Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out
Most college team mascots were chosen long before Title IX came along, and naturally no thought was given to the possibility that women might someday bear the name on the battlefields. So when Title IX created intercollegiate women’s sports, the dilemma of what to do about team mascots came with it.
Somebody got the bright idea to simply pop the word “Lady” in front of mascot names to designate the women’s teams, and unfortunately, the idea actually caught on. The dilemma, the repercussions and solutions for women’s team mascots are the subject of this week’s Three-and-Out.
1. The Dilemma. The root problem is that in most cases mascots were chosen on the basis of ferocity. Bears, Badgers, Bulldogs, Vandals, Wildcats, Trojans, Warriors, Savages, Devils, Razorback Hogs – the list goes on. And some mascots were chosen to convey masculinity: Bulls, Gamecocks and Cowboys, etc.
So there are at least two potential challenges in dealing with a mascot name for the women’s teams. First, how do you combine femininity with ferocity? (Not that I’ve ever noticed it to be a problem in real life.) And second, what in the world does a school do about its women’s team name if its name is decidedly masculine? Which brings us to …
2. The Repercussions. Oregon should consider itself fortunate. Even with “Fighting” put in front of it, Ducks are simply not ferocious animals, and you have to have at least a little exposure to ornithology to even tell the difference between a Donald and a Daisy. So the Ducks have a happy choice. Either call the women’s teams “Lady Ducks” and nobody will take exception, or simply accept that we’re just all Ducks.
Over the years the Oregon fight song has gone from “Fellows gather round and cheer her” to “Let us gather round and cheer her,” but outside of the “her” issue on the end — which doesn’t seem to bother anybody — the problem was easily solved. Other schools aren’t so lucky in erasing a history of male dominance, and popping “Lady” in front of their mascots only makes matters worse.
Lady Vandals? Since when is it possible to vandalize in a lady-like fashion? Badgers are nasty, mean smelly creatures, and there is nothing lady-like about them. Lady Trojans? Saw an advertisement for them once on the internet. They can be delivered to your mailbox in discrete packaging. And Oregon State — can’t even go there and keep our PG-13 Rating.
Topping the list, though, has to be the University of South Florida Lady Bulls. Honestly, I didn’t believe that such things were possible, but I did a Google search and came up with 5.5 million hits in barely over a quarter second. They seemed to be about evenly split between athletic teams and some sort of dating clubs.
But what is South Florida to do? Admittedly, designating the women’s teams as the Cows or even Heifers probably wouldn’t help recruiting.
And what about the South Carolina Gamecocks? Let’s face it. South Carolina Game Hens sounds more like Christmas dinner than something that would strike fear in competitors’ hearts.
And what about poor Rutgers? Lady Scarlet Knights makes no historical sense, but Scarlet Ladies-in-Waiting just makes you wonder what they did that made them turn scarlet. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester comes to mind, and while she was a heroic figure in her own way, she’s probably not the likeliest inspiration for a team mascot, and she wasn’t a Lady-in-Waiting anyway.
Unlike South Florida, South Carolina and Rutgers did not address the issue by popping “Lady” in front of the mascot for the women’s teams. They simply ignored the issue entirely. But while a female team of Ducks makes perfect sense, the same cannot be said for Gamecocks or Knights, red or any other color.
3. The Solution. Some schools have really easy solutions. The Wyoming Cowboys cleverly came up with “Cowgirls” for their women’s teams. But of course Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote, so you would expect them to be on top of this one. Progressive state that it is, it probably saw Title IX coming all the way.
There are a few that should just start over and come up with a different mascot for their women’s teams — or maybe for both men’s and women’s programs. Rutgers, South Florida and South Carolina certainly come to mind. If Stanford can switch from Indians to Cardinal-the color-not-the-bird to be politically correct, why can’t Rutgers, South Florida and South Carolina switch to something that is at least anatomically correct?
Then there are those that should — in my honest opinion – just go with what they’ve got and recognize that on the field of play, ferocity is as admirable a trait for women as it is for men. All you Bulldogs out there — think about this. We all know what the approved AKC word for a female dog is. Put it in front of Bulldogs and you’ve got something that strikes a lot more fear than “Lady” Bulldogs.
And how about “Sow Bears?” Sounds pretty scary to me … Buffalo Cows? Razorback Sows? And Boise State — which sounds meaner: Lady Broncos or Feral Fillies? Arizona State She-Devils? … I wouldn’t mess with them.
Title IX is one of the best things for women since the right to vote. With most of my personal athletic career in swimming — a sport in which males and females have equal footing — I have greatest admiration and respect for women athletes.
The truth is, though, that when the goggles go on, the “lady” comes off. Women in sports are every bit as ferocious as men, but they are still women. They deserve mascots that do not try to make males out of them; and where applicable, rather than denying the ferocity of their mascots, they should embrace it.
Top photo from video