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The Discrimination of Women in Sport Essay Sample

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The Discrimination of Women in Sport Essay Sample

A woman’s place in sport has changed unrecognisably over the last hundred years or so. At the beginning of the 20th century sport was seen as a male preserve accentuating masculine values, a woman who showed any interest in competing was thought to be ‘strange’ as it was not a very ‘lady like’ thing to do’.

This kind of discrimination seems hard to comprehend for many of us, as we are so used to living in a time of such equality and equal rights. Now days in sport there is not one sport which can be categorically called ‘male’ only. Although the roots of the sport may have stemmed from male participation you can be assured that there are now provisions set up so that women can train and compete.

A great example of this would be ‘rugby union’ this may be perceived by an ignorant few to be a ‘real mans’ game as it a game that centres on aggression and injuries are common. There is now a scheme set up in our local area, in accordance with Thanet wanderers RFC, so that woman of all ages can take up the sport and develop their skills under the supervision of fully trained coaches.

Unfortunately this type of encouragement has not always been available to potential athletes. Although the participation of women in sport can be traced back to the very first Olympics in 1886, they definitely did not share a level playing field with the male athletes as they were not allowed to compete officially.

At the dawn of the Olympics there were a very low percentage of female competitors compared with the male statistic. An example of this is the official numbers competing in the 1932 Olympics, 1180 men Vs only 120 women. There are many different and contrasting opinions on why this is the case. My own opinion is the lack of a real ‘role model’, until the great Dutch athlete ‘Fanny Blankers-Koen’ there was no, one, athlete that female competitors could look up to and say ‘I want to be like her’.

As I mentioned earlier this all changed in the games of 1948 where Blankers-Koen grabbed the sporting world’s attention by winning four gold medals (100 and 200m, 100m hurdles and the 4x 100m relay). Her sporting achievement was not welcomed by everybody; the New York Times claimed that there was no place for women in the Olympic Games as they did not participate in the ancient games. Her achievements also encouraged a quote which really summed up the average man’s opinion on women in sport;

‘The fastest woman in the world is also and an expert cook’

In some peoples opinions the ‘fastest woman’ in the world was actually very lucky to be classified as a woman by the Olympic committee. After reading the fascinating article entitled “Knickers off Girls, the Olympians are coming” by the author Andrew Jennings, I feel disgusted in the way which women were treated.

If a woman had performed exceptionally well them there seemed to be subject to a so called gender ‘test’. At first this test was not at all scientific. This is a quote from a woman describing her ordeal;

‘The doctors then proceeded to undertake an examination which, in modern parlance, amounted to a grope. Presumably they were searching for hidden testes. They found nothing and I left’

This may seem a very basic way of testing gender, and I would agree, but it seems to be better than some of there more modern ways. The thought of having to undergo these tests or even worst being wrongly accused of being a man seriously put women of competing. I do not blame the women for not wanting to undergo these tests, because imagine if a ‘woman’ failed this test and then the result was announced to the world press which would then pass the results to an estimated two billion people. It didn’t matter if the athlete was a family lady with a husband and three children, in the committee’s opinion they were a ‘man’. Thankfully for female Olympians there degrading and somewhat perverted test have now been scrapped and they have a new way that is more humane and a lot more accurate.

Over the years the opinion of women’s sport has changed greatly and is arguably now on a par with there male counterparts. There is also a huge market for women sports people, this may seem great for women’s sport but it is somewhat of a double edged sword. In some corners of the media less emphasis is put on performance and on performance and more is placed upon the beauty of the athlete. The best example of this comes from tennis, if we take two well known players, ‘Serina Williams’ and ‘Anna Kournikova’, one of them is the worlds number one and the other has never won a tournament of any note. It would seem sensible to assume that the world number one would get more media coverage, but this is definitely not the case. Kournikova is the face of many manufacturers and earns a lot more money from sponsors and endorsement contracts than she ever will from tennis. What is the reason for this? Kournikva is shown as the picture of beauty whilst Williams, although dominating women’s tennis is less likely to attract sponsors as she does not correlate with most peoples idea of what a woman should look like, she is brash in her play and is very muscular.

This type of media perception must be very off-putting for potential tennis stars of the future as they may feel that it will not matter how well they do in tournaments they will not receive the media attention they deserve because they are not stunningly attractive. Even worse would be for the woman to be looked at and branded as a ‘lesbo’ just because of there muscular appearance, which has happened to such players as ‘Lindsay Davenport’

I think that I have worked out the reason for these physical stereotypes. I am sure that the sports sections in such things a tabloid papers are aimed at the male reader, so they are looking to cash in on what men like ie. Pretty women, such as Kournikova. This ‘Beauty Vs Talent’ struggle will continue in women’s sport until it reaches the stage where there are equal amounts of men and women participating and watching sport, then more emphasis will be put on the result and looks will take a definite second place.

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