I too share your (and Sports Illustrated’s) interest in noticing and understanding gender inequity. Perhaps just as fascinating, though, are instances where no such inequity exists, or the inequity is entirely reasonable, and yet a story of girls having an unfair time compared to boys is told.
Now, I had never heard of Olivia Moultrie before reading the enjoyable xxxxxxxxx So, I freely concede that you may know how Olivia and her parents face backlash in ways male childhood prodigies don’t. But judging by merely the journalism itself, I saw no such inequity and I’m curious if you reached an alternate conclusion.
You put forth the idea that we view Olivia differently because she’s a girl, that we would treat her better if she were a boy. Yet, I struggled to find strong evidence to support this notion. While there existed criticism and questioning of Olivia throughout the piece, it was all cliché in that we hear the same musings upon encountering young male phenoms (see the ongoing warnings of what would happen to our boys if NBA/NFL age restrictions were lifted).
Maybe Olivia hears a greater volume of criticism, but that could easily be explained by the dearth of young teen predecessors in her sport. If she were a tennis player, where there have been several underage women stars, would warnings of “too much, too soon” be in any way unique (and unique in comparison to teenage male tennis pros)?
Maybe the money has something to do with it. As you explained, women soccer players make less than men. This could be an outrage if not for the simple, obvious facts you provided: women make less because “average NWSL attendance recently surpassed 6,000 for the first time,” and, “the supply of talented women’s players vastly outstrips demand.” Economics 101 wins again.
Let’s lastly consider the case against her parents. Again, you, in a particularly odd three sentences, showed the normalcy of the situation in writing about Olivia’s father K.C.:
“He’s been compared to Richard Williams and LaVar Ball, which he hates. This isn’t about him, he says. If Olivia were a boy, no one would care about her dad.”
I assume that K.C. is suggesting he’s not selfish and over-the-top like those parents, yet in claiming omniscience by saying, “it’s a matter of when, not if, she becomes the best player in the world,” he’s identically over-the-top, which makes his gender bias belief nonsensical (what, if Olivia were a boy like Lonzo nobody would question her father?). But even if K.C. exited the soothsaying business, he still misses the larger point: we as a society love to question that which is different (i.e., prodigies and their parents). If your child, boy or girl, is good enough, it doesn’t matter if you have the disposition of Tiger’s father, Lebron’s mother, Serena’s father, Andre’s father or any of the other countless prodigy parenting styles, you will be intensely examined.
I don’t doubt that Olivia’s gender adds intrigue for some, I just didn’t find a compelling reason from your piece to believe gender discrimination is a sensible consideration in this case. Still, I feel like I’m missing something since it seemed like you came to a decidedly different conclusion. Anything you can do to help correct my blind spots would be greatly appreciated.