Erin DiMeglio is Florida’s first female quarterback, and she’s getting a very warm reception as she starts her season with South Plantation High School. Hard-working, hopeful, and humble, DiMeglio is pretty much the ultimate player; teammates, classmates, fans and family are all cheering for her with gusto. Meanwhile, her pretty face, long blonde ponytail (expertly thrown back into a ponytail by a cheerleader at the bleachers) and sweet personality seem made for tv; it’s no surprise that she’s also becoming a media darling–even beyond the sports section. There’s nothing not to love about her story, and yet…the media still seem to be more hung up on her gender than her sportsmanship.
DeMiglio’s coach, Doug Gatewood, has said in interviews that, while he welcomed DiMeglio to practice, he was hesitant to let her play on the team. He said his mind was changed, however, when he discovered how well she could keep up in practice and in games. It was her athletic abilities, not her gender, that determined whether she’d make the team (which, it should be noted, is full of young men who are already slated to play as college athletes).
And yet, the main reason she’s making news is her gender. She’s believed to be the first female quarterback in Florida, and her abilities are impressive, yes, “for a girl”: She can throw harder and farther than other girls her age, that’s the primary reason she graduated from girls’ flag football to the boys’ varsity team.
People‘s profile of DiMeglio described her stunning athletic abilities, but not without strong emphasis on how she fits in with the team, gender-wise:
After proving herself in spring and summer workouts, DiMeglio officially joined the team. She changes in the girls’ locker room, but is otherwise seen as one of the guys.
New York Times writer Chris Himmelbach said the same and, amidst quotes about her coach and parents’ concerns about allowing a girl to get tackled in real games (she’s 5’4” and 140 pounds; little by comparison to the boys on her and others’ teams), noted that “after DiMeglio’s debut in the scrimmage, a game in which she was untouched, she brought cookies and dessert to her offensive line.”
If I had a little sister points out that her gender should be irrelevant:
Why does Erin have to be one of the guys just because she’s on the football team? Isn’t she still just one of the girls? She just happens to have a cannon of an arm and can throw well enough to make the top football team at her school.
Of course, her gender is a big part of why her story is getting play at all, but whether she acts like one of the guys (who likes to bake) shouldn’t be. Especially not by the standards of the Times’ own sports section, which harshly criticized Lolo Jones just weeks ago for talking about her sex life and using her good looks to her advantage in her marketing strategy.
If the media wants to inspire women like DeMiglio to focus on sports instead of their sexuality or gender (and hold them to that standard when they write about them), then they should start with setting a good example in their own articles about female athletes.
Photo: If I had a little sister