Free Essay Example: Discrimination Against Women in Sports

Published: 2023-01-12
Free Essay Example: Discrimination Against Women in Sports
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Women Gender Discrimination Sport
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1731 words
15 min read

According to Whalen, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines discrimination as "the act of perceiving or making a difference" (1). Discrimination against women in sports has long been a controversial topic throughout society that eve Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics stated that "No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks." The concept of discrimination is not a yes or no, or a black or white matter, as it seems quite subjective the more one looks into it. Notably, this aspect makes it such a controversial subject across the sports industry. Although strides have been made, sports remain a sector dominated by men (Senne 1). In particular, men's values, men's experiences, and men's understanding of the world continue to define and shape women's sports, all of which curtail the expression and development of female values. Irrefutably, the evolution of gendered sports cultures substantiates this statement and avails evidence on both historic and existing gender discrimination in sports and a sporting culture developed and sustained to nurture that bias.

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According to Rayburn, Steve, and Clarenda, women are often faced with stereotypes that society imposes on them because of gender inequity (28). Many societies historically demonstrate the pervasiveness of male privilege and to maintain this unique gender relation, society generally believes that men and women should fulfill specific gender roles. Regarding this, Whalen records that this way of raising men and women influences interests, careers, socialization, and views of the opposite gender (3). While men are perceived to be dominant, strong and athletic, women are viewed as obedient, quiet and nurturing. Because of these societal aspects, stereotypes are made and sexism becomes evident. Consequently, women experience low representation and alienation in the sports industry. In opposition to Rayburn, Steve, and Clarenda, and Whalen, Shin argues that within the field of competitive sport, an individual's performance is the only thing that matters (47). However, the segregation that occurs in sports, whether heavyweights and lightweights and adults and youths, is uncontroversial. Moreover, separating athletes to diverse competitive categories is good for the sport since it promotes wider participation and permits recognition of accomplishments at multiple levels of performance and capability. Hence, according to Shin, the separation of men and women in athletics is commonly justified by similar considerations regarding competitive fairness and the promotion of wide and equal participation (47).

Based on the association of masculinity and sports supported by societal views, this paper argues that discrimination against women in sports is still widespread and there is still a long road to attain gender equality in sports. This occurs even though legislation like Title IX has been established to alter and improve the level of inequity.

Gender Inequality in Sports

Sports and athletics have always been linked to male superiority, masculinity, and the masculine domain. Notably, females are viewed as the weaker gender in some aspects like physicality, emotions, and mentality. Even if they can compete, they are not viewed as feminine. For instance, men are heavily encouraged to participate in competitive and aggressive team sports, while women are steered to individual aesthetic appeal sports like figure skating. Gender issues and discriminations exist in sports entities at various levels. In a study by Cooky et al. that sought to examine gender and sport participation in Montenegro, both female athletes and professionals in women sport's discussions about barriers to sport participation were attributed directly to experiences with gender inequality (927). In particular, many discriminatory symptoms and practices are evident in financial decision-making, equipment and supplies, creation of schedules, number of coaching staff, travel and per diem, medical and training facilities and services, and use of locker rooms and other facilities (Rayburn, Steve and Clarenda 29). In particular, women are underrepresented at all levels, including management, coaching, commercial sporting activities, and the media. In addition, they are underrepresented in decision-making bodies at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

There is a lack of women in leadership positions in sports because of the fact that sport is a gendered institution whose processes operate within a hegemonic masculine norm (Senne 2). Moreover, sports entities have institutionalized masculinity as the operating principle within the sport that identifies the male activity as privileged and reinforces masculinity and masculine behavior as acceptable leadership attributed needed in sport (Senne 2). For example, women hold just 33% of general manager positions within the Women's National Basketball Association (Senne 2). Similarly, the International Olympic Committee has just recently attained its self-imposed threshold of at least 20% women as members of the board (Senne 2). Based on this, it is clear that gender inequality has become an institutionalized practice within sports entities. Moreover, the leadership positions are skewed towards male leadership.

Likewise, the internationally recognized Racial and Gender Report for 2015, which looks at the hiring practices of sport management professionals in collegiate and professional sports, established the number of women holding positions in collegiate sports. Based on this report, it is evident that women are underrepresented throughout leadership and administrative positions in college sports (Whalen 13). When comparing the student-athlete population to coaching, the numbers should be represented similarly, but this is not the case. According to a study by Acosta and Carpenter, when looking at both men's and women's teams, women only hold 23% of the coaching positions (18). Mainly, this can be associated with hegemonic masculinity, an operating principle that restricts women's access to leadership positions within sport (Senne 2). According to a study by Acosta and Carpenter on the effect of hegemonic masculinity on the rate of advancement of women in senior leadership positions in intercollegiate athletics, it was clear that men maintain control of athletic director positions at the highest level and depict higher rates of organizational success than women (36).

