Podcast Episode 42: How sports meets suffrage

November 5, 2020
In light of the recent American elections, this week co-hosts Ellen and Steph talk about the major role that female athletes played in securing women’s voting rights and how female athletes today are leaders in encouraging civic engagement. Talk about girl power. Tune in, won’t you?
Sports NewsGeneral
Podcast Episode 42: How sports meets suffrage
Source: Sue Bird/Instagram

Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT here.

Ellen: What is up GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of It, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And we're just two old pals and we're two gals and we're here to give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, a word from our partners. Today's episode is brought to you by our friends at Rogers. We know Canadian kids are eager to get back on the ice just as soon as it's safe. And fortunately, Rogers is here to help make that happen. The Team Rogers Community Draft is helping 3.500 hockey hopefuls by covering 150 dollars of league registration fees and giving them the chance to receive advice from professional players. Imagine getting advice from professional players when you were a young kid. I just can't believe it. You can learn more about the Team Rogers Community Draft at Rogers.com/getdrafted. That's Rogers.com/getdrafted. Steph, there is a lot going on in the world right now, but I always look forward to our conversations on this podcast because I feel so much better after our conversations because they feel productive. And I find that it's nice to have this different perspective on things and to talk through things together.

Steph: I 100 percent look forward to seeing you every week, talking to you every week, and to how we settled into our own uniforms on the podcast, too. You probably can't see us right now, but Ellen is once again in her WNBA hoodie and I'm once again in my Hockey Diversity Alliance hoodie. So it's good to just keep things positive with you, Ellen, sometimes I need that.

Ellen: Yes, it is nice and it's nice that we've fallen into our old couple routine. I do feel like we're an old couple. It's like we wake up at eight a.m. and breakfast is already set on the table. And then at 9:00 p.m. we're putting on the hot water so that we can have tea before we go to bed. It's like that, but it's on a Tuesday night podcast recording with you, my old pal. We are old pals, so we are at that old couple level.

Steph: We truly are old pals. So that's that's all true. Just got to drop that in. And while we're on the topic here, folks, of Tuesday night, we should say full disclosure for our listeners out there, we generally do record this podcast on Tuesday nights around seven p.m. Eastern Time. So we truly have no idea what the result of the U.S. election is and if we'll even know by tomorrow morning. But when you're listening to this coming out on Wednesday, just do know that this is recorded on Tuesday night. So bear with us.

Ellen: Yes. And outside of election stuff, last week, we really jumped the gun because we prerecorded the L.A. Dodgers are going to win the World Series. We also recorded that the MLB was covid free throughout the playoffs and then L.A. Dodger Justin Turner got covid-19 during the game, still celebrated with his team, took his mask off, and did the whole hoopla. And here we were on the podcast, just taking our hats off and tipping them to the freakin MLB. So sincere apologies, guys. Sorry about that.

Steph: When that news came out on Wednesday, Ellen and I immediately DMed each other like, oh, my gosh, we just we just gave them kudo's. Why is this happening?

Ellen: We're like, oh, my heck. As if out of the entire time, the one game and truly the one time we pre-record, we never pre-record. And the one time that we did that, that might just be karma biting us in the ass to be like you shouldn't have done that.

Steph: We thought we were so sneaky. So none of that anymore. None of that. So for today, we still want to keep our minds civically engaged, but more so talk about the major role that female athletes have played and how sports have played into encouraging civic engagement.

Ellen: So in the words of our beloved RuPaul, it's a herstory lesson for the masses. Ok, so Steph, I first thought that it would be cool if we actually dove into the history or herstory of how sports and physical activity were intertwined with women's rights to vote, because to be honest, that's something that I've never really thought about beforehand. But with this election, I was like, maybe there's some sort of tie in or comparison here. But anyway, as Jamie Schultz, who's a PhD and associate professor at Penn State University, said, we haven't always made this obvious connection between women's right to sport and physical activity and their broader spectrum of civil, social, political rights. But there is a connection. There's a political dimension to who has access to sport, who doesn't and why.

Steph: What really stands out to me is when we look back into history and we look back at what's happened over time, is that the same rationales that held women back from being involved in politics or being excluded in education or whatever it is, were really the same rationales that were used to also prevent them from playing sports or engage in physical activity.

