Gender Inequality in Sports

Having been involved in athletics throughout my high school years, gender inequality in the realm of sports fails to be a foreign concept to me personally. I played volleyball, rugby and participated in track and field when I was in high school, though rugby was where I encountered by far the most gender inequality in terms of athletics.

I actually wrote an entire essay on this topic for a Women and Gender Studies course I was taking in my first semester of third year. The society we live in today is hegemonic, meaning male dominated, and it is furthermore patriarchal, which means it functions through means of a governmental and institutional system in which male individuals possess the most power.

What is most interesting in regards to gender inequality in sports is the prevalence of gender stereotypes. Males are expected to be athletic. They are expected to participate in masculine, aggressive and physical activity in order to demonstrate their gender in a manner that society deems as acceptable, and when a male fails to display such behaviour, they are categorized as feminine or deviant from the norm. When a female exhibits skill and athleticism in sports, however, she is deemed as a butch or as unfeminine, specifically in aggressive sports such as rugby and hockey

This presents a bit of a double standard, does it not?

Males are expected to abide by a societal presupposition that demands athleticism, muscles and strength. Women are expected to abide by an entirely opposing presupposition – athletic women are seen as different or as a failure to feminine characteristics and behaviour.

When I was playing rugby in high school, and was excelling in my involvement with the sport, I was almost instantly recognized as a tank, and was jokingly referred to with terms such as butch or dyke. Looking back now, after having learned so much about gender inequality and discrimination in sports, I realize that although my peers were joking, it is wrong that women cannot excel in athletics without their femininity being questioned. It is also wrong that males and their masculinity are questioned when they fail to possess interest in sports and athletics.

Professional athletics definitely have a bad reputation for a double standard existing between males and females and their expectations in the same sport. Female athletes tend to be paid less than males, and also face restrictions in sports such as no physical contact which males are permitted to engage in. I think this is problematic. How can we ever expect to overcome this gender divide if dichotomous patterns continue to exist?

What are your thoughts on gender inequality in sports? Send me an email at laurenarva@gmail.com to share your thoughts and opinions with me!

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