Sociology Paper – Gender in Sports

Sociology Paper – Gender in Sports

Sports is a place where the “truth” about men and women is demonstrated.
Sports are sex-segregated and that segregation is defended viciously.
Notice that the gender binary is an ideological function of sport – not a reality.
The vast majority of people to whom sport is important are primarily spectators. These spectators are primarily men. And these men are no more or less athletic than the vast majority of women.

In Michael Messner’s article, Becoming 100% Straight, he talks about his own experience and the experience of Olympian Tom Waddell.
It was important to them try to be the appropriate kind of man. Messner and Waddell could prove it on the sports field and by denigrating other men and women. Importantly, they knew if they didn’t do it, they’d be targets.

Athlete as an identity
Like gender, “athlete” is an important, formative and enduring part of who you are.
It is something you “do,” NOT a something injected into you that you “have.”
It shapes what you expect of yourself and how others relate to you and it interacts with other identities (gender, race, class etc)

Men as athletes
For men, athleticism and skill in sport brings privilege and esteem.
Sport masculinity is a very limiting type of masculinity. Adequate accomplishment is difficult, and failure is dangerous.
It is built on physically self-destructive behavior.
It includes a connection with sex and drugs that is dangerous.
This definition of masculinity limits self-expression, but also the possibility for long-term success. Most middle- and upper-class men eventually reject sport as a primary means of accomplishing masculinity in favor of career success. Working class men don’t have that same opportunity.
In an article you didn’t read, Messner argues that it is mostly poor men who pay the costs of sports.
Notice that the non-white and poor men who serve this function for upper-class and white men often embody the physical disability that comes with “real” masculinity.

Sport follows both formal and informal rules
For example, Title IX
Title IX - Education amendment of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education - passed because of intense feminist efforts
Title IX has significantly increased women’s access to education and the the amount of money spent on it.
We think it’s about sports because the overt resistance has focused on it.
In practice, as a result of Title IX…
budgets for girls’ and women’s teams increased.
girls’ and women’s teams were added.
salaries for coaches of women’s team increased.
girls and women increasingly participated in sports. No dearth of interest.
In your short piece on Title IX, Messner argues that, though men’s teams do sometimes get cut to gain compliance with Title IX, it is not simply because women’s teams are taking men’s teams’ money away, it is because select men’s teams (especially football and basketball) soak up too much of the men’s money.
Messner argues that the idea that football is a money-generating sport is a product of football PR and not a fact for the vast majority of schools.
Emphasizing men and woman as in opposition (sports and the gender binary) makes it difficult to see that decreasing football budgets would help both women’s sports and most men’s sports.

Women as athletes
When women enter sports, they encounter norms of being an athlete that reflect masculinity.
“…many female athletes believe they can receive no higher compliment than to be told they ‘play like a man’” (Hartmann 2003:17).
They have to face a contradiction between “success as athletes” (individual achievement coded as “blue”) and “success as women” (emphasized femininity and recognition from men).
Because of this contradiction (and the better she is at doing both???), women athletes are often not taken as seriously.
Even professional women sports are designed to appeal to men (men are the spectators to market to).
The requirement to be feminine can be called a “feminine apologetic.”
The apologetic is in formal and informal rules.

Furthermore, women have entered sport as a result of feminist agitation, but their entrance has been co-opted.
Nike is the ultimate example.
In these ads – being “free” is identified with corporate consumerism.
There is no reason to think that this new muscular bodily ideal for women is more realistic or requires less bodily management and attention.

To conclude:

Ultimately it is important that women CAN do sports.
But it is also important to note under what conditions they can and how those conditions limit individuals women’s participation in sport and experience of it.
As well as how their participation in sport contributes to the valuation of women in general and femininity in particular.