Column: What the heck is a Lady Viking?

Published 3:35 am Friday, October 1, 2004

By Staff
As I was sitting at the Dowagiac-Niles girls' basketball game Thursday, I was perusing the teams' rosters before tip-off. At the top of the sheet, it listed that night's contest - the Lady Chieftans at the Lady Vikings.
The matchup of female mascots got me thinking. Not only is putting the adjective "Lady" in front of the team name unnecessary, but it often creates a mascot that is an oxymoron.
In this age of political correctness, it's surprising that schools still use the term "Lady" with their girls' teams. Denoting that the girls' are "ladies" implies that they are somehow inferior to the boys' teams. But, we'll touch on that in a moment.
What is most alarming about creating female mascots is that the terms don't make sense. Take, for example, the name Niles uses for its girls' teams - the Lady Vikings. Never in the history of the world were there any lady Vikings.
Vikings were brutish men who sacked villages and, in the process, raped and pillaged women. The only "Lady Vikings" were the women the brutes captured and kept as their concubines on their ships.
But it's not just Niles that is guilty of having a ridiculous mascot. Look at Buchanan. It's girls' hoopers are called the Lady Bucks. Another oxymoron. The definition of a buck is a male deer. There are no lady bucks. It is physically impossible.
If Buchanan insists on referring to its girls' teams by a separate name, the Does would be a more accurate description. But "the Does" doesn't intimidate opponents. Rather, it conjures up thoughts of Bambi frolicking in the woods.
The Lady Vikings' opponent on Thursday night, the Lady Chieftains, also have an absurd nickname. The only Chieftains in Native American tribes were men.
Dowagiac's players have actually said in the past that they don't want to be called the Lady Chieftains. Instead, they prefer the same title as the boys. They, like many more schools recently, have realized that discriminating between the boys' and the girls' teams is just that - discrimination.
Using the word "Lady" is leftover from when girls' athletics were first created decades ago, when girls were viewed as the gentler, weaker sex. Girls these days, at least on the playing field, are nothing close to sugar and spice and everything nice, as the term "Lady" implies.
The Associated Press style book, the Bible of news writing, actually says not to use the term "Lady" for girls' or women's athletics. Colleges across America have followed this trend by dropping the condescending adjective from their team names.
Many high schools have also banished the old tradition, but many of the area schools have not, Niles being one of them. Go to any Vikings' girls' basketball game and see just how lady-like the players are.
Niles plays hard-nosed, aggressive, high-pressure defense that often sends opponents flying all over the court - hardly the way a lady should behave. Off the court, these girls are great people, but once the whistle blows, the idea of acting like a "lady" goes out the window.
Girls demand and deserve the same respect that the boys get, yet many players and fans are content with the "Lady" label. As long as schools insist on using the patronizing title, its going to be hard for the girls' teams to get that equality.
It's time to cut the "Lady" out of all team names. At least then Niles' would have a mascot that made sense.