I gave this one quite some time before I wanted to write and share it with you. There were many reasons for it, between letting emotions settle and trying to see all sides of the situation. Unfortunately this circumstance can still get my emotions boiling and I have yet to find the equality in it. I tried for days and nights to understand. I know there are many things out there that women find themselves treated unfairly compared to a man. I never had it affect me in my life and have never ran around preaching women's rights. But when you have a passion for something and are shot down because of your gender, it is really hard not to speak up and speak out. So here's how it goes:
I am attending the college where I thought opportunities were endless. Where everyone was treated fairly. I worked for admissions as an ambassador always promoting the college in a positive manner. I was a part of the Women's Basketball Team, Service Leadership Program, Orientation Leaders, Dance Marathon, Backpack Buddies, Ambassadors, a Peer Tutor and some other things when I found the chance. Involved and trying to find the positives in every situation. Then one day, I found an attitude shift. In the spring of my junior year, intramural basketball rolled around once again. Because of participating on the Women's basketball team, the spring was my only opportunity to play the intramurals offered. It was basketball too, how perfect, I was able to play the thing I loved. I saw the email sent out and my eyes did not light up quite the same as they had the years before. Men's and women's leagues were separate. Let me remind you, I was at a small division 3 school where there were not an extreme amount of people able to participate. The year before, I was approved to play on a men's team. I was approached by a men's team to play with them for my junior year as well. I sent an email to the director of intramurals and was accused of being rude. I went in and explained my position and cleared up how my email was misinterpreted and got the okay to play. At the captain's meeting, the person in charge approached my captain and told him there would be no girls playing in the men's league. I was not informed of the information until the day before play was supposed to start. I felt like it was behind my back and avoiding me, it felt childish. At that point I did not have a team on the women's league. Not to mention, women had to play 3 on 3 where men got to play 5 on 5. At this point I was frustrated but I reminded myself that I believe everything happens for a reason and it would be for the better. I auditioned for a one-act performance that spring and had one of the best experiences at college. I still missed playing intramural basketball with the guys and getting to better my skills in the off season.
Every summer I found myself playing with 15-20 guys out at the local YMCA. I had to earn respect on the court to get to play, but from the moment I did, they never turned me away. They didn't turn their back and tell me to leave because I was a girl. They didn't take it easy on me. I was accepted and respected. I was use to the different style of play and realizing my place. I had been doing this since the summer before my freshman year of college.
A year later, now a senior, I again get excited for intramural basketball to start. "This year will be different" I told myself. Little did I know, it would change my perspective completely on the college I chose as a freshman. The email came out, but once again, the leagues were separated. I sent a concerned email explaining how I've spent every summer playing with guys and asking if I could please play. I was denied the right, as a women's league was offered. I decided to be mature and get 3 girls together to play on the Women's league. We were excited and realized it was going to be what we made of it. Well only 3 teams signed up so they decided we were going to just get to play open gym style. Frustrated, I still decided to stay positive. I showed up that first Thursday night and the gym was empty. After waiting 15 minutes and only 4 girls were in the gym, I was disappointed. The director of the intramurals told us he would be there and have a ref so we could keep it competitive. Neither of them were there. I was a commuter, so I had to take time to drive to the campus late at night to play basketball which I was willing to do and the director did not even show up. At this point, my emotions were running hot. I emailed the dean of students and the person in charge. I set up a meeting with the dean of students. I expressed all my concerns and how I felt the women were being treated unfairly (as others had also asked to play on the men's league). I wanted to give us a voice. I mean every other intramural at the college was co-ed. Why did basketball have to be different? The moment that changed everything is when the dean of students asked me "Are you just being sensitive because you're about to graduate?" Excuse me, but no, I was not being sensitive because I was about to graduate. I had things lined up once I was finished with college, I just wanted to enjoy my last few weeks of the final semester. I couldn't have been more excited to get out of that place after that conversation. I didn't say that and I respectfully tried to explain why it was so hard to understand. That year there was no women's league offered and no women allowed on the men's league. Talk about lack of equality. I had talked with a professor who was like a mentor to me who found the situation all wrong as well. I was encouraged by this individual to meet with the dean and do what I could. It felt good to have an adult understand what I was going through. The thing that was even more unique is that it was a man. He didn't understand that if a men's team was willing and happy to have me play, what the problem was. He understood my passion for basketball. After the back to back intramural basketball situations, I stopped signing up for tours. I had a hard time talking about the college as a place where you could be heard. It made me look at the last four years and the rest of my life. It did feel good to be able to explain my situation to the dean and stand up for the other girls, but it was handled so poorly.
I just want everyone out there to know that if you ever feel you are being disrespected that it doesn't hurt to express your feelings. You have a voice and a reason to speak out. To be heard, you must do it in a calm and respected manner. Be able to explain yourself and show your intelligence in the matter and you will walk away saying you did all you could do. I know I did all I could do and I learned a lot from the experience. I never want to treat an individual the way I was treated.