What’s in a Name?

Gauchos, Warriors, and Barbarians

Actual college sports team names. I couldn’t fit in Sea Beggars but I still wonder how you chant it, and what they are. | Credit: Rick Doehring

Fifty years ago, the United States passed one of the most important — and most famous — laws in our history. In fact, it’s safe to say that everyone knows this law by name.

Of course, I’m referring to The Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Yep. That’s its official name.

No wonder everyone calls it Title IX.

Now, we all know that this is the legislation that required equal sports opportunities in schools for both men and women, right?

Wrong.

Its 37 words make no mention of sports or athletics. It was only when a conservative House member tried to amend it by trying to omit college sports programs from its jurisdiction that Title IX became specifically associated with gender equality in sports. (His amendment was defeated.)

Reading Title IX made me think of official names — and I wondered if schools had tried to make their official team names as gender-inclusive and equal in the last 50 years as the programs they represented.

So, I looked up more than 300 college team names. I don’t know how many exactly because I lost count somewhere between The Fightin’ Engineers (the actual team name of Rose-Hulman), and The Eutectics — a word defined as “a mixture of substances (in fixed proportions) that melts and solidifies at a single temperature that is lower than the melting points of the separate constituents”. Well, after all, it is the team name of the St. Louis School of Pharmacy.

I found that most team names were inclusive — Wildcats and Saints cover both genders — and, with a stretch of possibilities, women could also be included in Trolls or Lumberjacks– I’m not going to be the guy who says that women can’t live under bridges or cut down trees.

Attempting to address the inclusivity challenge, some colleges began using the feminine forms of the name – Cowboys and Cowgirls now play on the same campus, as do the more misogynistic Fightin’ Bees and Queen Bees. Other schools added “Lady” to their name, but you don’t need to identify gender with Bears, Owls, or Demons. Frequently, there’s a distinct sense that adding feminine names is merely an afterthought and the “real” name is still, for example, Fightin’ Bees. In these cases, perhaps the college should change to one inclusive name.

I found that there were a few college team names — less than 10 out of 300 — that excluded women by solely referring to men — and I was surprised to find that three of those noninclusive names were used here in Santa Barbara!

Rootin’ Tootin’

Now, The Princeton Review describes Westmont as a Christian college where students go to chapel three times a week and there’s no drinking. Okay. I’m gonna guess that a rebellious few do skip chapel once in a while and go bar-hopping. Their team name is the Westmont Warriors. Does this name need inclusion fixing? They could also use the feminine form, the Warrioresses. But, not only does that name feel diminutive, if you chant that name in a gym it sounds like you’re saying, “Where’re your asses!?” The choices seem to be that everyone accepts that women are included in Warriors — or the college changes its name. Two things we know about Westmont is that it’s a Christian school and it loves alliteration. So how about — the Westmont Wings. Sounds totally inclusive. Their chant could be “We love our Wings!” Most of these Christian students will think “Angel.” But a rebellious few just may think “Buffalo.”

The Santa Barbara Community College team name is the Vaqueros, a type of herding cowboy who is a great horseman. The feminine form Vaqueras is rarely used — but, in order to preserve the Spanish heritage of the name, and the fact that it sounds so great, this might be an instance where the college utilizes the feminine version of the name for its women athletes.

The team name of the University of California, Santa Barbara is the Gauchos, an Argentinian cowboy as legendary as our own Wild West version. I could not find the feminine form Gaucha listed anywhere — in fact, it is often stated in the definition of Gaucho that this is what it means to be a man. Since there appears to be no feminine form, does this popular but outdated machismo-reflective name have to be changed? To me, the obvious new name would be the Barbarians (Bárbaras and Bárbaros in Spanish) because — well, both genders can be pretty barbaric. And, if you don’t believe me, just visit a divorce court.

Finally, we have Antioch, a college which has a team name that does include everyone, but almost no one knows what it means. However, we can still chant the name — “Go Free Radicals!”

Yep. That’s their name. So — give me an F! Give me an R! … And five minutes later I’ll shout, “What’s that spell? FREE RADICALS!”

Which is great. Now I’ve spelled it. But I still don’t know what it means. According to the dictionary, a free radical is “A type of unstable molecule that is made during normal cell metabolism.”

So — we are rooting for unstable molecules. Which means, of course, that Free Radicals would be a pretty darn good team name for Berkeley.

To be fair, on their website, Antioch does add a parenthetical phrase after their name which makes it read: Free Radicals (historical).

Of course the problem now becomes, how do you chant: Give me a “(”!

Afterthought

Quick Sports Quiz on Gender Discrimination:

  1. Can you tell which list of these professional basketball team names are women’s teams, and which are men’s?

Raptors                         Dream

Bulls                             Sky

Hawks                          Storm

Timberwolves               Sun

Grizzlies                        Liberty

Even if you don’t know a thing about basketball, you know the answer. And what does that say about discriminating between genders?

Why aren’t the two professional leagues called the WNBA and the MNBA?

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