Ellen: Totally. And I never really saw those parallels beforehand in such a straight up matter of fact way. And looking back, it's really cool to see how in the early nineteen hundreds and just a note, this is crazy that this is really only a century ago, a hundred years ago was basically what we're talking about. But it's really cool how in the early nineteen hundreds how suffragettes used sport to fight for their rights to vote. So there's a few examples here. The first one is that a lot of women took up cycling as a means of transportation and commuting, and a lot of them cited that it made them feel like they had the freedom to go wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and that they could do it without a man. And that was a sport and a physical activity that they really felt was compelling in the suffragette movement. Another thing was that in 1900 was actually the first time that women competed in the Olympics, but they only really competed in what was considered proper sport. So sports that were OK for women to play, but they were sports nonetheless. And they were in the Olympics for the first time. And these sports were things like sailing, golf, tennis and croquet. So as we've mentioned before on the podcast, a lot of privileged sports that also still allowed women to dress like women. But again, nonetheless, seeing women compete was a difference maker and a game changer when you're looking at sports. This one's kind of cool. In 1917, the National Women's Lifesaving League, how cool a lifesaving league founded by women, staged a race to rescue a dummy who was wearing an anti suffrage sash. And funny enough, the winner said that she would have preferred to drown the dummy. Like, why would they put that type of dummy at the bottom of the pool, their lake or wherever they were swimming? I definitely would have left for dead. And around that time, as much as it's not a sport, I definitely would consider it physical activity. And for sure, some people would consider it a hardcore sport. But there were also suffrage hikes and these were mostly for publicity purposes and involved walking exceptionally long, like two hundred and twenty five miles long, within 13 to 16 days.

Steph: I love that recap. And what's so cool is that the purpose of all of these physical activities was to show that the way that we think about women and the way that we think about them being politically and physically, quote unquote inferior, was just wrong and unfounded. The point of all of these different activities was to show that women were very much capable in the physical realm and therefore also capable in the political realm or basically in any realm, and was used to help them earn the right to vote. It's really interesting to see how they used these different physical activities in competition in sport to further the women's movement. I do also think it's important to note here that when we talk about suffragettes and suffrage, that a lot of women's suffrage movements did leave out women of color and exclude women of color intentionally. Many women of color were excluded by white suffrage leaders who forced them to take part in their own marches and generally were still disenfranchised from state laws and voter suppression acts in the states. And then here in Canada, in addition to provincial exclusion, so our provinces being similar to states, The Indian Act also further discriminated against indigenous women and their right to vote here in Canada.

Ellen: Yeah, and it's so good. It's good for you to bring that up, Steph, because it's really also quite sad to consider everything that's also happened this year, that's happened in the year of 2020 to think about how far we have come, but also still that black women and indigenous women still have to put up with this type of rhetoric.

Steph: Mm hmm. Voter suppression is obviously still a thing that happens. And we're not nearly at par when it comes to the quote unquote, right to vote, depending on who you are and where you live. So we have something here in the show notes that reminds me so much of a Malcolm X quote, the quote unquote, the most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. And I think that's a very fitting quote to insert here when we're talking about a woman's right to vote.

Ellen: Absolutely. Absolutely. And good to keep that context in mind, too, when we're talking about things like suffrage as well. It's not fully something to be celebrated and it's something to take with a grain of salt. And so, getting back to some of the history side of things as women were starting to feel and recognize their power through everyday activities, whether that is biking, hiking, doing these Olympic sports that are proper. But when they started to recognize their everyday activities, pro female athletes, which in the early nineteen hundreds in the US were mostly acrobats, equestrians and strong women of the circus. So mostly performers, when you look at those types of sports, made a massive push for equal rights. And this was super important because so many of these women travel around the US for competitions so they could spread the good word of what was happening really across the country.

