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The Uphill Run: Southwest Women
   “Women’s issues” has always been at the top of the list of important issues that head coach Ben Zhao discusses on the Southwest team. Every year the members of the team take the Cross Country Fitness Test-- a test created by Zhao that counts toward lettering points, mostly fill-in-the-blank and matching. And every year the same question comes to haunt many clueless athletes-- name the three elements of the women’s triad.
   The Southwest women, like all women in our modern day society, are facing an uphill battle against the culture that they live in. With the terribly thin stereotypes and impossibly lightweight standard of perfection set in the media all across our society more and more problems are rising all across the nation and the battle on the front line is becoming increasingly difficult. It is not something that should be taken lightly, the skewed ideals of what a woman should and can be is destroying countless potential-filled and brilliant women in the world. The problem continues to spread and affect women at young ages. After a point in their lives our culture puts up barriers, obstacles in the ways of women, telling them the way they are “supposed” to live our their lives. Good looks are hailed above intelligence and women are supposed to wear certain clothing and take on a certain role. Women are supposed to be less independent and are made to please others before themselves. The more girls that fall into this trap of modern culture, the more likely others will follow. Like a trail of lemmings, peer pressure causes the corrosion of individuality to spread from friend to friend, leaving helpless friends with great potential to fall into unhealthy cliques. Drugs and sex come into the picture and the wholeness of character is even further degraded as parental relationships fall apart and reality becomes a dark and desolate wasteland, causing depression, anger, and suicides.
   We live in a society that is dominated by male power. A majority of male politicians, business executives, doctors, and more. Truly equal rights have not been achieved yet many fair and just minds are not doing anything about the problem because they are simply not aware of it. It is not hard to see the terrible affects our culture and media are having on young women and women in general. The problem is much greater and much more serious than most anyone realizes. The more it is studied the more it is realized just how deep the problem gets. 
   With all the great difficulties in our society, the Southwest women have banned together to share their strength in a small program that coach Zhao helped create called the Women’s Group. They hold meetings scheduled on certain days of the month at various locations. At the meetings they are free to express their feelings about how they are treated and how to help fix some of the many problems that exist. They discuss their own problems and share advice on life. This is a great uphill battle for women, but the Southwest women are showing their strength constantly as they run up the hill in an effort to improve their lives and the society they live in. 
 Most of the veterans on the team understand the issues that Zhao constantly tries to communicate and try to help out in different ways. While the “DeLapp Lounge” had been a place for males to hang out for years, suddenly in the past year or so anyone could come, and since then the number of male and female visitors are more even. The T-Shirt design for 2002 was decided by a vote, and the vote was split down the middle between genders. The guys would have won because of their majority, but instead both genders agreed on another design that they could both enjoy. Although these examples are small and do not seem to combat any of the larger problems seen in this country, it is important to realize that coach Zhao is teaching his athletes such ideals at a young age-- for when they grow up having been aware of these problems, they may end up helping out greatly in the battle to change the way we treat women in the world. It is an uphill run, but the Southwest team is ready to face the challenge.
   So going back to the beginning of the article, just what is the women’s triad? Go research it, and while you’re at it, read about the discussed problems in such books as Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher. Looking at the problems face to face will open your eyes and possibly change the way you look at women and the world. Good luck on the fitness test.

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