Women and Sport

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Turn on your TV screen and there’s a high probability that a sports game will be on at one channel. Unless it’s a special sports channel such as ‘sky sports’ etc. you will easily realise it is men playing the relevant sport. Ever wondered why? Why aren’t women’s sports as amazingly popular as the large market of men’s sports? Millions are spent on men’s sports and men sports’ propaganda but why aren’t women’s sports as popular?

They are physically and mentally able to play the same type of sports and there are as many talented women as there is men, but for reasons unknown to many, they are just not as well recognised. My parents brought me up to think that girls could play sports just as well as boys and from a very young age I have represented the school and other extra curricular clubs in all of the sports that were available to us.

In primary school we played in mixed teams and both girls and boys had similar abilities and enjoyed working together as team, regardless of our gender. As I got older, boys’ and girls’ teams were split up as our abilities in sports differentiated quite drastically. Boys were always stronger in sports such as football and rugby, but we girls were still able to easily beat them in games of basketball as we grew up much quicker, so we were taller than them.

When I was in year 5 through to year 7 we had an amazing girls’ basketball team that went undefeated for those three years. Sports were very important and well recognised in my school and the whole town came and watched our matches, which made the girls’ basketball team undoubtedly much more popular than the boys’ and I am able to say that we achieved that ourselves as we were given the same opportunities as boys were, it was just because of our ability and having a good team that we managed to succeed and rise higher than the boys did.

I am not saying that because of this example women’s teams should be more popular, because that would be nonsensical and pointless, but I think it is showing we are capable of flourishing in the world of sports in the same way men do. But then, college level is a bit less equal in men and women’s sports. We’re talking about a completely different calibre of athletes. Women who know the game well and are physically able to stand the challenges put on them can work at a higher level of competition.

More people want to see women play sports now than in the past because of the better quality of player which you can doubtlessly see nowadays. With this as a factor television time is something that both teams have to savagely compete over. In most areas men get most of this television time, and though unfair, it’s because they have the money that they are able to buy and obtain all this television time. You can now sometimes catch a girl’s game on some odd channel but the main stations mostly have men’s games on them.

The main area that allows you to compare the discrepancy between men and women’s sports is most presumably basketball. There are large numbers of teams for both men and women, which should, in an egalitarian and fair world, allow for equal opportunity. They are both played at the same time and so should have the same opportunities, regarding airtime and salaries. But they don’t. Sneaky advertisers and money-raging sponsors want to put their money where they are going to get the most return from it, and that has always been with the men’s sports.

Men’s sports have been here for longer, from the very first Olympic Games, when only men could participate, while women’s sports are still relatively young and the number of fans in the audience is steadily growing. Certainly there has been a large improvement since the early 1900s when female sports were nearly non-existent from the extra-curricular, competitive viewpoint. Women’s sports have become manifestly more physical within the past ten years. It is a quicker forum; the women are more athletic which also allows for more excitement.

More aggressive sports such as rugby and water polo are additionally beginning to become more popular in the world of women’s sports. Women now see they are able to compete in more dynamic and vigorous sports and are taking the chances they are given to show that they are also accomplished to achieve success in such sports. Many have the skill, aptitude and talent to compete in any sport, and now they are beginning to be given the chance to take part in these sports, and compete.

Even though it is undeniably improving, the 1997-98 NCAA Gender Equity study put together by CNN and Sports Illustrated, shows that there’s still room left for improvement. This study demonstrated that the average Division 1 men’s basketball head coach made nearly twice as much ($120,857) as did the women’s basketball head coach ($74,187). The average operating expense, in the same study, was $197,048 in men’s sports, compared to the women’s $120,930. While a man’s average salary in basketball is $52,474, a woman receives a shameful $32,314.

So, men make more money than female professional athletes do, and this is not only in sport-related jobs, but in many other jobs as well. Many women athletes have the necessity to have a second job other than their sport to make ends meet in the real world. But, this does not apply to men, as they earn more money and they are, in many cases, not expected to maintain a family like women are. Single parents are usually women, as they, in most instances, keep the child. This is also a massive responsibility on women and a big expense. They are expected to work, be paid less than men are and be able to support a family, so how do they manage?

The media’s portrayal of women in sports can be described by the saying ‘taking two steps forward and one step backwards’; this is to say that women are now allowed to be athletes, but that with this freedom comes the need for women to then also show themselves as domestic or sexual objects to reaffirm their femininity. It is saddening to think that women must prove their femininity by separating themselves from their athletic ability, and that we as a society cannot except athletic ability as something either that is feminine or as something that is separate and therefore not linked to our femininity.

For example, Lisa Harrison, a professional basketball player, makes $35,000. On February 2nd 1995, Bob Der and Kara Yorio reported that the average salary for a player in the NBA is over one million dollars a year. No wonder Lisa Harrison considered posing for Playboy in order to supplement her income. Do you remember what started this change in women’s sports and the acknowledgement of women’s sports being equal? It was at the Olympics when the women won the basketball, football and softball gold medals.

By doing so they proved that women too deserved to be treated as athletes. Equality amongst men and women in sports is not measured by their physical drive and prowess on the playing field but also by the percentage of athletes compared to the number eligible. The adoption of Title IX, which allowed for female sports to expand and grow at the high school level and that educational institutions had to provide equal opportunities for females to participate in sports as they did males or else lose their federal funding.

This title certainly provided a path for society to follow where female athletes are concerned. Great strides have been taken to provide an equal opportunity for females in the sports’ world. Women have undoubtedly come a long way, and yet have a long way to go. Increases in scholarships, salaries, airtime , operating and recruiting expenses have left athletes encouraged, even thought they still do no compare to those of the male athlete. If sports are good for half the population, they must be good for the other half.

We are a different gender but not a different species. I don’t want men to have less but I just don’t understand why so many doors are closed to us. Women should be treated as equals to men when it comes to sports. Will it ever happen? I do not know, but I hope so. ‘The stoy of women in sports is a personal story because nothing is more personal than a woman’s bone, sweat, sinew and desire, and a political story, because nothing is more powerful than a woman’s struggle to run free’

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