Steph: It's absolutely so cool to me that circus performers had such a large part of this movement. Think about it, seeing these amazingly strong women do such cool and interesting things that would totally make the spectators be in all of them and of their strength and would totally make people see women in a different light. And what women could quote unquote do in a different light and Ellen, I think about the episode that we did earlier this year on the Boston Marathon Episode 14: Real Women Don't Run, They Said, because there was this honest belief historically that women were unable to run long distances. And so surely you can kind of tie these this string here between advocating for a woman's right to sport and physical activity directly with their right to vote and also the right to run for political office. So while sports and performing is obviously different than education and different than politics, it is truly symbolic and it's symbolic of a woman's potential and of a quote unquote, women's place. And I'm so passionate about equal participation in sport because it's all about changing the cultural narrative to me. And before we get into speaking about what female athletes have been doing more recently with the right to vote and with voters rights, let's take a moment to hear from our partners. Ellen, as you mentioned earlier, today's episode is brought to you by our friends at Rogers and this one hits home for me because thanks to the Team Rogers Community Draft, three thousand five hundred Canadian kids will have the opportunity to be mentored by current hockey pros like Marie-Philip Poulin and Connor McDavid when they register and will receive one hundred and fifty dollars toward league fees. Ellen, I don't know about you, but I did not have the opportunity to skate with legends like Marie-Philip Poulin growing up and it truly would have been such a game changer. So don't miss out. You can learn more info at Rogers.com/getdrafted. That's Rogers.com/getdrafted.

Ellen: Ok, so we've talked a little bit about how sport and female athletes and physical activity that women participated in contributed to the women's rights movement in the early nineteen hundreds. But also let's talk about the impacts that female athletes have had today because it was pretty frickin big.

Steph: It's very top of mind. I feel like this conversation has to be centered around the WNBA. It's important to mention that black players make up the majority of this league and that the league also has a lot of LGBTQ+ identifying players. So it's a very important note based on everything that we're talking about today. As of October 20th, there were 22 NBA and WNBA arenas and facilities used to support the election related activities. Washington Mystic Natasha Cloud, who sat out this season to focus on fighting for social reform, Natasha Cloud advocated for the mystic's home arena to be used as a voting super center in D.C. to combat long lines for voters during the pandemic. Hats off to Natasha Cloud. The WNBA and their players association also partnered with Rock the Vote on a public service announcement that ran during the NBA and WNBA playoffs. You might have seen it, essentially creating a quote unquote, voting playbook that gave Step-By-Step instructions on how to register to vote. And as we mentioned in our newsletter on Monday, L.A. Sparks forward and sports personality Chiney Ogwumike served as a poll worker on November 3rd. And for me, one last lasting visual from the WNBA this season were those purple facemasks brought to us by Fair Fight Action that had vote written across the front of them that players like Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, among others, were pictured wearing and they posted on their Instagrams wearing. That image of Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe in that purple and white vote mask is just embedded into my brain when we think about the election. And white and purple are one of the main colors of the suffrage movement back in the early nineteen hundreds that we were talking about, too. So there's a lot of symbolism in that. And I think it's important to also not doubt the power of good design in a political movement.

Ellen: Yeah, absolutely, I love that good design, especially from a fashion communications graduate. Definitely something that you would notice. But when we're talking about, especially in this podcast episode, where we're tying in things that happened in sport and physical activities in the early nineteen hundreds to what's happening now in twenty twenty, those are definitely combined and it was definitely done on purpose. These are some very smart women that knew that other smart women like you, Steph, would be catching on to that. And we've seen the symbolism in that. And I think these are just a few things that we've listed that the W is doing and that some other female athletes are doing. But I think when we look at the WNBA as well as the NBA, is that civic engagement isn't anything new to the W. In the absolute Gong Show that 2020 has been and seeing how fractured and divided the US is right now and during an election year, their encouragement to get people to go out and rock the vote is such a difference maker. But they have been doing it for a while and have truly taken on the responsibility of being a leader in sports to get people to be civically engaged.

Steph: Those are two words that I think really embody this past WNBA season: responsibility and leadership. They really took that responsibility and they were truly leaders in that responsibility. Because of what the W has done, other teams and leagues have followed suit. Teams from the NFL are ensuring that their voter registration is over 90 percent. Teams in the NHL are encouraging mail in ballots. So truly leaders in the field. And it's no surprise now that women, that black women, that the LGBTQ+ community are the leaders in civic engagement with histories of having to fight for their own rights through what would have been considered civil disobedience or civil disruption. So it's truly carrying on the legacy of fighting for our rights and for our lives. And I saw a post on Instagram this past week that said that the only people we should try and impress are our past selves and our future selves. And that kind of reminds me of what we're talking about now, which is I feel like the women from the nineteen hundreds, our past selves are our quote unquote ancestors would be so proud of the moment here and of the women and the female athletes who are using their platforms to make a better tomorrow.

