She Can do It all BY BRUNA TOTO

The European lifestyle of ethical values and traditional customs known as the western culture, is creating norms and standards in the American society including gender roles in the world of sports. In the result, both female and male athletes are held accountable for following what the public considers correct. Men are valued for their muscularity, strength, and tenacity. In contrast, women are appreciated for their beauty and delicacy. Furthermore, since childhood, kids are influenced to choose their toys based on their gender. They are constantly motivated to have interests in gender-appropriate activities. Girls are most likely to play with dolls, kitchen, and housekeeping toys leading to increasing their emotional and helpful character. Boys are encouraged to play with cars and weapons leading them to a more aggressive and active personality. Therefore, gender depiction has impacted sports as in gender-inappropriate behavior for females because these stereotypes become barriers to women’s success in sports. Statistics and reality further prove that even while not trying to compare gender roles and wondering when proposing such a question like "Will woman become as influential and popular as men’s when they become professional athletes?"

Under the circumstances, gender equality is an issue of women’s sports because they do not have the financial and motivational support that they need. Because it is apparent that sports are designed for men, women are paid less than men. For example, the Western Culture believes that women have the nurturing gift and it is more socially acceptable for a female to be a nurse, a social worker or a receptionist rather than an athlete. By the same token, when a male is not good enough to play a sport, the society makes offending comments (for example; you play like a girl) because they intend to say that women are weak and they are not meant to play sports. This situation is clearly seen in the professional leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), where men are paid more and they have more sponsors and fans compared to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). In contrast, women have less attraction and attention from the media, resulting in fewer opportunities and unfair salaries. When the NBA seven-months regular season is over, the WNBA starts and shortly ends three months after the NBA. Most of the women’s basketball players grow a desire to transition into playing basketball overseas to receive proper remuneration for their gift and craft. Besides basketball, “The New York Times Magazine” also claims that female soccer players are being paid less than men playing the same sport and winning the same events and also the difference of salary is significantly large.

Along with the under-paid salary, one of the most vital reasons woman are less likely to play sports is because a portion of them worry about these very stereotypes and it saddens me because there are double standards behind this very situation and I believe that no one should distinguish what a gender should engage in based upon what it said that they should partake in. This is caused by what the scholar Jones Greer affirms stating that: “because female athletes often sweat, play aggressively, wear athletic wardrobes, develop muscles, and are built strong, they do not fit the expectations (or schemas) of society” In addition, women are constantly discouraged by men and the social norms to play certain sports such as basketball, soccer, the x-games, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) because males presume these sports are physically impossible for females to be as skillful as them. The majority of females fans are not watching women’s sports because they are more interested in men’s sports due to the swaying of opinion they receive from society to empower the world of sports through a woman.

Furthermore, the majority of men endorse female athletes with the wrong intentions. They are emphasizing more of their femininity and sexuality rather than their athleticism. For example, men categorize volleyball as a feminine sport because of their spandex uniforms. Research shows that men are significantly more interested in volleyball than any other sport. Men have a greater and more positive opinion about female volleyball athletes than feminine athletes participating in any sport considered masculine. Perhaps, the only solution to confront this idea is to change women’s basketball uniforms from long shorts and t-shirts to short shorts and smaller jerseys to make them adequate for men’s perspective. Subsequently, women’s basketball could have a greater impact on media and society when the criteria and expectations are met. John Keilman, wrote an article in the Chicago Tribune titled- “Why are girls volleyball shorts so short?” The author criticizes his own daughter buying spandex to play volleyball and how normal and acceptable it is for coaches and players. One of the coaches argues about not having to wear short shorts to be able to play well. However, volleyball uniforms have influenced the image of female players as delicate and feminine.

http://wasatchacademy.org

Media is another factor representing and influencing women’s sports. They are shaping how women are viewed and paid. The research by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), during the final four best teams remaining in the playoff, both men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, found that “women were evaluated on their appearance while men were evaluated on their athletic ability.” This idea follows with media and how they represent women’s allure through photography and broadcasting and female athletes that do not meet the beauty standards of the Western Culture are representing sports unfavorably.

Moreover, sexuality in women’s sports is the biggest element to involve sports fans to buy tickets to a women’s sporting event causing problems to raise their salaries. If people are not purchasing tickets for a sport considered masculine, women’s sports cannot keep a marketing budget because without sponsorships they cannot go any further. Unfortunately, a female athlete’s charm, beauty, and attractiveness are fundamental for men to be interested in women’s sports and consequently purchase tickets. But, the male’s sports are having more consideration and appreciation from the media and the society.

