Dream. Miracle. Spark. Pride. Courage. Riveters.
These names may sound like they were taken straight out of an inspirational self-help book. And they might just be, but they are also the names of Women’s National Basketball Association, National Women’s Soccer League and National Women’s Hockey League teams.
Women’s sport leagues are on the rise, and with the stabilization of the NWSL and creation of the NWHL in recent years, it looks like they are finally here to stay. But just as their names connote, the playing field isn’t anywhere near even. A name such as Dream or Pride suggests they need to dream or have pride to be successful, as if they aren’t worthy of representing a team that has a name or mascot that shows off power and portrays fear.
Same thing goes with Lady Hens, Lady Vols and even Lady Bombs.
Many sports teams at Ithaca College have adopted the feminine version of “Bomber” as their team nickname, shouting it with pride from the sideline during practices and competition. The mascot name is supposed to be gender-neutral, meaning it can be applied to male and female teams, but “Lady Bombs” can still be heard. But why on earth are people giving gender to an inanimate object? Could you imagine men shouting, “Let’s go, Guy Bombs!” at the top of their lungs while their teammates rush down the field?
The name is so inscribed into the identity of the team that people may not realize what they are saying anymore. It has been passed down from team to team, to the point where it is just routine. But in reality, they are claiming that the term “Bomber” isn’t an adequate way to describe their team and that “Lady Bombs” is a better way to classify them. They are separating themselves from men’s teams, which can be good, but in this case they are doing themselves a disservice. It’s insinuating that they aren’t worthy of competing underneath the Bomber threshold, so they must compete under the feminine version.
Part of the problem is that female athletes are taught to separate themselves from men’s teams and create their own identity. However, they are just making a mockery of themselves by assigning gender to a mascot.
Branding is an important part of identity, and if a team’s name makes them appear soft and flowery, that’s what people are going to think of them. That’s only natural — after all, why would anyone think twice when that’s the way they are marketing themselves? It’s time for women’s sports to remake their image, and that all starts with the name and how they represent themselves.