by Cassie S.
From the beginning of a little girl playing peewee sports all the way to a young adult playing at a professional level, women are always stereotyped by society. They are viewed as the weaker sex and they are valued more on the physical appearance of the body and less on their actual performance. These stereotypes come from the traditional gender roles that have been created by today’s society. The stereotypes that young children are exposed to at such a young age and are raised into believing can have a huge impact on their athletic performance. Much research has been done on the correlation between stereotype threats and the under performance of female athletes.
A stereotype threat occurs when a person performs worse at a task due to extra pressure that is added because of a negative stereotype associated with their group’s performance (Hively & El-Alayli, 2014.) Women often underperform at an athletic task when thinking about gender stereotypes related to athleticism. When females begin to think about the negative stereotypes related to their gender and sport, it causes them to worry an extra amount about their performance. If they perform poorly, it would only (falsely) verify the negative stereotype associated with their group. This extra amount of worry leads to a large gain of pressure which leads to a poor performance.
These negative beliefs are preventing women from performing to their full potential in sport. Hively and El-Alaylo (2014) compared female athletes’ performance against that of male athletes under two circumstances: when a stereotype reminder was present and when the threat of a default stereotype was specifically removed. The study consisted of both male and female basketball and tennis athletes who performed at an elite level. All athletes were asked to perform two athletic tasks within their sport. At random, the participants were either told that there was a gender difference in performance or that there was no gender difference in performance on the tasks.
Results from this study determined two things: When participants were told gender affects task performance, women performed worse than men and when told there was no gender difference, women and men performed equally well. Results of this study show just how powerful these negative stereotypes associated with women and sport can be. Women have come this far in sport, yet still struggle with the stereotypes that society continues to attach to their sex. The facts are that women CAN throw and catch, kick and score goals. It is hard enough for women to breakthrough in sport without the extra pressure added to their performance due to these stereotype threats.
I believe that a great way for women to overcome the barriers that they face with stereotype threats is to look up to some of the amazing athletic female role models in sport today. For example, Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch is an amazing role model for any girl to look up to. She makes boys wish they could throw or run ‘’like a girl.’’ She is one of the best pitchers in softball history and an all around amazing softball player. You can watch the links below to see Jennie and Team USA in action!
Although Jennie has retired from her softball career, she still continues to run camps and coach teams. She is still providing guidance, inspiration and motivation to girls of all ages to work hard to accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams. There are so many other positive female athletes in sport today that provide hundreds of examples of how strong females can be in the sport world today.
When someone tells me that I throw like a girl I don’t take it as an insult, I take it as a compliment. Throwing like a girl, to me, means throwing like Jennie Finch, which is something any female or male should be extremely proud of. Girls can perform just as well as boys in any sport, regardless of any stereotypes associated with their gender.
Hively, K., & El-Alayli, A. (2014). ”You throw like a girl:” The effect of stereotype threat on women’s athletic performance and gender stereotypes. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 15, 1, 48-55.