Similarly, the percentage of women coaching men's sports, which stands at 3.4%, is a notable low percentage. Undeniably, while it is rare to see women coaching men, it is the opposite for men as men hold a high percentage of coaching positions for women's teams. Acosta and Carpenter unearthed that as of 2014, only four out of 10 coaches for women's teams were female (18). In an effort to establish the reasons for women underrepresentation in coaching, Sanderson and Gramlich found out that leadership positions within the sport are tied closely to masculine attributes, which create the perception that women are not suitable coaching candidates for male athletes (115). In addition, there is the idea that women are not viewed as an authority figure to men. In particular, Sanderson and Gramlich state that "Male coaches are also mythicized as moral authority figures that can push athletes beyond their physical and emotional capacities to attain results" (115). Irrefutably, people believe that women lack the ability to push male athletes as hard, just because of their gender.

Statistics indicate that female sports do not carry the same weight as male sports. Based on a report by the Women's Sports Foundation, male athletes get $179 million more in athletic scholarships annually than females. In addition, colleges spend only 245 of their athletic operating budgets on female sports and female athletes get only 16% of recruiting budgets and 33% of scholarship budgets (Sanderson and Gramlich 117). For example, in 2012, Sarah Robles, the Olympian weightlifter, had a hard time acquiring sponsorship because of her masculine physique. Undeniably, sponsorships and commercial endorsements are an essential part of a professional athlete's salary and career development, and evidently, it is an area where women continue to receive far less support than their male colleagues. Additionally, discrimination against women in sports is evident in pay, wages, prizes, and financial incentives. According to Senne, the unequal wages, prizes and other financial incentives on women's sports as compared to those of men arise from the low value placed on female sports (7). For instance, the average salary in the United States Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is only 2% of the all-male National Basketball Association's (NBA) average.

Further, discrimination against women in sports is evident in media coverage. According to Cooky, Messner, and Hextrum, the media's differential coverage of men and women's sport continues to serve as a cultural and institutional site for the reproduction of hegemonic masculinity (5). In particular, according to the Women's Sports Foundation, although around 40% of sports and physical activity participants are female, only 6 to 8% of total media sports coverage focuses on female athletics. Similarly, in a review of four major newspapers in the U.S namely USA Today, the Orange County Register, the Boston Globe, and the Dallas Morning News women-only athletics stories totaled only 3.5% of all sports news articles. Additionally, although mass media may not purposefully marginalize women's sports, there are many pieces of evidence showing that media favors and emphasizes men's sports and masculinity. According to Cooky, Messner and Hextrum male athletes are shown pervasively on the front cover of magazines in their uniforms and athletic equipment (5). Conversely, female athletes are portrayed showing their body with glamorous and sexy outfits and poses (Cooky, Messner and Hextrum 5). To add to this, Senne records that 15 years after the implementation of Title IX, little has changed regarding media coverage, marketing, and promotion of female athletes and women sports (3). The media still recognizes women in sport for their physical appearance, femininity, and heterosexuality instead of their athletic ability. According to Cooky, Messner, and Hextrum, the above trends are, in part, because of the overrepresentation of men in sports newsrooms (5). Moreover, a majority of those who are in a position to write about, frame, and edit the coverage of sports are men. Undeniably, this has an impact on which sports are covered and how athletes are represented.


Notwithstanding, Shin argues that just like adult males do not compete against young boys in weightlifting and boxing matches do not put heavyweights against lightweights, then the separation of men and women in sports should not be presumed as controversial (47). Separating athletes into different competitive groups is arguably good for the sport since it encourages wider participation and enables recognition of accomplishments at diverse levels of performance and capability. According to Shin, equality is a reasonable baseline for the appropriate distribution of access to social goods and opportunities like sports (49). As a default principle, one can suppose that everyone should have equal claim to the opportunity or good in question. If participation in competitive sport is good to be distributed, equality then means at least then no one should be deprived of this good only based on characteristics such as sex and gender. As a general ideal, this notion seems uncontroversial (Shin 50).

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