Aggression in sports: Females vs. Males

By Sarah H.

In sports, aggression is viewed as the ideal perfect component to a great play (Thing, 2001). When thinking about aggression, people will usually link this with men’s sports more so than women’s. Some people think that to “see a woman as aggressive is neither appropriate, nor expected. That there are carved memories that women ought to be in control of their emotions and be caring and gentle, all day long” (Thing, 2001). From being a female playing multiple sports throughout high school, I was a very aggressive player. In the sports that I played, being aggressive benefited the team and myself in the game. My coaches would always make a joke telling me to get mad at something so that I would play harder.

Although there is this ideal image of how females should play sports, most players said that in the play of sport, they are given an opportunity to go against the expectations of the surroundings of what it is to be female (Thing, 2001). The negative aspect of females being aggressive in sport is that their peers may refer to them as being “masculine”.

On the other hand, men tend to be more aggressive than women (Warden, Grasso, Luyben, 2009). Speaking from observations of men’s sports through school, if a guy wasn’t aggressive in a sport he would be made fun of and be referred to as a “sissy”. It is more acceptable for men to be aggressive in sports than it is for females (which I don’t think will ever change).

In one article, researchers talked about how there are many forms of aggression, one being “instrumental aggression”. It involves hurting another person, but is directly related to the play itself. Then you have “hostile aggression”, where the player has intended to injure the opponent and it is not directly related to the play itself” (Warden et al., 2009). Men have the higher rates of aggression in these categories. They are more likely to try and be violent to be viewed as “tough”. I’m not saying that females don’t have their moments when they are violent in sports, but females usually tend to use aggression as a playful phenomenon, a way of moving forward in offense (Thing, 2001).

In most sports, it doesn’t matter if it is male or female, aggression can be good. But, if players are going to be aggressive, they have to be able to control it. If they are just running around wild and end up getting a lot of fouls in a short period of time, then it is not such a good thing (Thing, 2001). Personally, I think sports are a good place to release stress and anger that is built up, as long as it doesn’t result in injury to other players. When I played, it was better for me to run harder or give a little bump to someone in the game or practice to let my anger pass, rather than going around hitting people or other things out of the sport context.

I think that people are getting better at realizing that just because a female is going to be aggressive in a sport, doesn’t mean she is masculine. Not every female is going to go with the general belief that they have to be in control of their emotions and be caring and gentle, all day long.


Thing, L. F. (2001). The Female Warrior: Meanings of Play-Aggressive Emotions in Sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 36, 3, 275-288.

Warden, K. B., Grasso, S. C., & Luyben, P. D. (2009). Comparisons of rates and forms of aggression among members of men’s and women’s collegiate recreational flag football teams. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 37, 3, 209-215.


8 responses

  1. Nice one Sarah. I really enjoyed reading your post.
    I believe you make some compelling points here. I agree that the sport domain should be an area for not only males, but females to exert a more aggressive role. Starting from a young age, I had been socialized to use sport as a way to express myself. This usually meant taking out any stress or anger I had built up during the day. This is where the double standard comes into play. Females deal with the same stress males do; school, friend-drama and family issues. Not only do we expect females to react in a passive way in terms of issues, we also hold them back from using sport as a way to let go.
    The sporting context is just another domain where women are suppressed. They are socialized to act and behave “lady-like” in the play of sport. If not, they are ridiculed and informally sanctioned by the rest of the players/coaches. As critical thinkers of sport, leisure and activity, I believe it is important that we bring up these binary roles and expectations that we assign to a person depending on their gender.

  2. Nice post Sarah. I completely agree that females should be allowed to express the same aggression in sport as males do. Similarly to males, when there is not a route for individuals to vent their anger they get into other, usually more disruptive situations. We talked about this issue last semester in Charlenes youth development through sport and leisure class. How without an appropriate sporting program for youth to express their emotions, that they tend to get into other situations where they can do so, such as gangs. So if females are being held back from acting in an aggressive manner, they may find another outlet to do so, either verbally or physically.

    Also, when more females are seen acting in an aggressive manner in a regular sporting setting, the more people will become accustomed to it. Which, in turn, will cause females to become more comfortable in participating in the more aggressive sports and perhaps being more aggressive in the sports they already participate. This goes the same way for males though. If males continue to be seen as only acting aggressively in sports than those who wish to participate in more “female” activities will be less likely to do so. As soon as we can break down the wall built by society that separates how males and females should act, then everyone can be free to participate in whatever they want and feel comfortable in doing so.

    Here’s hoping,


    • I like your post Sarah, you made some very good points towards the double standard that male and female athletes receive in their sport. Athletes in there sports shouldn’t be defined by their gender. Aggression is something that a lot of coach’s look for and try to encourage in their athletes and when used in the correct manner in any given sport can be a huge asset to a teams success.
      I liked how you mentioned that males are just assumed to be aggressive in their sports and if not they are considered to be playing like a girl and the opposite for females who would be considered to be a butch or too mainly because they are showing to much aggression in their sport.
      It’s sad to think that these are still the cases in today’s society, specially with our society putting high efficiency on our athletes being the best and having the competitive edge. Women shouldn’t be held back from them reaching their peak performance and should be allowed to be as aggressive as they want if it’s going to benefit their games.
      Thanks for the Post Sarah and great job again!

  3. This is a great post Sarah!
    I completely agree with the perspective you brought to this matter. Aggression in sports should not matter if you are male or female. It definitely is expected of men to be more aggressive than girls. In many sport organizations I have been a part of, the men have always been praised for their aggression. They would high five each other and joke about whatever paly had just happened. However in girl’s teams that I have seen or been a part of, if girls are too aggressive or knock over a few players just the same as guys would, they are judged immediately. You can hear the comments in the stadiums, and the looks exchanged by teammates and opponents on the playing surface are quite evident.
    I think that your sex shouldn’t matter whether you choose to be aggressive in your sport or not. If it is accepted in one gender, it should be accepted in both.
    Great job on the post!

  4. I’m studying male aggression towards a female in co-ed football/soccer. My investigation is questioning male behaviour change towards a women when competing against them. I believe males won’t be as aggressive towards a female compared to a male. What are you thoughts on this?

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