The Fallacy of “Lady Dawgs”

By Sarah Averill ‘19. She was on the crew and cross-country teams at Nobles, and now rows for Harvard College.

I have seen Nobles through many different perspectives: as a faculty kid, a student, an athlete, and now as a grad. I feel lucky to have called Nobles my home for so many years and I am very grateful for all the opportunities it has given me. I have always had deep ties with the Nobles community, and that has not changed now that I have graduated. I stay up to date on current Nobles events by keeping in touch with current students, faculty, and coaches, as well as following social media.

The other day, I was scrolling through the Nobles Athletics Instagram page and came across a photo posted on March 6th. It encouraged people to head out to the Girls Varsity Hockey and Girls Varsity Basketball home games that day. What caught my eye, and infused within me an immediate feeling of anger was the header: “Lady Dawgs Fight On!” Why wasn’t the header simply, “Dawgs Fight On!”? Why were these athletes given the label Lady Dawgs? This is a perfect example of a microaggression that adds to the patriarchal view of athletics, where male athletes are stronger, fitter, and tougher than female athletes. They are more skilled and therefore more enjoyable to watch. “Lady Dawgs” gives the impression that these female athletes are dainty, weak, and hold a lesser standard than that of a Dawg, which –– according to the Instagram post –– is supposedly a title held for male athletes. It sends a message that these female athletes act similarly to society’s view of a “proper lady,” caring more about breaking a nail than beating their competitor. While this implication may not be the intent of the header or post, this is the impression it had on me.

Credit: The Nobles Athletics Instagram

I have many friends who are female athletes, and I know them to be anything but dainty when competing in their sport. As a rower myself, I know the kind of physical and mental strength, as well as grit and determination it takes to compete; rowing is certainly not for the faint of heart. I do not consider myself to be ladylike when training or competing, and it’s certainly not how I want to act. That’s not to say I think I act like a man when I perform in my sport, but simply that I have to put forth a certain level of toughness that is not generally associated with being a “lady.”

Credit: The Noble and Greenough Instagram

Furthermore, to just compete in a sport is one thing, but to dominate in a sport requires a whole other level of dedication, hard work, and toughness. I have known the girls teams at Nobles to collectively outperform the boys teams, going undefeated in their seasons and winning ISL titles and Class A New England Championships while the boys teams place second or third in the ISL and compete in Class B championships. Despite the girls’ consistent success, the boys teams have historically received more recognition, praise, and fans in attendance at their games. Now I don’t compete in sports looking for praise and recognition, yet it upsets me when the achievements of female athletes are brushed aside, especially when athletics are so greatly valued at Nobles.

Although clubs such as Dawg Pound do a fair job of supporting all events at Nobles, societal gender roles are still exhibited and perpetuated, even if subconsciously, in Nobles Athletics. The term “Lady Dawgs” only contributes to this imbalance where boys teams are valued more than girls. Even though Nobles exceeds other schools by many standards, this is one societal stereotype it can not escape. I’m doing my part by bringing this to the attention of our community.

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