Imagine if Every Girl Grew Up in a Place Like Connecticut

Think about the last time you went to watch a sporting event. High school, college, semi-pro, pro. Any sport. For me, it was a Mountaineers baseball game this summer. I assume for many of us, myself included, that the athletes you watched were male.

I grew up in Connecticut where, when people watched sports, talked sports, and breathed sports, the chances were slightly higher it was female athletes they were following. In Connecticut, “did you watch the game?” in February probably means did you watch the UConn Women’s Basketball game.

Sure, people from Connecticut watch males play sports, too. They love the Patriots, they are loyal to the Red Sox or they despise them, and they are all in a tizzy over the new minor league “Yard Goats” team. It turns out, UConn even has a men’s team. Remember 2004 and 2014 when both the men and the women were national champions?

Imagine being a girl, growing up in a place where not only were your role models female athletes, these athletes were household names. And not just in your slightly progressive sports-obsessed nuclear family household. Back then, not knowing who Rebecca Lobo or Svetlana Abrosimona was in Connecticut, would be the equivalent of not knowing who Tom Brady is. Now it’s Brenna Stewart and Morgan Tuck. Say those names where I live now in Vermont, and people look at you like you are speaking a foreign language.

Growing up, my sister, Abby, and I were obsessed to say the least. We went to live games, we went to my Grandma’s to watch games before we had cable, taped Sports Center recaps and watched them on repeat on the VCR over our school vacation. I’ve seen more Liberty Basketball games than any other professional team. Did you catch that part about going to my Grandma’s to watch the games?

My grandma watched the games, too. Everyone did. She’d been a school nurse and we always joked that she knew everyone in town so going to the grocery store was a multi-hour affair by the time she got through chatting. She loved those Huskies as much as she loved chatting, and women’s basketball was one thing we could count on talking about. Shopping was another pastime of hers, and she made sure we all had UConn t-shirts to wear on game days.

And my grandpa on the other side of the family. He was from a generation that would’ve made him a prime candidate to roll his eyes when Title IX came about and took away funding from men’s team in order to support women’s teams equally. He was no progressive feminist. But he’d talk UConn Women’s Basketball for days. He’d play HORSE with us in the driveway and pretend to be Svetlana. For him, watching women’s sports meant watching not only the Huskies, but also my sisters and I.

We grew up believing that we, as girls, could be strong, powerful, successful athletes. My attempts at rec basketball didn’t go so well; I switched over to track and field. But I never stopped watching UConn, nor did the rest of my state.

In Connecticut, the culture of obsessing over a women’s sports team brought us together and brought our daughters belief in themselves. What if every girl grew up in a place like that?

What if we all gather our friends and go watch a women’s sporting event, be it high school, college, semi-pro or pro? Think of the message it would send to the young girls in our lives. Take them, too, but take others so they know that girls’ sports aren’t just interesting for girls.

Because, for those of us who grew up in Connecticut during the time of Geno Auriemma, girls sports are for everyone. Uconn, congrats on your 11th NCAA title. And thank you, from all the girls who grow up believing in themselves (and all the boys who never questioned that) because of you.

**Thanks, Dad for the edit (and the years of UConn Fandom). I will say it was in the spirit of my late grandpa that my previous post said Jen Lobo instead of Rebecca Lobo or Jen Rizzotti. Bopper, as we called my Grandpa, was forever butchering names and thanks to his awesome sense of humor you’d never know if it was a mistake or a planned joke. 

Voting Day Revisited

In my last post, I argued against making voting day a national holiday. Then news of Arizona’s primary voting disaster came through and I stopped to reconsider.

If people in Arizona did wait in line for 8 hours to place their vote, then surely they did miss a workday’s worth of time. Many simply can’t afford that.

I wrote my last post from a place of privilege. The polls in my town are open from 7am to 7pm and the lines are short. This past November on election day, I worked a double (actually a triple if you count my result reporting work for Reuters) shift. If it weren’t for the fact that I proudly wore my “I voted sticker” all day (I was working in a school at the time, and voting is something I think is important to role model), my coworkers would have had no idea I’d been to the polls. I didn’t have to miss a second of work.

I probably missed a few seconds of sleep, as I rolled into the polls right when they opened. Would this have been possible for a parent working a double and trying to get her kids to school?

Perhaps not, but assuming that those of us working doubles are getting lower hourly wages which necessitate the extra hours, we should ask ourselves “would a federal holiday make a difference for us workers?” As Dave Jamieson reported for the Huffington Post, “Barely one-third of workers in the lowest 10 percent see paid holidays, compared to 93 percent of workers in the highest 10 percent.” The article provides further statistics on the matter.

I used to work in school aged childcare and I saw firsthand the struggle of working parents when school was closed. Assuming my hypothetical working parent still has to work on election day, and assuming public school is closed, as most they are on federal holidays, she’s now scrambling to find childcare and shelling out her hard earned dollars for it. Voting did not get any easier by making it a federal holiday (I know some schools already close on election day, especially if the school is a polling place. Here in Vermont, most schools are closed on Town Meeting day, a local election day).

Even those who do get paid holidays might see their employers offer election day in lieu of a different holiday or a vacation day. I can only guess that most employers aren’t looking to add to the days they pay people for not working. And let’s not kid ourselves that the government is somehow going to subsides these lost wages. Nationally, we’ve got no guarantee of a single day of paid leave be it a sick day or parental leave, so that’s just not going to happen.

Now back to Arizona. No one should have to wait in line for 8 hours to vote. Period.

We should all be afforded the privilege I had of rolling out of bed, biking to the polls, voting, and returning home in time to get to work on time. (Wait, did this just turn into an essay about bike lanes? Ok, biking is optional).

The state of Arizona actually already has a law requiring employers to give employees paid leave of three hours to vote if their scheduled shift would interfere with it. Three hours should be plenty of time. That sort of law seems like a fantastic compromise to the federal holiday proposal.

What was broken in Arizona was that it took more that 3 hours for some people to vote. There were less polling places open than in previous elections, so people had to drive further and wait among more people to vote.

That needs to change. We need more places to vote. More hours to vote. More people voting, more easily.

As far as days off of work; let’s prioritize medical and parental leave, not election day.

For that hypothetical working parent, let’s throw in better childcare subsidies and a higher minimum wage so they don’t have to work a double.

And bike lanes. That, too.