Ellen: Ok, so to close out our podcast, we would generally do a WTF moment of the week submitted by our GISTers. But to be honest, there's been a lot of WTF moments this week and they're sure to be a few more WTF moments this week. So instead, Steph and I want to talk about Halloween and some amazing Halloween outfits that we did see. And we'll get back to WTF next week once we're all ready for it.

Steph: It's really important to avoid WTF burnout. We gotta save that for when it really hits, you know.

Ellen: Yeah. Exactly. When we need it. So Steph, this weekend you had a kick ass Halloween outfit that you just stayed at home and rocked.

Steph: Oh, thank you. So I'm usually Britney Spears for Halloween, but this year I decided to just focus on makeup. And so my roommate and I tried to emulate a Trixie Mattel makeup tutorial. Did it go a hundred percent as planned. But I think, speaking of herstory, we tried our best and it looked great. And what did you get up to, Ellen?

Ellen: Yeah. RuPaul is all over this episode. My partner and I dressed up as Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World. Which was really fun. Maybe I'll add a photo to the show notes. I don't really know if you can do that, but we can add one. To be honest it was pretty good. I was quite happy with it. So I was Garth, Alex was Wayne and we got some great clothes and the wigs and we had it all going. So that was fun. But really the win for me this weekend obviously was not what you and I dressed up as, but it was also seeing how many young kids were dressing up as NWSL players, as US Women's National Team players and as WNBA players. It was so fun. And in particular there was one little girl who just so stood out to me because she dressed up as Sue Bird after Sue Bird won her fourth WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm this year. And she had the net around her neck and she was holding what looks like a little mini champagne bottle. And she was looking at the phone and she had the ski goggles on. And it was just literally Sue Bird. It was so cute.

Steph: It was such a well executed costume. There were so many young girls that I saw who dress up with different WNBA players, but that is one hundred percent the standout. And while we're on the topic of Sue Bird, to throw in some positive energy, you may have seen that Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe are now engaged. And I literally screamed when I saw the news on my phone. My roommate got so scared because I was screaming next to her. But now I did some research, I did some digging. And while largely in part because of The GIST's Twitter, which you posted the video, so thank you, of how Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe met and they actually met for the first time at the Olympics, had a photo shoot in preparation for the Olympics as American representatives. And Megan Rapinoe said something along the lines of, oh, you getting ready for the game to Sue Bird in her jersey, and Sue Bird thought to herself, what a dorky thing to say, I thought you were supposed to be cool. I love that moment so much because they're just two of the coolest people in my brain to think that that's exactly the first encounter that they had. It's just so endearing. I love it so much.

Ellen: It's so endearing and that they were also doing such a cool thing prepping for 2016 Rio Olympics at this photo shoot. They're literally doing the most ultimate cool thing. But it's so nice to see Megan Rapinoe actually being relatable because I feel like I can speak for you in this situation, Steph, but I feel like we have probably both approached people and tried to hit on them and have not done a great job. And those people are definitely not ones that we are engaged to now. But I definitely appreciate the dorkiness of Megan in that situation.

Steph: Oh, wow. That was a really good comparison. Ellen. Thank you. I'm flustered thinking about the awkward interactions I've had. So it's nice to know that things work out for some people.

Ellen: Exactly. Some people like Rapinoe and Sue Bird, I freakin love it. But anyway, Steph, I think next week we're going to be ready for a proper WTF moment. So for those of you listening, we would love to hear WTFs and to feature them on the pod. Again, it could be from the pro sports world, amateur sports world or even a WTF moment you had in your own life. So over the next week, email Steph and I at pod@thegistsports.com with your WTF moment and you may be featured on next week's podcast.

Steph: All right, folks, that was the gist of it from Ellen and I. Thanks so much for joining us this week. If you want to help us get the word out, if you like the pod, go ahead and rate us. Leave a review and be sure to tell your friends to subscribe to The GIST of It on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

Ellen: And once you're done giving us those five stars, if you like what you heard today, you have to sign up for our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. You can subscribe for that at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, as I already mentioned, we want to hear from you. You can get in touch with us over email at pod@thegistsports.com or follow us on our new Twitter. Even better follow us @thegistpod. Again, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been the gist of it. Take care of yourselves and we'll speak to you next week.