In chapter five of “The Playing Field of Eton”, Mika LeVaque-Manty discusses the role of women and people with disabilities in the world of sport and competition. It has historical been shown that women and the disabled have had institutional barriers which have prevented them from having the same opportunities to compete as men. Some of the ideas brought up in LeVaque- Manty’s argument have recently been in the news and are supported by a recent discussion I had in my Sport Management 111 class. We discussed the role of gender in sports and the sociological factors have contributed to the inequality between men and women.
LeVaque-Manty makes reference to certain “value barriers” which cause women not to participate because they have no interest in trying or are afraid to try. As discussed in my SM class, these attitudes come from society’s influence on sport ideology. Men are generalized to be strong, tough, competitive, stoic, and aggressive while women are seen as fragile, caring, emotional, and compassionate. These stereotypes stress the idea that men should be the ones dominating sports. Women were afraid to participate in sports because society initially views female athletes as lesbians. Men didn’t want to see women be strong and muscular so the men questioned the women’s sexuality once they became too good at a sport. This led to society directing women in the direction of cheerleading, dance, and other “feminine activities”. Even today there are examples of women being directed away from participating in sports. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods recently released a basketball catalog that featured primarily male athletes while women were just sitting in the stands and portrayed as cheerleaders. A 12 year-old girl wrote a letter to the company complaining about the lack of endorsement for female athletes. It is clear that these value barriers are still present in today’s world.
LeVaque-Manty also refers to the assumption that female sports are inherently inferior to male sports. This is reflected in how men are compensated in professional sports compared to women. An article written by Muhaiminul Haque in The Phoenix, addresses the discrepancy between men’s wages versus women’s wage both for players and coaches. The best female athletes do not come close to making the same as average male athletes. Men’s sports attract more spectators and produce more revenue than women’s sports so therefore they are compensated respectively. This relates to the difference between gender and sex. There are biological differences between males and females that lead to disparity in their performances on the field and there are social roles that categorize men and women. People tend to support men’s sports more than women because they think male athletes are “better” than their female counterparts.
It is evident that sports introduce gender differences and society reinforces it. Generalizations and stereotypes have had a lasting impact on women’s opportunities to pursue the same opportunities as men in many areas, especially sports. I believe that steps in the right direction have been made with amendments like Title IX, but more needs to be done for the issue to go away.