August 20, 2014 — I am a really big sports fan.
Even after adding the “really big” part, the above is still a bit of an understatement. I'm a rabid sports fanatic, an ESPN junkie, a fantasy-football tycoon. I am one of countless high school graduates who have been told by a guidance counselor, “If you spent half the time studying that you do memorizing sports statistics, you could get into Harvard Law!”
I'm also a millennial, meaning my work experience is as limited as my power and influence. And, until recently, I’d felt there were only two major social issues worth advocating for: marriage equality and the legalization of marijuana.
Sure, I was pretty convinced the Middle East was a bit of a mess and the whole net-neutrality thing sounded pretty terrifying. But the issues I cared most about were whether my gay friends could marry and whether my local bodega could sell weed.
That is, until I started dating a feminist.
A strong relationship is contingent on the sharing of lives, interests, and passions. For my girlfriend, this meant adopting all of my favorite sports teams. For me, this meant observing, witnessing, and acknowledging the difficult realities and challenges faced by women in the workplace.
Like many guys my age, I was willfully ignorant of these realities—and those problems I did begrudgingly acknowledge, I didn't care enough about to fight to change. Let's fix this civil union nonsense first, let everyone get good and high, and then maybe after we find some time to save the Middle East, we can look into whether there's any truth to this rumor that women make less money than men do.
My feminist girlfriend and I now live together, and I'm both happy and proud to report a fundamental shift in the way I view the world around me.
Date discussions now revolve around the NFL’s despicably inadequate punishment of wife-beater Ray Rice, the exciting hiring of Becky Hammon as the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach, and whether or not the openly gay Michael Sam will make the St. Louis Rams’ final roster.
As a result, I now find myself enraged when the talking heads on ESPN debate how an athlete striking his wife will affect his team as opposed to how it may mold the thousands of youngsters who view that athlete as a role model. I cringe when championship-winning head coach Greg Popovich says of his new female staff member, “She knows when to talk, and she knows when to shut up,” not fearful of the intended meaning behind Pop’s quote, but of the way my meathead population may interpret it. I’m drawn to the social advocacy of ESPN2’s Olbermann over the X’s-and-O’s analysis or adrenaline-packed highlights of SportsCenter.
Here’s my recommendation: pair every meathead sports fan with a card-carrying feminist. Perhaps then the average beer-guzzling, ESPN-watching, fantasy-football-obsessing male millennial will begin to realize what's actually at stake here.
Because the truth is, sexism does exist—and it is all too often overlooked. Every one of my peers has an opinion about who's going to win the next Super Bowl. But how many of them know that the Paycheck Fairness Act has been shut down in the U.S. Senate on three separate occasions?
How many even know what the Paycheck Fairness Act is?
Until I met my girlfriend, I certainly didn’t.