Fifty years after Title IX increased athletic opportunities for women and girls, women’s sports are finally starting to get their due. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team just reached a groundbreaking $24 million equal pay settlement. Starting this March, collegiate women’s basketball teams will be allowed to use the phrase “March Madness.” And this April, fans may finally have a proper place to celebrate.
Queer Portland Chef Jenny Nguyen plans to turn the former site of a neighborhood gay bar into what may be the world’s first women’s sports bar – The Sports Bra.
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Nguyen and her friends were frustrated by how hard it was to find a place to watch WNBA games, given how little airtime is dedicated to women athletes. While 40 percent of athletes are women, they only get 4 percent of the TV coverage.
“It was my partner who said, ‘Hey, you know how you’ve been joking about the Sports Bra for years? You should do it,’” Nguyen told Eater. “I got to thinking about how the bra could be more than just a place to view women’s sports. It gives people a space to be together and celebrate. It started with the viewing, and then it expanded to how that could grow into a larger movement.”
It’s an idea with clear appeal. The Sports Bra’s Kickstarter has already raised over $80,000 – nearly double its goal – with two weeks remaining.
“The basketball court and the kitchen have been the only two places I have ever felt like I belonged,” Nguyen wrote in the campaign, “and it wasn’t until much later that I realized that both those places are very male-dominated and that I had struggled, endured and found success in my own way.”
According to The Oregonian, Nguyen is working with ESPN 3, an on-demand service, and Just Women’s Sports to ensure that if a women’s sport is being broadcast anywhere, it will be available for fans to watch at The Sports Bra. The bar will also be an official Portland Thorns viewing location.
But The Sports Bra’s commitment to celebrating women won’t stop at the edge of the TV screens. Nguyen is also sourcing as much as possible from female producers and craftswomen – from beer and spirits to beef and carpentry. The furniture, for example, will be provided by a nonprofit called Girls Build that teaches girls construction.