Former NOW president defends FSU Women’s Basketball Team

Statement by Patricia Ireland
Former president, National Organization for Women
In response to Dec. 10 column by Fanhouse columnist Michelle Smith

“More and more women student athletes have emerged this new millennium as strong young women who are becoming leaders in sports, academics and life -- slashing insidious stereotypes that insinuated women who compete in sports somehow forfeit their womanhood.

“This encouraging record of progress is why I am so disappointed that a modern, edgy Web site celebrating the Florida State University women's basketball team – and their dynamic and diverse lives in the classroom, on the court and in society – has generated shallow, knee-jerk criticism in the mold of Don Imus’s disgusting comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

“Writers such as Fanhouse sports columnist Michelle Smith, who attacked the site in an article headlined “FSU: All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go,” claim that the site and its images are objectionable. What is truly objectionable is the fact that FSU is a top-10 basketball team that’s undefeated, but reporters like Smith would rather talk about pictures of them in dresses.

“As someone who has devoted my career to advancing women's rights, I believe Smith’s criticism is wholly counterproductive. There is nothing wrong with being glamorous -- but everything wrong with placing women in a box where they're expected to conform with someone else's expectations. Women fought long and hard for Title IX so we could put on a uniform and compete on the court -- without having to sacrifice being women.

“We didn't fight against dresses, but did fight against the fallacy that said if you wore a dress, you couldn't be a competitor. To now suggest the opposite -- that if you play sports you shouldn't wear a dress -- is the same kind of backward thinking that in the past attempted to block women from full equality.

“We should accept these FSU women athletes for who they are and celebrate their achievements on and off the court. And we should support them not by criticizing what they choose to wear, but by attending their games, supporting their teams and honoring their competitive spirit.”

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