By Jethro Swain
What does it mean to you when you hear the term “Lady Aardvarks”?
Putting Lady in front of a mascot or sports team name at a high school or university is something that isn’t uncommon, and is what many people have used for many years and still use today to refer to girls sports teams. The very accomplished University of Tennessee Women’s basketball team is one team most notably referred to as the “Lady Vols”. If you google “Tennessee women’s basketball team”, their logo paired with the words “Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball” comes up.
But what significance does the term have? Last year a post was made by the OES facebook page with a video of the boys varsity basketball winning at the last second in dramatic fashion, followed by a comment that congratulated the “Lady Aardvarks” on their win as well. A parent responded, upset that the term was being used. There were no other comments that followed, but the post caught some people’s attention and provoked different opinions.
Back in 1972 when title 9 was first established to make it so that girls and guys sports team could not be funded unfairly, the term “Lady” in front of a mascot was something that was looked down upon by some women, because to them it meant that there was a difference between the men’s and women’s sports teams. I spoke with Athletic Director Missy Smith about the term and she told me that, “It never bothered me when I played, I’m not the type of person who would get offended by that, but I never really saw it as an issue.” After hearing how she had no issues with it, I asked her if she thought there were more problems among female athletes, or if the women who were getting upset with the term possibly were women who had little or no involvement in athletics. It was something she had never really thought about and had no answer to, but I believe it raises another layer to the topic, in whether or not it’s up for the women athletes to decide how they feel about the term.
“I don’t see it as an issue,” said senior Sophie S., “If I was called a Lady Aardvark it would be the same to me as if I was a called just an Aardvark, it just points out that I’m a woman.” Similar to Sophie’s view, 2016 graduate Jane S. posted on her Instagram a picture of her school mascot, the St. Olaf Lion, with the caption “Happy to be a Lady Lion!” last year when she got accepted to the school and their women’s golf team.
There’s no real answer or definitive conclusion to my article, because, like many political views, this isn’t something that is answered or resolved by one person. However, in a school like OES where we spend a good amount of our time and resources on culturalizing our students and making them aware of problems in society, this is probably something for people to think about, especially in terms of women’s equality in athletics, and could likely come up later in the year.