When most people think of the sports teams that they enjoy, they consider the effort and successes put forth by mostly male athletes. Female athletes often get less press than male athletes, even though they must work harder and this often results in a greater level of success. The athletic field is biased towards men, and this means that women do need to do more to prove themselves. Some attribute the difference between the performance, compensation, and effort between males and females to the physical differences that are present between the members of the two genders. As such, it is advantageous to consider the information that is available on this topic to determine whether female athletes have to prove themselves more than male athletes.
The main point of athletic competition is about winning, and it is generally thought that aggression and domination are male traits. A problem occurs, however, when men are admired for these traits, but when women express the same ones, they are scorned. When women participate in sports, it appears to some that they are not acting feminine, and this bothers them. Women in general are expected to follow the expectations of society, and this leads them to believe that they must act and look a certain way (Nelson 5). As such, female athletes are more likely to be exposed to bias because people are imposing social expectation upon them that do not apply. Even when women are winning in the sports that they are engaged in, there is less attention and recognition of these accomplishments. As such, it is apparent that female athletes do experience more difficulty compared to male athletes.
Furthermore, it is important to consider the barriers that women experience from the time that they enter school, thereby limiting the likelihood that they will be able to achieve athlete status. The saying “boys will be boys, and girls will be girls” has long been an excuse for the behaviors enacted by both genders (Devor 5). Furthermore, expectations about what girls should be doing or tend to do, as well as the same expectations for boys, influence the beliefs and behaviors that they will eventually develop. As such, if a girl is raised thinking that girls are not as good at sports as boys, it is less likely that she will try to excel in a sport. When less effort is put forth from a young age, girls become less likely to engage in the training that is needed for them to enter sports professionally.
Assumptions about what constitutes normal behavior for boys and girls occurs as a result of the formation of cultural constructs. As such, traditional signs of femininity, including passivity, gentleness, and nurturing behaviors are expected of women. On the other hand, more masculine behaviors, such as aggression, confidence, and toughness are expected by men. When women participate in sports, they are thought to take on attributes that are typically associated with masculinity, which some perceive as a threat to the power of men (Devor 5). As a result of this, there are those who would reject the participation of women in sports, adding to the challenges that female athletes face. It is important to consider that these concerns are not related to psychological or biological factors, which means that social causes are the primary features that contribute to this relationship.
It is likewise beneficial to consider the differences between biology and society. While social beliefs are likely based on the biological differences between women and men, these differential perceptions are related to beliefs rather than facts about the distinctions between boys and girls. It is meaningful to recognize that nature as well as nurture play a role in determining the actions that people will take (Blum 1). One’s upbringing has the potential to shape their behavior. As such, those who grew up in families that reinforced the importance of conventional gender roles may be less likely to encourage their female children to enter sports.
On the other hand, they may encourage their boys to do so. Their children may then grow up feeling that sports are for boys, while it is better for girls to focus on other activities. This makes it difficult for girls who want to enter sports to be able to do so. Since young children need the support and permission of their parents to achieve these outcomes, these social beliefs could be limiting when their dream is to train to become a professional in their favorite sport.
When considering the issues that present between gender and participation sports, it is likewise beneficial to assess how these issues influence the participation of those who do not clearly fit into these defined gender lines. Gender is a social construct that consists of binary options, male and female. As such, sports have evolved to include those that are for women and those that are for men. Even when a sport has participants who are male and female, separate teams are available and co-ed teams are rare. However, this makes it difficult for those who are transgender or women who have higher levels of testosterone than the average women to participate in sports.
According to Longman and Macur, “female track athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone must decrease the hormone to participate in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics” (Longman and Macur 1). It is therefore important to consider that women must compromise their own privacy and bodies in order to comply with the requirements of athletic leagues in some cases. Similar attention is not placed on the hormone levels of men, indicating a clear double standard in this case. While higher testosterone levels are associated with better athletic performance, if these testosterone levels are natural, it should not be the place of athletic organizations to exert control over this aspect of the athlete’s physiology.
One concern related to this is that it is possible for this evidence to be used in an unfair manner. In particular, science has not demonstrated that higher levels of testosterone reliably increase athletic advantage for athletes, and that this should therefore not be used as a factor to determine who could participate in competitions and who should not. Transgender athletes were also concerned about this ruling since this could prevent them from being able to [participate in these competitions (Longman and Macur 1).
Athletes who are transitioning from male to female must declare that they are female for the purpose of athletics for example, and their testosterone levels must also be suppressed. As such, these athletes are required to overcome biological barriers to be able to participate in athletic competitions as professionals. This difficulty means that the representation of women and transgendered individuals in sports is limited when these requirements in place. Furthermore, ever changing requirements may mean that these outcomes are not predictable.
The disparities between male and female athletes extend to the pay that they receive for the work that they do. In particular, a reason for the pay gap is that less people watch women’s sports teams. Since these teams may money as a result of views, marketing, and related activities, this means that there are less funds to allocate for salaries. In particular, it is worthwhile to note that when considering the top 100 highest paid athletes, none of the individuals on this list are women (Barker 54). Interestingly, this is the first time that women have not made it on the list since 2010. The growth of salaries for female athletes are also much smaller compared to their male counterparts.
