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Sexist Column Fuels Debate About Respect for Women’s Basketball

A Los Angeles Times columnist’s preview of the recent LSU-UCLA Women’s NCAA Tournament game sparked widespread outrage and reignited conversations about sexism in sports reporting. Ben Bolch’s article described the LSU Lady Tigers as “dirty debutantes” and “villains,” a stark contrast to his portrayal of the UCLA Bruins as “milk and cookies.” He framed the matchup as a battle between “good versus evil.”

LSU’s head coach, Kim Mulkey, was a fierce voice condemning the language used in the article. “It was so sexist, and they don’t even know it,” she stated, further instructing reporters to “Google dirty debutantes and tell me what it says.” Mulkey’s criticism highlighted the underlying connotations and implications of Bolch’s flippant descriptions.

Facing intense public pressure, the Los Angeles Times later revised the column, removing the offensive language. Bolch also issued a public apology, acknowledging that his “words were wrong” and admitting he “failed miserably” in his word choices.

Beyond a Single Column

While the apology and revisions are a step towards accountability, this incident highlights a more systemic problem of sexism and disrespect in how women’s sports are often portrayed in the media. The stark villainization of the LSU team and the reliance on outdated stereotypes undermine their athletic achievements.

This situation echoes common themes in women’s sports reporting, where commentary can focus on appearance and demeanor rather than skill and strategy. This perpetuates harmful narratives that paint successful women athletes as aggressive or unlikeable.

A Call for Change

The backlash against Bolch’s column, particularly Mulkey’s strong response, serves as an important reminder that these narratives need to be challenged. This is an opportunity to demand more thoughtful and respectful coverage of women’s basketball and other women’s sports. The goal should be to uplift these athletes and celebrate their talent without resorting to demeaning language or harmful stereotypes.

While apologies and edits help address specific incidents, true change will require a shift in how we approach the coverage of women’s sports. It is crucial to increase awareness, hold individuals and media institutions accountable, and actively work towards creating a more equitable playing field, both on and off the court.

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