Sex Roles, Vol. 51, Nos. 11/12, December 2004 (
Are Doors Being Opened for the “Ladies” of College
Sports? A Covariance Analysis
Russell E. Ward, Jr.
The purpose of this study was to examine sports symbols of colleges and universities for ev-
idence of sexism and to identify factors that differentiated schools with and without sexist
nicknames for their athletic teams. Data on team names and eight measures of women’s ath-
leticism were collected from 112 colleges and universities for the 2000–2001 academic year.
MANCOVA results revealed that women’s athleticism was stronger at schools with nonsexist
nicknames for seven of the eight measures, although only one statistically signiﬁcant differ-
ence was observed. Schools with nonsexist nicknames had a signiﬁcantly higher percentage
of assistant coaches who were women. Discussion focuses on why there may be more athletic
opportunities and athletic resources for women at schools with nonsexist nicknames.
KEY WORDS: sports symbols; team nicknames; college sports; sexism.
As the focus of the civil rights era expanded in
the early 1970s from the rights of Blacks to the con-
cerns of women and other minorities, scholarly at-
tention was directed toward sexist language (Massey,
1975; Miller & Swift, 1977; Wilkinson, 1976). Lan-
guage is sexist when used in a way that privileges
one sex over another, most often in the form of male
Most scholars agree that language favoring the
status of men should be reformed. Sexist language
discourages women from entering social structures
dominated by men, and it provides justiﬁcation for
people to act in ways that preserve male privilege
(Henley, 1987; Kleinman, 2002; McConnell & Fazio,
1996; Merritt & Kok, 1995; Miller & Swift, 1980).
Some scholars have argued that cute nicknames cho-
sen for women may reﬂect an unconscious anxiety
about women’s aggression and power (Lerner, 1988).
A portion of this paper was presented in Memphis, Tennessee,
October 19, 2002, at the annual meeting of the Mid-South Socio-
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Psychology and Sociology, Francis Marion University, PO
Box 100547, Florence, South Carolina 29501-0547; e-mail:
For instance, when feminists make assertions they
are called “women’s libbers” and the women’s move-
ment is referred to as “Women’s Lib,” but when men
make assertions they are never called “the boys in
the Black Lib,” “the National Lib Front,” or “the
Symbionese Libbers” (Lerner, 1988, p. 98). Other
scholars have focused on how the use of language
that assigns a subordinate status to a group repre-
sents a practice inconsistent with a democratic soci-
ety (Dolle, 1991).
Sport represents one area where the issue of
sexist language has been raised. Researchers have
identiﬁed how nicknames of some intercollegiate
athletic teams (e.g., Lady Gamecocks) undermine
the value of women’s athletics (Duncan, 1993; Eitzen
& Zinn, 1989, 1993; Fuller & Manning, 1987; Nuessel,
1994). Evidence exists that individuals who use sexist
language differ in some ways from those who do
not use such language (McMinn, Lindsay, Hannum,
& Troyer, 1990), but few researchers have examined
differences between organizations that employ and
do not employ sexist language. The purpose of this
study is to explore whether schools classiﬁed as
having sexist or nonsexist nicknames differentially
allocate resources and opportunities to women
2004 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.