As a result of the inequality in terms of pay, women teams, such as the U.S. soccer team, have launched protests, lawsuits, and boycotts in an effort to achieve fairer compensation for their participation in these games. For example, the U.S. soccer team won the World Cup. This demonstrates that their pay remains low even though they are considered to be a better team compared to their competitors than many of the male teams that represent the country (Barker 54).
Overall, it is thought that the bias that is present against women’s teams is a subconscious occurrence. Most people support women’s sports, but the best way to accomplish this in practice is by watching these games. When people don’t, there is a decreased likelihood that the people playing the games will be able to collect a salary that is comparable to men or to the work and risk that is associated with their involvement.
One of the factors that contribute to an increased focus on male sports teams and a decreased focus on women’s sports teams is the fact that sports stations and media focuses more on the male teams. People grew up watching male sports and being accustomed to doing so makes it difficult for them to adjust to watching sports played by females (Barker 54). Even women who are considered to be the heads of their households did not grow up watching women playing sports, so they tend to watch teams that are mostly male as well. As such, the preference for male teams over female teams means that there are more funds available to provide them with a salary increase. In addition, cultural reasons are to blame for the distinct manner in which female athletes are treated compared to male athletes in practice.
Not only is equality a concern in the realm of sports for women in the United States, there is only perceived equality between men and women in the country in general. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed in a manner that prevented colleges from being able to discriminate on the basis of sex. In addition, this lack of discrimination was expected to be extended to the treatment of women on sports teams.
As such, this triggered a greater number of women to enter into sports, but it was apparent that in spite of this legislation, a significant number of barriers were still in place for them. In particular, the intention of this legislation was to create equality based on its wording, but in practice, this did not make participation in sports equal (Johnson 1). One of the strategies that could be used to improve conditions for female athletes is to increase the frequency with which their games are shown and advertised in the media. Publicity for these sports is lacking, which means that it is difficult for these teams to gain the same following as their male counterparts.
When considering the inequality that is present in terms of the media advertising of sports, it is valuable to consider the statistics associated with this. “According to research done by the University of Minnesota, 40 percent of all sports athletes are females, however only four percent of all sports media coverage is of women’s sports” (Johnson 1). As such, it is beneficial to increase the media coverage for women. College sports should be covered in a manner that is representative of the number of games played by men and women. By increasing the presence of these sports on the media, it is possible for these female teams to get more attention and this may thereby contribute to an increased ability to compensate female athletes fairly for their time and participation.
While legislation has since been passed to address the “separate but equal” concern in society, it is thought that this problem continues to persist for female athlet4es. In particular, it is thought that, in many cases, women are able to compete and succeed against men. Physical dominance is a biological trait, but there are cases and examples in which females could outperform men in a variety of sports. A challenge that has been present is that many women are not able to access the opportunities needed to serve on sports teams (Zhou 1).
An increased focus on men’s sports means that less women are interested in entering these teams because of increased levels of difficulty. A key way to enter sports professionally is to play on a college team. Until recently, many colleges did not permit women to enter, which means that there was a delay in the ability for women to enter formal teams and have the opportunity to eventually play sports as professionals.
The history of the U.S. was naturally biased against women, who did not receive the right to vote until the 1920s. While much has changed for women since this period of time since they have been able to represent themselves in politics and other aspects of society, this has meant that there has been a slow growth of the autonomy of women in sports. As such, it is meaningful for female athletes as well as members of the population to advocate for equality in this manner, since this will lead to a greater level of equality and therefore fairness in the sports world.
Overall, the evidence demonstrates that it is true that female athletes need to prove themselves more than male athletes. Even when female athletes perform better than their male counterparts, their teams get less attention. This is in part due to the bias that society has against female athletes as a result of cultural norms and expectations, as well as the fact that females have less opportunities to enter professional sports and competitions. It is meaningful to make sports accessible to women, and to improve the equality of pay between men and women.
Although women have increased rights in the United States compared to the level of rights that they had when the country was first formed, there is still a lag in terms of the opportunity present for women as a result of historic repression. Therefore, it is meaningful to make changes in a manner that will encourage more women to participate in sports and to reinforce the notion that sports are for girls, not just boys. It is likewise important for members of the public to support women’s sports by watching them and following these teams so that they have the opportunity to thrive and grow to the same extent that sports played by men’s teams have. Sports plays an important role in society, and it is important for sports to be for everyone.
Barker, B. 100 highest-paid athletes include no women – And there are reasons. Newsday, 2018.
Blum, Deborah. The Gender Blur: Where Does Biology End and Society Take Over?
Devor, Aaron. Performing Gender.
Johnson, E. We Still Need Equality for the Sexes. University Wire, 2018.
Longman, J., and Macur, J. Sports Court Backs Distinct Gender Lines, in Defeat for Olympian. New York Times, 2019.
Nelson, Mariah Burton. I Won. I’m Sorry.
Zhou, A. Battle of the Sexes Question of Separate but Equal in Gender and Athletics Continues Today. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2017.