Gender Barriers in Sports

8 August 2016

It is clear there are strides being taken towards equality in women’s sports, from Billy Jean King beating Bobby Rigs in the “Battle of the Sexes” to the policy known as Title IX. Every day we as a society make attempts to close the gap between genders. We know gender certainly does play a role in human nature, society, and even sports. But both genders, male and female, still face overwhelming barriers when trying to break into a sport that is not “known “ or “proper” for that specific gender to be participating in.

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Gender barriers are certainly existent in today’s sports culture, such as “Women’s-only events” or “Men-only event” in the Olympics shows bias towards a specific gender role. In our society’s culture we conform to these traditional ideas, where women play the more “graceful” sports while men on the other hand pursue the more “masculine” activities. An example, why do we associate women with figure skating and synchronized swimming? Where men participate in the more brutal, contact sports like boxing and wrestling?

Could it be from a preconceived notion, take for example the “Hunter and Gatherer”? To myself, I believe it’s nothing more than a socially constructed idea that this is how and what genders “do”. Like Judith Lorber stated in our reading “The Social Construction of Gender” everyone is just “doing gender”. Accepting these roles that our culture and society has placed on us, but this should not be the case. It should be based on athletic abilities rather than just gender. Gender barriers arise many questions in multiple traditional sports as well.

Labeling, both of men and women because of the sport in which they wish to participate in. A sport that might be “designated” towards a certain gender, this discourages athletes, male and female, from breaking though these barriers that have been set (Flanagan. 2008). An example is homophobia, being labeled as a homosexual, just because of the sport you choose to play. Such as the notation of a women playing a contact sport or a man figure skating both would be scrutinized by his peers because of this idea of “gender roles”.

Again back to my original statement it should be based on athletic abilities everything else aside. A great example of this was this past weekend’s news in sports about Michael Sam, a former All-American defensive end on the football team. He admitted on Sunday in an interview as a homosexual male, he would be the first open male in the National Football League. Breaking that sexuality barrier on April 2nd if he gets drafted, would be incredible, something not many people would be able to do.

It would affect the gender barrier people could relate to what Michael had done. Gender barriers are carried over from sports and into the workplace; I believe they are directly correlated. Throughout time these two ideas seem to reflect the nature of the other, women have become a more prominent force in the workplace and at the same time have been able to close the gap for gender barriers in sports as well. But women still are not financially comparable to men’s athletics.

The number of women playing sports has greatly increased over the years, especially with Title IX coming into play. But financially it is still not equal, just like in the workforce; women are not paid as equal as men. In conclusion gender barriers are a socially constructed idea that a certain person, just because of their gender or sexuality cannot participate in a sport. Back to Billy Jean, she showed the world women could compete with men, she showed the world talent should be based on athletic ability not ones gender.

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