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Definitely not last

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OCTOBER 28, 2022

Editor’s note: The following is a storytelling by the all-female sports editor team at The Daily Californian. 

Maria Khan, head sports editor

As a woman, I know my place. 

In fact, I know it extremely well. 

Perhaps because I have been told what it is so many times. Actually — let’s scratch that, cross it out, have it struck from the record. 

I have been forced, pushed, shoved into my “place” so many times that I know exactly what it looks like: It’s soft, it’s frilly, the overbearing scent of less-than permeates through the lace curtains and into the fluffy rugs. 

And don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to come off aggressive — don’t we all know that an aggressive woman is anything but attractive? 

While many a guy has forcibly “put me in my place,” there have been a few that have set me ever-so-gently into their little box, because I am so extremely and extraordinarily delicate, of course — God forbid any ailment befall me while the group of sports-loving, jock-identifying experts make sure I don’t know as much about football as they do. 

And some might proclaim me dramatic, what can I say? I’ve been told that’s the woman in me. Sure, dramatics are negatively associated with the feminine phenotype but when the world goes up in flames and riots ensue and men storm the streets to defend their pride and joy (let’s say any given soccer, baseball, basketball or football team) the only word that lands in my pretty little head is dramatic. Perhaps emotional? 

Oh, definitely hysterical. 

And hey, I have been my fair share of hysterical too. What other word is best-fitting to describe the anger that consumed me as I was told that I “looked confused” on the sidelines of a soccer field or when I was quizzed incessantly on the rules of football during an interview until I could prove that I “knew what I was talking about.” 

How about the innate rage that made my face go up in flames as I was told “not to worry my pretty little head” as I asked for the boxscore of the game I was to cover. Or perhaps hysterical is best in describing my feelings as I was patronized during a class and told that I shouldn’t cover football because of my gender.

Oh I apologize, the exact words were: “Females don’t have a place in football, dude.” 

And while the hysterics of men are somehow justified after their favorite team has lost and the sidewalks are now cracked and bruised with the failure of their idols and their own petty and emotional tears — somehow I’m the hysterical one. 

And yet, after all is said and done — after all the patronizing divots and misogynistic ditches have gone from the pit of my stomach to the peak of my tear ducts, there remains a single difference between the emotional and patronizing one who “puts me in my place”: I don’t approach the world with hysterics and a literal bat of anger after my team has lost — I write about it. 

I analyze it, I assess it. I learn all about it. I let my knowledge of the game beat them at their own one. I make sure that my comprehension of the world of sports and everything and anything adjacent is too vast and dense to fit in the box they wish to squash me into. 

And if any patronizing, misogynistic know-it-all wishes to make sure my presumed sports-knowledge-lacking self knows her place, — my answer will be plain and quite simple: 

Yes, it’s above yours. 

Jonathan Hale/Senior Staff

Tina Xue, deputy sports editor  

For as long as it has beaten, my heart has rarely left my sleeve. 

Though that has always been the case, the realization — and acceptance — is fairly recent. Also recent is the reason behind this reluctant acknowledgment, one that became clearer in hindsight, as things often do. 

When I was younger, shopping trips with my mom saw the avoidance of any color that was within a two-shade radius of pink; weekend nights consisted of watching NBA Sunday Showcase with my dad, trying the best of my 12-year-old ability to imitate Mike Breen’s voice. 

Back then, being a woman in sports meant just that and absolutely nothing else — if I owned sneakers, I could never even look at high heels, I couldn’t possibly be cheer captain and on the bleachers at the same time. It always seemed to be one or the other: ESPN or the Hallmark channel, playoff game or One Direction concert (the latter may have been a bit more personal). 

It was almost as if the very term “women in sports” itself was an oxymoron: femininity had lines, and if you dare to venture outside them, you may never return. 

Somehow my barely developed brain at the time was convinced that its host was this new type of feminist, one that eventually reared its ugly head and exposed its true colors, one that was tainted with internalized misogyny. It’s rather backward to embrace a form of feminism that exclusively sets masculinity as a new standard; it’s truly nothing more than further capsizing under the pressure of the patriarchy. 

To me, being a woman in sports no longer implies a sacrifice of femininity nor is it an obligation to camouflage myself into a masculine newsroom. 

I am traditionally feminine; in fact, I am exactly like other girls — I think boy bands are the greatest things since sliced bread, I watch romantic comedies like there’s no tomorrow, I turn to the stars for answers when all else in my life fails and I have tears that threaten to fall at every slightest inconvenience. 

Sensitive, emotional, melodramatic — I am all those things. My femininity is an advantage; it’s the answer to the time-honored “what do you bring to the table” interview question, it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi’s high ground. Too often have women in male-dominated workplaces been forced to contain their emotions and stuff their hearts back into their chests. 

