If I asked you to describe a women, how would you her? Raney and Bryant suggests that the first things that would come to mind is, “Inferiority, weakness, incompetence, cooperation, passivity, timidity, and vulnerability. Sport is, according to our commonsense understanding of the world, a celebration of manhood” (Raney & Bryant, 231). But why does gender have to matter in sports if both the man and the woman are good athletes?
Society has created a gender barrier when it comes to females playing sports. “Because of our society’s oppositional view of gender, when a woman succeeds in sport, she can be seen as a challenge to the established gender order and an unwelcome intruder into the world of sports” (Raney & Bryant, 231). Just think of the unwelcoming that Michelle Wie from the male dominant world of golf. Rush Limbaugh was quoted saying in an be a interview with BadGolfer.com, Wie is a triumph of marketing…Do you think these PGA Tour guys really think she deserves to be in a tournament with them? The political correctness situation will just not allow them to say it…. [Golf champion Vijay Singh, who was criticized for saying of another female player, “If I’m drawn with her, which I won’t be, I won’t play”] learned like many people in our unfortunate society where political correctness is prized most. Vijay was honest and look what it got him. Attacked by a bunch of liberals and femi-nazis,” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2006/03/28/rush-limbaugh-golf-prodi_n_18055.html)
Why do you think this gender barrier exists? One would think that after Title IX was past in, society and the media would have moved past gender issues of being a woman and playing sports. A big contributor to these gender issues is the media. “When female athletes are the focus of media attention, the images often of sexualize and trivialize their efforts” (www.womenssportsfoundation.org). Athletes such as Anna Kournikova and Brandi Chastin are sexualized in sports magazines and the media in general mainly because in this male dominated world of spots, sex sells. Many look at Kournikova as this beautiful blond with a great body, not as the athlete who by the way plays tennis well. “This lack of representation combined with stereotypical depictions may lead many to believe that few woman are interested in sports and those who do participate are successful only when they “fit” traditional standards of appropriate behavior,” (www.womenssportsfoundation.org).
Some other gender issues that often go under radar are female athletes and their sexual orientation. Society and the media assume that if you play sports, you have a muscular build and you’re female then you’re manly. Women who play sports and appear to have mannish qualities, have to deal with misconceptions of lesbianism, so their so heterosexuality must be defended …” (Raney & Bryant, 241). Sexual orientation is also a concern with female athletes and college sports. Many young girls consider not playing sports because of the sexual orientation phobia that exist in college and some professional athletics such as the WNBA. What are your thoughts on sexual orientation and female athletics? I think your sexual orientation should be kept private; there is no reason to let the world know. One of the greatest sports disappointments for me as a college athlete was when I found out that Sheryl Swoops was lesbian. The reason for my disappointment was because the media had portrayed her as a beautiful athletic female basketball player. Growing up she was type of athlete I wanted to be. I remember when she was on the cover of “Women’s Sports Illustrated” when she was pregnant with her son Jordan. Young girls saw that you could play professionals sports after having children and still be successful.
The power of the media is greater than some of us really understand. What the media presents to society is how we form our opinions and beliefs about issues. Personally I think we should be well past the gender issues in female athletics. We have proved that we can compete with the best of the best. Yes there are some things athletically that men are better at than woman but they should be left at that. The media needs to focus less on the male and female differences in sports and report on the positives.
Some interesting readings on the topic:
Raney, A, & Bryant, J (2006). Handbook of Spots and Media. Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers