Inequality of Women in Sport

By Zoran V

Inequality of women in sport has been around for many years. Dating back to Ancient Greece where women were not allowed to play sport but rather stay at home and take care of the children, cook, and take care of the house cleaning. This changed over time and women were soon given the opportunity to play sports. In todays society, there are still signs of inequality for women, for example – salary, game rules, opportunities, and participation rates to name a few. A BBC Sport study revealed that 30% of sports still continue to reward males more highly than women. Some of these sports include golf, cricket and squash (Katie Gornall, 2014). The biggest deficit seems to be in soccer, where the study revealed an example where a men’s and women’s soccer team received $1.8 million and $5,000, respectively.

There are many different stereotypes surrounding women in sport. Women are often viewed as fragile, feminine, quiet, and attractive (body image). Due to these stereotypes, women are often drawn away from sport. There are other reasons why women can be drawn away from sport such as constraints, body image, lack of self-confidence, and competitiveness. In order to keep women in sports and increase the participation rate, we as a society should include more recreational services that will attract women to participate. These services do not need to be competitive at all, just a form of physical activity that will get women back into sport.

Many sports have different game rules for women compared to men. An example of this would be hockey in which women are not allowed to body check where as men are. The fan base at men’s and women’s games might be different because of this. Some individuals just think that men’s sports are more fun to watch. I personally think women’s hockey is just as fun to watch as the men’s. In an article written by Rick Paulas “Why Women Will Never Beat Men in Sports” has some good arguments to look at. One of which includes the phrase “he/she throws like a girl” which to Rick, makes no sense. He believes that women are just as skilled at sport as men are. There are two distinct roadblocks making it look like that’s not case. The first one is the fact that females are not given as much instructions as males during their adolescence/growing-up-period (Rick Paulas, 2013). The other roadblock is that sports were made for designed for men, to be played by men. As far as we can remember, all sports were created in an era where women were viewed to be in the kitchen preparing food, and taking care of children. Paulas (2013) believes there are currently two categories for sports, male sports and females playing sports designed for women. He strongly disagrees with this notion that society has portrayed about women in sport.

The number of opportunities for women to go further in sport has decreased in my perspective. At a certain point in a woman’s sport career she will not be able to go any further in the sport. Women’s hockey for example, after university hockey there really isn’t a higher league for women to go that they will get paid thousands of dollars to play. Males on the other hand, are able to reach professional levels such as the AHL, and NHL and be getting paid as little as $500,000 in the AHL and over a $1 million in the NHL. Women are playing against women, and men against men, there is no difference and there should not be a difference in pay or level of play.

References:

Katie Gornall, 2014. Women in Sport still facing inequality over prize money.

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/29786682 (BBC Sport).

Rick Paulas, 2013. Why Women Will Never Beat Men in Sports.

http://www.vice.com/read/why-women-will-never-beat-men-in-sports

Influence of Dolls on Body image: Is giving a Girl a Barbie the Same as Telling her to be Thin?

By Sarah A.

Body image refers to thoughts and feelings that an individual has towards his or her body and physical appearance. From a young age, media is influencing girls on the ideal female body image. On TV, in movies, and in stores girls are being bombarded with images of thin, beautiful women. Although men objectification is also common, it does not seem to have the same effect on young men as it does young women.

Over the years models, TV actresses, and Miss America contestants have been getting thinner and the pressure to meet these ideals are increasing tremendously. In the 1940s/1950s the ideal female body was a busty, voluptuous full figure, with an hourglass shape. As the 60s and 70s rolled around this ideal body image was changed, and “thin was in”. As years went on, the ideal body image for women began to be more and more unrealistic and unachievable. Young girls are constantly reminded of the importance of being thin and beautiful with toys such as Barbies and Brats Dolls.

Much like the ideal body image of women has changed over the years, the size of Barbies has also. In the 1990s, the average Barbie had a larger bust and waist circumference (although still unrealistic) than that of the Barbies sold today. If Barbie represented a real life women she would roughly be 5’9’’ and 110lbs. Growing up I loved playing with my Barbies. I wanted to look my Barbie, have the same clothes as my Barbie, and even drive the same pink convertible as my Barbie. With proper guidance from my parents I learned that I didn’t need to BE Barbie. As a 5’9’’ girl, I couldn’t imagine aspiring to be 110lbs, but with the increase in media influence, young girls may grow up with the hope of achieving an unrealistic body image. These pressures could eventually lead to eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Is this the body type that we are encouraging young girls to aspire to? Children are like sponges, they learn what they see, hear, and are surrounded with.

A women from Tasmania took it upon herself to re-create old Brats dolls into modern, natural, realistic young girls. She called it a make-under. By removing the drastic makeup that is painted on the dolls faces, and drawing on more natural eyes and lips, Sonia was able to create a doll that better represented children today. The feedback that she received from children was great, they loved them. Kids are not born with the desire to be thin and beautiful, they are exposed to it.

A study done on a local elementary school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, presented young boys and girls with a Barbie sold in stores and a realistically proportioned doll. The students related the realistically proportioned doll to themselves, friends, and family. The students were asked to describe what kind of job each doll would have. The Barbie was suggested to be a cook, model, fashion-star and make-up artist whereas Lammily (the realistic doll) was suggested to be a teacher, a pilot, a computer person ect. Children were found to prefer Lammily over the Barbie because they thought she better represented them. If we offered children an alternative to the outrageously unrealistic, body idealistic Barbies, according to studies, they would be just as happy (if not happier) to play with them.

Children need role models and people to look up to as they go through life, and giving them toys that add additional unrealistic pressures is surely not helping them. It is our responsibility to shape the children of the future and supplying them with toys such as Barbies, whose make up is perfect and body is symmetrical, is only giving them unachievable, unhealthy goals to work towards. We should be encouraging girls to love their bodies. We should be teaching them about health not unrealistic beauty standards. In the end HEALTH=BEAUTY.

Do you think replacing the thin, unrealistic Barbies in stores with more natural dolls, such as Lammily, will help encourage young children to aspire to a healthy body image?

Tree-change-doll video :

1)http://www.boredpanda.com/tree-change-dolls/

2) http://treechangedolls.tumblr.com/

Pittsburgh Study:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2843103/She-looks-just-like-sister-Kids-react-new-average-looking-doll-poke-fun-Barbie-unrealistic.html

 

Scholarly Articles

Hargreaves, D. A., & Tiggemann, M. (January 01, 2006). ‘Body image is for girls’: a qualitative study of boys’ body image. Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 4, 567-76.

Kuther, T. L., & McDonald, E. (2004). Early adolescents’ experiences with, and views of, Barbie. Adolescence, 39(153), 39-51

Food for thought

 

-SA

Climbing through Gender Stereotypes and Benevolent Sexism

Note: for those who don’t understand climbing terms I’m putting out there. Here’s a climbing dictionary.

Getting ready to lead a climb as a warm up outside a cave in Malaysia, a male, local to the area, comes up to me and asks, “ You’re going to climb? But you’re a girl,” I clench my jaw, never knowing what or how to respond back to such a statement, my male friend, belayer and coach swoops in and saves the day by responding, ” don’t look down on her small frame and build, she is stronger than she looks and fearless too, females are actually better climbers than we(men) are.” The guy nods his head and silently watches us all climb.

Rock climbers are predominantly males whether it is indoor or outdoor, women have quit climbing because of how high the level of testosterone is there in the gym. Being in the gym, staring at a route in frustration, I catch myself sometimes blaming myself being a female with weaker bodies and having a shorter reach and the next moment I’ll see another fellow climber a few inches shorter than me climbing the same route and flashing it with ease, giving me no excuse and shaming myself for blaming on my gender.

People think indoor climbing is about brawn and powering it through, as a matter of fact, in an article titled Rock it, says climbing is about full body strength, balance, grace and flexibility; women tend to be better climbers as we naturally have better weight-to-strength ratios and are more conscious of using technique over brawn. Climbing is also about perseverance, problem-solving and self-confidence; women seem to better appreciate the Zen-ness of indoor rock climbing.

Fellow climber, Ester Packard-Hill, wrote an article about gender stereotypes and sexism in climbing; ‘playing the game’. You get a lot of ‘for a girl’ comments, hearing those kinds of comments frustrates a lot of female athletes, not just climbers. You don’t hear people say, “you played really well, for a guy.” Most images of female climbers you see in magazines are women climbing in their sports bra. The emphasis of female sex-appeal is across many sports like volleyball, tennis, track, golfers and the list goes on and on: tight, short, and barely covering anything. Most sports rely on women developing traditional masculine qualities, Ester explains that female athletes promote their femininity because of fear of being questioned of their sexuality.

In a blog, writer Georgie Abel asked almost 100 female climbers to tell a story about notable experience they had while climbing with a male. They tend to make assumptions that women are weaker; uncomfortable with highballs and trying hard boulder problems or leading a route. Thinking the girls don’t want to do problem-solving and start showing or shouting beta to them. some of them would discourage women from trying hard, heady, or powerful climbs. If a guy repeats hard boulder problems, they are praised at. If a girl repeats hard boulder problem, they would downgrade it. There are also stories of males being cocky, obnoxious and/or egoistic, I have seen men quit climbing just because a woman could ascend a route and they could not.

Of course, there are positive experiences climbing with men, after 3 years of climbing at the wall climbing gym at UNB Lady Beaverbrook Gym, I realized the regulars there refuse to let females blame their femininity, there is no judgement in there, no pride at stake, there is however, encouragement to push through your own limits, focus on yourself and not let anyone else talk down to you, especially yourself.

Reference:

Rock it: Literally climbing the walls, women are finding they’re built to excel when it comes to indoor rock climbing. (1993, 01).Flare, 15, 23-23,71. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/223845985?accountid=14611

Women’s Sports: Arena for Anorexia?

by Hannah V.

The number of women and young girls participating in sport at all levels has substantially increased. Enormous strides advocating for equal rights in sport has enabled women to venture into a traditionally male dominated sphere, resist stereotypes, and improve their health. Despite recognition of these benefits, research has uncovered that female athletes are at a greater risk for developing eating disorders than both male athletes and non-athletes (Coelho, Gomes, Ribeiro, & Soares, 2014). 
In fact, a study conducted by the national collegiate athletic association found that at least one-third of female college athletes could be diagnosed with disordered eating (Johnson, Powers, & Dick, 1999). Eating disorders including Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa can be deadly serious and are associated with some of the highest morality rates among mental illnesses (Coelho et. al, 2014).

She is so fit and strong, how could she be self-conscious? The unfortunate reality is that athletes experience both sociocultural pressures to uphold unrealistic body ideologies and are also influenced by demands to be lean to maximize athletic performance. Essentially, an athletes’ hunger to win sometimes takes precedence over actual hunger.

A myriad of sources impose pressures on female athletes to achieve an unrealistic body ideology. The media sexualization of women in sport without a doubt prompts them to turn to eating disorders. Headlines, photo’s, and commercials focus on sex appeal and beauty; neglecting to emphasize athletic performance. The media is sending out the message “woman first, athlete second”. These oppressive and hegemonic messages in the media lead society to expect ‘perfection’ of female athletes.

Coaches are another source that may trigger an athlete to adopt disordered eating habits. For example, former Olympic gymnast Kathy Johnson disclosed her obsession with weight. In one report she revealed: “I took some time off, took a couple of pounds off, and, when I returned to the gym, my coach said, ‘Hey, you look great.’ I liked hearing that. I thought, ‘Well, I can look even better.’” (Harvey, 1994).

Whether is be the court, field, track, or rink I have heard countless teammates and players express body dissatisfaction. I have witnessed close friends become completely broken by eating disorders. ‘I’m fat’ coming from the mouths of naive nine-year old soccer stars breaks my heart.

Female athletes in today’s society are faced with many challenges, which include stereotypes, oppression, sexualization and eating disorders. We live in a culture that wants women to be in a neat, cute and frilly little pink package. This patriarchal society demoralizes the female athlete identity, and, in exchange, suggests that an athletes’ worth is exclusively based on sexuality, physical appeal, and femininity. I certainly hope that people are beginning to recognize this issue as reinforcing gender divides both inside and outside the sport world.

Women and girls are no longer constrained from participation in sport. However, female athletes seem to be constrained INTO eating disorder behaviours. Social and cultural practices along with media representation of athletes needs to be reshaped in way that promotes progress not perfection. Eating disorder education should become mandatory for athletes, parents, and coaches at all levels. Regardless of shape, size, ability or gender our bodies are amazing and should be celebrated. I say we recognize, resist, and reframe messages about the female body image.

Ps- If you click HERE you will be brought to a link that really puts body image in perspective!

-HV

Referenced Articles

Coelho, O, G., 
 Gomes, S, A., Ribeiro, B., & Soares, E. (2014). Prevention of eating disorders in female athletes. Journal of Sports Medicine, 5, 105-113.

Currie, A. (2010). Sport and Eating Disorders – Understanding and Managing the Risks. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, 1(2), 63–68.

Harvey, R. (1994). Working for Scale Is Never Safe in Women’s Gymnastics : Goodwill Games: Death of Christy Henrich hits home for former Olympian Kathy Johnson. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/1994-07-31/sports/sp-21990_1_kathy-johnson

Johnson, C., Powers, P.S., & Dick, R. (1999). Athletes and eating disorders: The national collegiate athletic association study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26, 179-188.

Media Coverage and Sexualization of Women in Sports

by Matthew C.

Since its inception almost 40 years ago (1972), Title IX has shown great strides in bridging the gender gap in athletics. Legislating that equal opportunities be provided in athletics for both males and females, we are beginning to see the positive results intended of this titles passing. Intended to focus mainly on college athletics, we are now seeing the results extend to a national level as well. Over the recent past Olympic periods, several countries including Canada and the United States of America have been composed of teams that are represented by an equal number of male and female athletes. Along with this, women have recently contributed to more medal wins for Canada at Olympic events than that of men. With all this success in bridging the gap between participation rates among women, we are still bearing witness to women’s athletics being oppressed through narrowly defined ideals about women in sport, fortified through the presentation of women’s sports through the lens of a male dominated media.

Sports media continues to be a male dominated domain. With 92% of sports coverage centering on male athletics, while only 5% of that is focused on women’s athletics, with the remaining 3% accounted for by gender-neutral topics. Not only is the ratio of women’s sport coverage greatly under represented in contrast to male sports, often times, the media attention that female athletics receives, focuses on the sexualization of the female athlete, and her experience of sport, as opposed to her athletic ability. This approach perpetuates negative ideals suggesting the merit of female athletes or value, lies in assets such as her appearance or relationships, thus taking away from attention paid to her athletic ability, contributions to the sport, or achievements.   Female sport is also the continual recipient of negative promotion by being portrayed or discussed as boring, entertainment value being contingent on the form of sexualization associated with the coverage. Examples of such sexism can be examined in the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. Due to cold temperatures, female beach volleyball players were “permitted” to wear body suits consisting of long sleeves, and longer pants to stay warm. This caused a blow up on several social media platforms, suggesting that there was no longer a point to watch the women’s event now that the athlete’s bodies were covered up. The media’s attention being focalized on the sexualization of female athletes can be observed in the argued opinion of some, in regards to Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova. She possesses countless ads and sponsorships over her competition, despite the fact she has never won a major championship.

With all the strides Title IX has made over the past four decades, it is time for the media to evolve past damaging and sexist ideals. In recent years, such sports channels as TSN have made efforts to bridge the obvious gap between male and female sport coverage, and in such sports like curling, airtime is now equal for both male and female competitions. Along with this increased female coverage, interest in the sport has been increasing at a steady rate across Canada having visible female role models at the forefront. Recent rankings have even shown that the Women’s Final of the Pinty’s All-Star Skins game that took place in January between Team Homan and Team Jones attracted more viewers than that of their male counterparts.

Cases like this suggest that it is possible to gain interest in female athletics without the sexualization of the female body, but gain viewership and interest based solely on the athlete’s performance and ability. Other networks and media outlets need to use this example and increase female sports coverage and allow a fan base to develop. Title IX has shown an increase in female participation, and it’s now time for the media to make the changes to increase female sport coverage.

In closing, it is under evolved of us to ask female athletes to absolve themselves of their sexuality or physicality, in an effort to be taken seriously as participants of the athletic community, as Olympians and as professionals. But rather WE should be the ones, as consumers, as sport participants and as fellow human beings to absolve ourselves of our sexist ideals that serve to be constricting of female identity and experience within sport, and to think more critically of the portrayal in sport media.

Gender Negotiation in Women’s Soccer

By Oliver J.

As a male soccer player, I have taken notice of the recent rise in women’s youth soccer in North America. I believe that this has a lot to do with the current spark that the Major League Soccer (MLS) has had on the USA, Canada, and the rest of the soccer world. It is well known that elite male athletes are getting paid more money than elite female athletes, and even though women’s soccer is on the rise, professional female leagues and elite female athletes aren’t getting the recognition they may be due. Many speculate over the reasons behind this, but i believe it comes down to lack of role models and the media.

Historically, sports stars have been perceived to have a responsibility as role models in both public discourses and within sport cultures(Giuliano, Turner, Lundquist, & Knight, 2003). Young men find it easy to aspire to be a professional soccer player because they see their role models everyday on various sport networks. On the other hand, young girls struggle to stay in soccer, because the role models aren’t given the same media coverage and are that much more difficult to find. Would having an elite level role model help girls stay in soccer longer?

Growing up I looked up to David Beckham, and this helped me to strive to play soccer at an elite level. In a study conducted by Kristiansen et al. (2014), a professional female soccer player from the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), said that “having Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastian as elite role models inspired her to excel in sports”. Although I agree with this to some degree, Ive considered that parents, especially mothers, play a vital role in keeping women playing soccer. Studies have demonstrated that moth mothers, more likely than a sports star, are considered role models by adolescent girlsers, more likely than a sports star, are considered role models by adolescent girls (Vesico, Wilde, & Crosswhite, 2005). With this knowledge it is clear that mothers need to play an active role in keeping young girls in soccer. As discussed in class, the majority of young girls will drop out of there chosen sport around the age of fifteen. If we want to remove this stigma then parents need to become more supportive and involved with their child’s sport, and not just drop them off and pick them up from programs.

 The media plays a huge part in whether or not a professional soccer league can be successful or not. Not getting televised media coverage can lead to leagues folding. A great example of this is the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS). This used to be the biggest league in North America until it folded (2009-2012), because of low media coverage and low attendances. The NWSL currently only has 9 league games televised through Fox Sports. When you compare this to the English Premier League (men’s), who just received a payment of 5.1 billion pounds(8.8 billion Canadian dollars) from Sky Sports and BT to broadcast 168 live games. The difference is astronomical and women will continue to struggle unless something changes. In order for professional women’s soccer to succeed with the media, they need to create sports stars. One way of being able to do this would be to get rich investors or sponsors to believe in the sport and heavily fund it. By creating stars within women’s soccer, you will instantly increase it’s fan base. Another suggestion could be community involvement. By athletes going out in their community, especially soccer programs, and getting involved with children who are interested in soccer, then it could increase the number or people who follow women’s soccer.

Sports Networks and the media make enough money from male soccer leagues; it utters the question as to if this is the real reason behind the media not fully supporting women’s professional soccer leagues?

References:

Giuliano, T.A., Turner, K.L., Lundquist, J.C. & Knight, J.L. (2003). Gender and the selection of public athletic role models. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30, 161-198.

Kristiansen, E., Broch, T., & Pedersen, P. (2014). Negotiating Gender in Professional Soccer: An Analysis of Female Footballers in the United States. Sport Management International Journal, 10(1), 5-23.

Vesico, J., Wilde, K. & Crosswhite, J.J. (2005). Profiling sport role models to enhance initiatives for adolescent girls in physical education and sport. European Physical Education Review, 11(2), 153-170.

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/31357409

http://www.nwslsoccer.com/

Spread the Shred

By Erin Piercy

As a lover of mountains, the great outdoors, and winter (well, sometimes), it’s only natural that I am drawn to winter action sports. Skiing has been a huge part of my life, as my parents, aunts, and brothers all have a passion for pow. I remember the first time I ever tried skiing, I went down the Bunny Hill at Crabbe a handful of times, then demanded to try the King’s Horn. I was fearless as a little girl, and felt entitled to do everything my older brothers did in the athletic world, but I felt reservations as I grew older when I wanted to try the rails and the jumps with my brothers and there weren’t any other girls out there with them.

Winter action sports include ski and snowboard Big Air, Slopestyle, and Superpipe, among others. Although these sports are dominated by men, roughly 70% of participation rates, women are quickly gaining momentum. A huge advocate for women’s skiing is Ontario born Sarah Burke. Sarah excelled at what she did and is argued to be the most influential female skier ever. She had a passion for skiing, and wanted to encourage other girls to get on their skis and ready for competition. When Sarah first started competing, she was the only female in contests, and was the first to land many tricks of the trade, including a 720, 900, and 1080.

Sarah tirelessly pushed for women’s categories in contests, and ultimately ski halfpipe to be included in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She was granted her lifelong wish in 2011 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepted it as a winter Olympic event. Sarah never did get the chance to compete in the Olympics in the sport that she pioneered due to her untimely death in 2012. Although she may be gone, her legacy continues to live. You can’t escape many commentaries on a women’s contest without hearing Sarah’s name being mentioned, and how much she did for the growth of the sport for women. She continues to be a positive role model for girls and women alike, on and off the mountain.

The IOC has stated “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures, with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women”. In 2014 at the Sochi Olympics, they introduced Ski Jumping for women, had the highest participant rates for women at 40.3%, and an equal 50/50 split between men and women for number of events. It was mentioned in class that around 50% of funding is for Canadian women athletes, and what I think is even better is that women win more medals!

Sarah may not have influenced women ski jumpers, or alpine skiers, but the fact remains that there definitely need to be more female role models like her out there. American snowboarder athletes, Olympians, and X-Games medal winners, Kelly Clark, Elana Hight, Lindsey Jacobellis, and Grete Eliassen all share that promoting the sport through social media and TV coverage will encourage young girls to get involved. Hight brings up a great point where (generally) “women respond to other women, not to men”. I can vouch for this, as watching the women at the Olympics inspired me to get out to the hill more than I had been in the last few years, to catch some air, and break out of my comfort zone. So if it can get me, someone’s whose talents are just to get down the hill, to get out there and try new things, who knows what more coverage on women’s sports could do for girls who have knack for the intricacies and style of the action sports! We need to #CelebrateSarah, and shake off any doubt that women can’t keep up with the guys. Women do run the same slopestyle course as the men, and women do use the same superpipe. Women are doing the same tricks as men, and are getting great scores in contests…there just needs to be more of them! I think having these strong, talented women at the forefront of action sports is inspiring and I’m excited what new things will happen in the coming years as they continue to “spread the shred”.

A Recent Example of Women Defying Stereotypes

By Chris Murray

For many years in the past, women have been seen as the “weaker” sex. They have been denied many rights through the years, such as voting, working, and taking part in sport. Statistics done by “Pay Equity of Ontario” show that in 2011, men were being paid 26% more than women for the same jobs. Although women may not yet be on the same level as men as far as wages and some other areas, there are definitely more and more women participating in sport and leisure activities as the years go on.

An example recently popped up in my life regarding gender differences in sport. I currently play, as well as referee intramural basketball every Sunday night. I play in a men’s intramural league, and referee both men’s and women’s games. The men’s league has twelve teams registered, whereas the women’s league has only four. As discussed in class, this gives an example of how particular sports seem to be male dominated. In the women’s league, there are two dominant teams and two teams that are less strong. To avoid blow-out games, the organizer fixed the schedule so that the two strong teams play against each other every week, and the two weak teams play against each other. The problem with this is that it has gotten very boring for the women, and they have begun to not even bother showing up to basketball. This has caused some of the women on these teams to be upset, because they go to the gym on their Sunday night expecting to play, and are told that the other team did not show up so there will be no game. Since the women’s teams barely ever show up, the two strong women’s teams decided to join up and form one team and play in the men’s league. I feel that it is a good thing that they are not intimidated to join the men’s league, since they know that they are talented players. The negative side is that there are now only two teams left in the women’s league, so it will probably be disbanded.

The women’s team was scheduled to play their first game in the men’s league recently, and I was assigned to referee the game. I was telling the men`s team that they would be playing the women’s team that night and the first comment from one of the players was “well we better not lose to girls”. It really shocked me to hear him say that because I thought that this younger generation was beginning to get away from sexism. It made me realize how prevalent that sexist talk still is. Being unhappy about the comment and knowing the skill of the women’s team, I told him that he better wait until he saw the final score to talk. Sure enough, the women beat the men’s team in a close game. Despite the size difference, the women won based on being far more skilled. I thought this was an excellent example of women defying stereotypes. They showed that they are not to be looked down upon simply because of their sex, and maybe now the men’s teams will take them more seriously.

Women’s Pay Inequality in Professional Tennis

By Aiden Hallihan

Across all professional sports, men have generally had the upper hand when it comes to cashing in on their winnings. Unfortunately, there are many sports where women are not even considerably close in terms of net income earnings compared to popular men’s sports. Such sports include: professional basketball, soccer, and hockey (Flake, Dufur, & Moore, 2013). Gender inequality is something that is far from being solved; however, in professional tennis women are narrowing the pay gap.

Growing up as a casual tennis fan, I have seen many Grand Slam titles in both the men’s and women’s division that ended up being thrilling, nail biting matches. From my perspective, I never looked at men’s tennis as being a more exciting game to watch. In fact, at one time men’s tennis was far more predictable, whereas with the women it was always a toss-up between who would win each tournament.

Over the years the prevalence of women’s tennis has skyrocketed. It is now the most popular women’s sport in terms of TV ratings and income (Flake et. al).  Four of the top 5 highest paid female athletes are tennis players (excluding advertisements). It is no coincidence that only three women cracked this year’s Forbes 100 Highest Paid Athletes list, and all three – Maria Sharapova, Li Na, and Serena Williams – are tennis players.

Women and men both have the option to play in 21 tournaments throughout their respective seasons. There are 4 Grand Slam tournaments and men and women receive equal payouts in these popular, nationally televised events (Flake et. al). However, the remaining 17 events see men make a lot more money than women. A popular rationalization used decades ago by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for men earning more was that they “work more” (Flake et. al). To me this is ironic because men play 3 sets in non-Grand Slam tournaments just like women. Only in Grand Slam events do men play 5 sets. Serena Williams once said on the hope of a possible change, “All the women players have agreed to it, but it’s not what [the tournaments] want at this time”.

I personally see no problem with women playing the same amount as men. As we have discussed in class,  why shouldn’t a women play as much as their male counterparts when it involves same sex competition. I think at the youth levels the rules should be the same so when the players grow up it will not seem like they are treated unfair. It would improve the gender equality and it would be a step in the right direction to equal values The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has 8 out of a possible 11 board members who are men which, in my opinion, may influence the decision to oppress women from playing the 5 rounds in Grand Slam events.

In a 2009 study, women earned on average 23.5 % less in net income compared to men’s tennis players on the season. (Flake et. al). For every non-Grand Slam tournament win, results indicated that women earned 23.4% less than their male counterparts. A myth exists that women’s tennis is less viewed than men’s, when in fact, women’s tennis actually attracts around the same amount of viewers. Does women’s tennis attract so many viewers because it involves flexibility, agility, nimbleness, intelligence, and a high pain threshold, which are characteristics of a stereotypical female as discussed in class? Not to take anything away from the sport, but I firmly think that there are men who watch women in short skirts play tennis just so they can see the women and not appreciate the sport; which is a sad reality.  In my opinion I believe this has some impact that influences television networks to use sex to sell women’s tennis.

Unfortunately, not many women’s sports that are overly aggressive or express “masculinity” are televised. As the sport of women’s tennis increases, hopefully tournament payouts will not be an issue in the near future. Professional tennis is the best hope at achieving gender equality in my opinion and one can see that the gap is narrowing.  All one has to do is look at the increasing popularity of rising Canadian tennis stars such as Eugenie Bouchard and America’s  Madison Keys – two young tennis players with the future of tennis rested on their shoulders. Ideally if women receive the same payouts as men in professional tennis it will help promote gender equality across other professional sports.

References:

Flake, C. R., Dufur, M. J., & Moore, E. L. (2013). Advantage men: The sex pay gap in professional tennis. International Review For The Sociology Of Sport, 48(3), 366-376.

http://www.wtatennis.com/board-of-directors

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/magazine/venus-and-serena-against-the-world.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0

http://time.com/3273225/why-womens-tennis-most-popular-womens-sport/