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Dear Scheels . . .

January 28, 2019

Dear Scheels,

One of my first memories of moving to the Midwest from the Deep South was shopping at the Scheels in Fargo.  Arriving on the plains, one of the first stores that became my family’s favorite place to shop was your store which at the time was housed in the West Acres mall.  Your stores, and especially the bargain athletic shoes, have been a perennial favorite of my family.  Living in small town America, a trip to Fargo or Grand Forks or St. Cloud or Mankato or Bismarck or Eden Prairie or even Sioux Falls has always ended up with a stop at one of your stores.  Usually the trips start with a declaration that this will just be a “quick stop”, but we all know that we will emerge hours later after getting our sporting goods, clothing, shoe, or housewares fix.  Our love of your store has been intergenerationally shared from my parents to my children. Through all of our visits to your stores, we have found the people to be knowledgeable but more so, friendly and personable, and the products to be quality. There are few other stores upon which we can lavish such praise.

We’ve always had great experiences at your store. Well, there was that one time that my brother somehow ended up with a size 9 and a size 11 shoe in the same box after a Crazy Days adventure, but other than that our patronage has always made us feel like we were contributing to an incredible family store.  Your family became a part of our family.

A recent experience left me wondering if we should not pay any attention to the man behind the curtain. Ironically the date of the tarnish of our relationship occurred on January 5, a date that will have more significance as I share our experience.

Our youngest daughter has developed a real passion for the game of golf.  As her parents, we want to fuel her dreams and worked with the local coaches to find a pro to invest in her newfound love.  The only requirement was that she would require golf clothes for training at the elite facility.  Unfortunately, there are no stores in our town that offer what she required (and in her size). After a trip to visit family, we knew exactly the place to stop . . . or so we thought.

After perusing a few of our favorite spots inside the store, we located the golf section.  Immediately we noticed something amiss.  There were countless items of clothing in a variety of colors, styles and sizes for men and boys.  There was not a single item for women or girls in the entire golf section.  The entire section! Even though we were dismayed, we decided to not completely give up and searched the women’s athletic wear.  Eventually we found one endcap that had exactly two shirt options (one white and one black), one pant option (black) and two shorts options, exactly like the shirts. Back upstairs in golf land, every color of the rainbow was represented. My heart broke in a million pieces and my mind was transported back to my youth to a similar moment.

The first day of my high school physics class the teacher started class with “Gentlemen, we’re going to have a great year in physics. Ladies, not one of you will make it in this class.”  His words became truth. Well at least it did for the two other girls in the class, and honestly, I do not know if it was great for the guys either.  But for me, it was the first time in my life that someone explicitly communicated that I couldn’t possibly be good at something simply because of my gender.  Much like Harry Potter’s famed scar, that wound is one that throbs when I sense injustice.

While I am sure you are wondering what physics and golf have to do with each other.  I assure you that the young woman in that classroom grew up to be a chemistry and physics teacher and she can tell you all kinds of scientific connections that tie the two topics together. Yet, on a more personal level, the two will now be connected in a more bewildering fashion for one mother and her daughter. Despite the marketing campaign telling women You’ve come a long way, baby, it certainly didn’t feel that way standing in your store that day.

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I had to explain to my beautiful and talented daughter who didn’t understand why upstairs in golf mecca there wasn’t a stitch of clothing for women and girls, and more importantly, that she could still achieve great things in the game of golf.  While perhaps not intentional, the furtive message communicated was girls don’t belong in the game of golf.  Placing the ladies golf clothes in a section far from the golf area isn’t like positioning milk at the back of the grocery store, hoping that we will pick up a few more items along the way.  At best it is uninspired and worst, insulting.

It is always difficult when our giants fall.  Sadly, a true hero did indeed pass away on the very day I was trying to explain to my daughter that we would not allow a store determine her abilities or potentialities, Dr. Bernice Sandler, the “Godmother of Title IX” passed away. Instead of teaching my sweet girl about the pink tax or inequitable store practices, I chose to teach her about Bunny Sandler’s legacy. This letter isn’t meant to persuade consumers not to shop at your stores, but rather to encourage you to reconsider the message that you are sending to our young female athletes.

We would welcome being a part of a conversation to stop the unintentional messages being communicated to young women, because let me assure you,  girls can and do play golf and in case you were wondering they can and do learn physics too.

 

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