Women Inequality in Sport: Is it Really as Bad as They Say?

It was less than a year ago that Eugenie Bouchard was asked to ‘twirl’ before her tennis match. Yes, ‘twirl’! A male presenter asked her to, and what do you know? She actually did. You can read more about it here.

Humiliating? Maybe.

Rude? Probably.

Stereotypical? Shockingly, I don’t think so. Read on!

Do you know what Christine Sinclair, Gabby Douglas, and Serena Williams have in common? If you said sport, you are absolutely correct.

I am bringing these women up because I want to make the point that inequality is not so bad for females, because would know Christine Sinclair if it was really that bad? Of course, I realize that not all women are experiencing complete equality in sport- but compared to the status of women years ago, having any women in sport is a feat in itself (Young & English)!

Before I begin, however, I should mention that I am a female. That may surprise you, it might not, but it shows that some women have this opinion.

Inequality as “not equal”.

If I were to ask someone to tell me what they consider “equal” to be, I would think that most would say a 50-50 arrangement.

People also associate equality in sport as having equal numbers of both males and females, and that currently women are still underrepresented at most sports events.

Would it surprise you then that in the 2012 Olympic Games, women made up about 44% of the total athlete population (International Olympic Committee, pg. 1)? Yes, this may not be exactly 50%, but let me put it into context for you. There were no women in the very first Olympics, and four years later only 22 women out of almost 1000 athletes competed in the next games (International Olympic Committee, pg. 1). Now 44% doesn’t seem too bad does it?

Inequality as social discrimination.

I would say that the majority of people realize that women are still being treated with a certain stereotype which socialized them into the women they are today. Girls may have been brought up in ways that basically how to carry themselves and act, while boys can just “be boys” (Young, pg. 142, 152). This could be why some women some don’t compete to the best of their ability, but rather feel self-conscious (Young, pg. 154). The Titanic movie showed a lot of women wearing fancy clothes and acting very proper- portraying the year of 1912 (Wikipedia, 2015).

However, this is the point where I must say that the discrimination is not like that anymore! For instance, while I do feel women should act properly in certain respects, I grew up with different attitudes in others. I don’t wear makeup (surprise!) and I like sweat pants and sports.

What does this show? It’s showing that regardless of what people say about inequality for women via social discrimination, some women just ignore it and are living lives as themselves (although people do have different opinions on this, which is okay!)

The video #LikeAGirl shows how young children get socialized into thinking very stereotypically about females. When some males and females were asked to run “like a girl”, they ran like they were fragile. However, when young girls are asked the same question, they ran exactly how they would run in real life (Figure 1)!

LikeAGirlFigure 1: Young girl showing exactly how she plays sports.

Now imagine what it would have been like years ago, before women were even in sport, if someone asked a man to “run like a girl”. Leaves you thinking, doesn’t it? My guess is they would have been shocked because they would think a girl would never run. Now that is discrimination.

Today, however? We can ignore these attitudes because there are women in sporting competitions, and they are “running like a girl” because they are girls (Always, 2014). Women may have to learn to not take it as an insult, but instead realize they have come a long way to even say they run “like a girl” (Always, 2014).

Inequality as an unequal chance to win.

Have you ever wondered why it is that males and females are separated in most sports? Why they have not separated people based on weight or ability or even just made more sports (English, pg.271-275)?

Many people in society associate having “male” and “female” sports as unfair. They may say that people assume females will just lose all the time, and that ruins a female’s self-esteem. Yet, maybe women are just too stubborn to realize that men actually do have physiological advantages over women in sport (English, pg. 271).

Some women may not be happy that I say that, but I think denial of this fact may be what is making women have low self-esteem. In general: men are taller, have less fat, and have better oxygenation rates; all of which contribute to their “advantage” in sport – though, of course, there are women who can win against some men (English, pg. 275).

This is not inequality.

Inequality was women not being represented in sport and being treated as though they were nothing. Inequality is not being able to play in certain sports, being able to win medals, or represent the world.

I end by saying that women inequality is not as bad as we are told (though it is not perfect) – women used to not even be in sport. But now? Now we have women like Sinclair, Douglas, and Williams as only some of the women making headlines in newspapers, and making many people delighted.  And having more females in sports in general is so amazing.

You know what? I’m glad Eugenie twirled with a smile and a laugh; it goes to show you that no stereotyping can do women harm as long as they do not take #LikeAGirl as an insult (Always 2014). Besides, it really isn’t.

Additional Reading: http://www.livestrong.com/article/247625-gender-discrimination-in-sports/ (Collins, 2015)


Works Cited

Always. “Always #LikeAGirl”. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 June 2014. Web. 14 November 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs&gt;.

Collins, Sarah. “Gender Discrimination in Sports”. Livestrong.com. Demand Media, Inc., 13 October 2013. Web. 22 November 2015. < http://www.livestrong.com/article/247625-gender-discrimination-in-sports/&gt;.

English, Jane. “Sex Equality in Sports”. Philosophy & Public Affairs 7.3 (1978): 269–277. Web. 1 November 2015. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2265148?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents&gt;.

Figure 1. “#LikeAGirl: Unstoppable”; Selife: BeYOUtiful;  Mackenzieblue.com. 17 July 2015; Web; 20 November 2015. <http://www.mackenzieblue.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/always_like_a_girl1.jpg&gt;.

International Olympic Committee. “Factsheet Women in the Olympic Movement”. International Olympic Committee. Olympic Studies Centre, May 2014. Web. 14 November 2015. <http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:cd5GRZiIKakJ:www.olympic.org/Documents/Reference_documents_Factsheets/Women_in_Olympic_Movement.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&gt;.

The Associated Press. “Eugenie Bouchard asked to ‘twirl’ by on-court presenter”. CBC Sports. CBC/Radio-Canada, 21 January 2015. Web. 20 November 2015. <http://www.cbc.ca/sports/tennis/eugenie-bouchard-asked-to-twirl-by-on-court-presenter-1.2921644&gt;.

Young, Iris Marion. “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality”. Human Studies 3.2 (1980): 137–156. Web. 1 November 2015. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008753?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents&gt;.

N.A. “RMS Titanic”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 22 November 2015. Web. 22 November 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Titanic&gt;.

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