soon. No question however that Serena Williams dominated the year like no one else, while the media attention around Ronda Rousey was nearly unprecedented for a female athlete in anticipation for a single event (even if she was walloped by New Mexico state legend Holly Holm). The U.S. women’s soccer team was followed nationally as least much as the men during the World Cup. These are all positives. On the other hand, the WNBA is barely followed at all while professional sports leagues for those female soccer players languish, with them having to play on inferior surfaces to the point of effectively going on strike.

But at the very least, it was a very good year for women. We’ll see if it is a blip or something that gets built upon for greater structural equality in sports.

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