Kim Mulkey on the use of “Lady” in names for women’s teams

Baylor meeting the press on Monday, April 2, 2012.
Baylor meeting the press on Monday, April 2, 2012.

The continuing debate over the use of the term “Lady” for women’s collegiate sports team became the impetus for long reply from Baylor coach Kim Mulkey when asked about the subject by USA TODAY writer Christine Brennan.

Christine Brennan: Obviously you’re one of the last schools that still uses “Lady” in the nickname.  Pat does it.  Vivian Stringer, when she went to Rutgers, immediately got rid of Lady Knights, whatever…You’re also such a proponent of Title IX and an advocate, and I applaud you and thank you for what you’ve done for girls and women as a role model.  To some, to me, and I know the Women’s Sports Foundation has said this, too, the term “Lady” is as if it’s from another era, as if it’s not the whole.  You know, you don’t see the Gentlemen Bears, of course.  And I’m curious how and why you stick with Lady when it is seen…as Nancy Hogshead of the Women’s Sports Foundation said last week, it’s demeaning.  If you go to Baylor, you’re a Bear, end of conversation.  Your response?  Thanks. 

Kim Mulkey:  And I appreciate that viewpoint as well.  And I have read your articles and I wish you’d give Baylor a big pub because I love reading your articles.

I think without knowing?? let me answer this.  We’re from the South.  We still say yes, ma’am and no ma’am.  And I have to honestly tell you I’ve been told by people don’t do that to me; that offends me.

I played with kids from the West Coast when I was a player and kids from the East Coast.  And I would say yes, ma’am.  And they would go:  Stop that.  That’s where we come from, it’s respect.

And Lady is not offensive to anybody who lives in our area of the country.  I’m not going to speak for Pat, but I think it’s a tradition of respect, believe it or not, than it is disrespect viewed from people on the outside.

We don’t make an issue of things that are really not disrespectful in our eyes.  We have shirts that say Bears.  In fact, I may have one on somewhere.  It’s more of a thing that things started a long time ago, like yes, ma’am and no ma’am.
And I still have a hard time with people who don’t say yes ma’am and no  ma’am, but I understand in some parts of the country that’s viewed as demeaning.  And I don’t view it that way.

I think too much is made of it.  But just look at the tradition of the program and the coaches that run those programs.  There’s nobody that fights for Title IX more than Pat Summitt and more than me.  And I can tell you this:  I’m a product of Title IX more than I am a fighter of Title IX.  I reaped the benefits from those who came before me.

But in no way, shape, or form do I not understand the viewpoint from those that you mentioned.  But I want them to also understand our viewpoint.  And I don’t think there’s a right and a wrong.  I just think it’s kind of tradition, maybe, in where we live.

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3 Comments

  • I can see both sides of this. I was born in and grew up in San Francisco. I don't recall any "Lady" teams. Actually, I don't recall any women's teams–I'm 66. I'd like to see the Lady moniker disappear.

    On the other hand, I've become a passionate fan of Kim Mulkey and her Baylor Lady Bears over the past seven years. I do call the BU men's team the Gentlemen Bears. I'm glad that assures no confusion between the two programs.

    Lady is a Southernism. So were sleeves, and they went away. To start it off, let's call on Penn State to stop referring to its women's team as the Lady Lions. All that does is remind me of Rene Portland. .

    • Great points. Since I grew up in the South, I was raised to think of calling someone "Lady" as a sign of respect. People name their daughters Lady (remember Lady Grooms?). It just doesn't bother me at all. I can understand other sides of the issue, re: sexism, respect, equality — always important to discuss and fight for. But in some cases, those issues have nothing to do with what a woman wants to call her child and what some female athletes and coaches (Sonja Hogg) want to call themselves. I think sometimes people who are not from the South approach this issue in a way that is patronizing and disrespectful to how some southern women navigate their lives. The support for girl's and women's basketball at a grassroots level is powerful in the South and folks need to remember that. Also, I think WBB has so many bigger issues to deal with at this point in history. Plus, part of progress in feminism is women being able to claim and feel power in defining themselves. If that means Lady [mascot], so be it.

  • Born in Georgia. Raised in Texas (very near Mulkey's stomping grounds). And to her claim: "Lady is not offensive to anybody who lives in our area of the country"<<< Um, wrong. This NCAAdiv2 southern athlete finds it offensive, anachronistic, and deleterious (as to MOST of the athletes with whom I've known/played/loved). Coach, I admire your achievements in this patriarchy. But now, it's time to stop cowering, to stop trying to closet your athletes, to stop reinforcing the lady/ma'am patriarchal/homophobic notions (IRRESPECTIVE of how many women like or enjoy it). Your continuing to act out of fear/self-preservation endangers young women/LGBT youth. I have learned from and revered coaches my entire life. Please shift gears sooner rather than later w/re: to your worldview. As a teacher and coach, it is always interesting to ask classrooms of students on my campus:"Why do you think our morning announcements refer to our athletes as 'Gladiators' and 'Lady Gladiators' instead of 'Gentleman Gladiators' and 'Gladiators'?"

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