I know exactly where my heart belongs, and so will everyone else — every single piece adorned with my byline will be sensational and emotional, because that is what breathes life into mere ink on paper. 

And as a woman in a department responsible for the traditionally masculine page of the paper, there’s nothing I want more than to encourage female readership and show them just how emotional men can be. 

Jonathan Hale/Senior Staff

Maria Kholodova, deputy sports editor 

“Impostor syndrome” is an interesting term — it suggests that self-doubt is chronic, persistent despite whatever accomplishments or qualifications you may hold. I have many intersecting identities, all of which have contributed to this feeling over the course of my life. 

But I don’t think it would be dramatic to assert that nowhere have I felt as out of place as in our newsroom’s sports desk. 

The task was to write a piece about when being a woman in sports disadvantaged me or made me feel insignificant. To be frank (the most frank that I have perhaps ever been in my short time as a journalist), the moment I realized just how ridden with internal biases I was came shortly before writing this piece.

Everything I wanted to write about seemed out of the question: I simply couldn’t be vulnerable.

Initially, I wanted to write about how I’ve felt marginalized by a majority-male sports department — but I thought no one would take me seriously. They’d think I was dramatic, overemphasizing labels or leaning too far into “identity politics.” 

I had apprehensions — still do, frankly — about publishing this piece at all. I’ve been taught over and over again in my life that if I bring attention to myself being a woman that I would somehow be seen as less. A lesser colleague, a lesser writer, a lesser person. 

If I talk about not being taken seriously, I’ll be laughed at. I can’t “man up,” I can’t step up to the job. 

As much as I hate to admit it, that ruled out talking about my experiences of being marginalized in a male-dominated space. I know I’m good at my job — even that feels uncomfortable to admit — but I just can’t shake the feeling, now seemingly chronic, that I don’t deserve the title I hold. That I’m an imposter. 

So, I thought I’d pivot, and write about editing football and attending games from the press box instead. I was not raised in an environment with “traditional” American sports. Rather, my family watched tennis, soccer, figure skating and even biathlon (yes, the one where they ski and shoot).  

I’ve taken every step possible, lest dropping out of college and working on becoming a full-time football connoisseur, to fully immerse myself in football to understand it. But every time I have to ask for clarification on what a stat line means, my whole body contorts so hard that I wish I were invisible. 

I laugh it off — “growing up abroad didn’t prepare me for this” — but it kills me inside just a small fraction at a time, over and over again on the seventh floor of Memorial Stadium.

Writing about football seemed out of the question. If I admit to the world, let alone my department, that I feel underqualified for my role due to my lack of football knowledge, no one will respect me. I’ll be the laughing stock of a department full of those football connoisseurs I was so close to dropping out of college to become.

I decided I didn’t want to talk outright about the difficulties I’ve experienced being perceived as a woman in sports. I couldn’t: By acknowledging the fact that I feel inferior, I would become inferior. I would be ridiculed, my editing not respected. Because who am I to tell people what to do if I don’t even know what I’m doing? My editing tenure would just be swept under the rug: another woman that didn’t know what she was talking about.

This thought process occurred just before I sat down and wrote this article.

Instead of making up excuses for writing something that is more acceptable — and would, honestly, make me feel better — I decided to be honest. Because without facing our internal biases, there is no point to make a fuss about what is ultimately an impressive feat: an all-female sports editor team. 

I was reluctant to be open about how I feel in my position. I was concerned that my experiences wouldn’t be taken seriously. I was not willing to talk about the very real struggles that I — and my co-editors — have been facing because I was scared that what we had endured would be dismissed because we live in 2022. 

But even though it’s 2022, things are far from perfect. And I am among the first that needs to acknowledge that. 

My experiences are valid, but my internalized misogyny is still there. And I’m not going to get anywhere without confronting it. 

While this feat of an entirely female team is something to be marveled at, we hope, as editors, that this will not be the last time. 

Our place will always be at our sports desk, editing, writing and tensely working away. And whether we choose to get up from our squeaky chairs and blinding laptops to go to a Taylor Swift concert, watch the Super Bowl, discuss the fundamental differences between Bertrand Russell and Nietzsche — you better believe that we chose to do all of those things and were not confined to any traditionally “feminine” or “masculine” space just because that is how society dictates we operate. 

As women in sports, we refuse to be shoved into spaces or put in “our place,” whatever claustrophobic box that may be. 

Our various passions and accomplishments are too many to fit anyway.

Contact Daily Cal Sports at [email protected].

JULY 24, 2023