Media has been trying to represent women’s sports strategically. A research by Jones and Greer, there are three questions that examined the audience’s perspective about female athletes. The first question is: “Does increased feminine appearance of a female athlete in a sports photograph increase audience interest in an accompanying news story?” The second question: “Does increased feminine appearance of a female athlete in a sports photograph increase audience interest in the sport the athlete is playing?” and the third question: “Does seeing a non-stereotypical athlete depicted as playing a sport decrease audience gender typing of that sport?”. Participants were college students among other student-athletes. For each question, both female and male audiences answered. The procedure and measurement were studied to see if students were categorized in sports as gender appropriate or inappropriate. The study also used pictures of female athletes representing feminism and other athletes representing their sports without showing any feminine side. The results have proven that female athletes are linked to greater interest for men only when feminine athletes are playing stereotypically feminine sports. In addition, men prefer women to maintain a feminine image by avoiding to play a sport considered too masculine. Despite of men’s perspective, women also reinforce the sex-typing idea of sport to label women’s sports, and this makes more difficult to overcome gender stereotypes in the Western Culture

Furthermore, in the article “Thighs, Blood, and Rampant Inequality: We Spoke to a Former Lingerie Football League Player” one of the former athletes, Tessa Barrera, accused the LFL about the competition being unreasonable about how they were treated by fans and coaches. Barrera had to quit playing after breaking her hand because she had no insurance assistance from her payoff to handle her bills efficiently. On top of other stereotypes, the name of the teams is profoundly preposterous due to pervert double-meanings (for example: Dallas Desire and Los Angeles Temptation).

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These stereotypes are a huge part of women’s sports history along with photography and magazines. This is a common ideal in sports and the tendency is to increase women’s standards throughout the years. Media and technology are in constant evolution and they are having more power over women’s image by making them underrepresented in society and not removing their bias to see women as athletes, but unexciting and unimportant. Regrettably, broadcasting is advertising women’s sports as the second plan compared to men’s sports.

The writer Pamela J. Creedon, wrote a book “Women, Media, and Sport- Challenging Gender Values” and the author argues about the classical times when women were meant to be silent and reserved. Notwithstanding, the future of a woman’s mindset started changing with the connection between provocative gestures in female sports. During the 1840s, women began exposing themselves through magazines, photographs, and broadcasting. Consequently, when women started being perceived as an object of sex because they were no longer illustrated in corsets and pantalets while exercising turned over women's values and ideals.

In the book from ““Fair Sex” to Feminism- Sport and the Socialization of Women in the Industrial and Postindustrial Eras” the editors J.A. Mangan and Roberta J. Park claim that men’s ubiquitous influence in the world of sports has impacted the history of women’s activities due to men’s domination over females. Correspondingly, women sports are no different. Men were monopolizing sports as their only and exclusive activity. In due course, women began getting involved with sports in the late 1700s after pre and post-revolutionary America while everything was recent, dynamic and a bit more copacetic. The writers Mangan and Park have an assertion based on how women felt encouraged to initiate more activities after the post-Revolutionary time in America. For example, I learned that the socialization of women in sports first began with horse races. They did not have a competition for women, but they were starting to engage along side men. It was the first open door for women to be independent through sports. Moreover, women felt more confident fighting against the radical and conservative lifestyle of a woman.

Even today through the timeframes of 1700s and 2016, women are still distinguished as less qualified and abandoned in the sporting sphere. The history gives us guidance to analyze the situation of women in 2016. In spite of all, female athletes have the freedom of competing, but their voices are heard in the slightest magnitude. Women talents, skills, and abilities are neglected, hidden and treated inferior as an unimpressive passive manner by the media and the American Society. The article “You Don’t Look Like an Athlete: The effects of Feminine Appearance on Audience Perceptions of Female Athletes and Women’s Sports” affirms that “the appearance of female athletes has become a key variable in studies that have examined media coverage, media commentary, athletic endorsements, photography, body image, sex-typing, and the shaping of public opinion.” By way of explanation, everything is influencing how women are perceived and valued.

The article, “Is There a Right Not to Know One’s Sex? The Ethics of ‘Gender Verification’ in Women’s Sports Competition,” a woman who is athletic and successful in her sport is considered genetically a man. As a part of the history of sport, this situation has always distinguished male and females for competition purposes. If both sexes were competing together, females would have less chances to win because women tend to be physically weaker than men. Because of this contrast between men and women, some women are forced to take genetic test proving that they are female based on their impressive physical appearance and performance. She can be so amazingly good that society equally compares her to a man. Females have to prove to the society how they got their talents from as individual women. In result, women athletes face tremendous identity problems trying to discover who they really are, why can’t they be appreciated because of their skill set and why can’t people expect change. Many of the women athletes face depression, shame, the desire not to compete anymore, broken marriages due to public interference, harmful perception from relatives, and many times it leads to suicide.

As an illustration, in the summer Olympics of 1996 in Atlanta, eight athletes had been genetically tested before the opening ceremony. After the results were collected, the players were not excluded from the competition. But, they will always recollect this incident as an insult of their inner self. Furthermore, in 2006, the Indian runner Santhi Soundarajan won a competition at the Asian Games. After being requested to take the test, she was found to have a Y-chromosome, which is a disorder preventing females to produce eggs but not from having female characteristics. Shortly after, the Indian Olympic Association, claimed that the runner is a male rather than a female because of the test results. A year later, Soudarajan attempted suicide. "Sex and gender identity is one of the defining and most fundamental characteristics of livelihood” (Claudia Wiesemann) and being a sportswomen is traumatic for females to identify themselves as a woman in it’s entirety because of what society is seeing as irrelevant and inappropriate for sports

Santhi Soundarajan http://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/8192977/failed-gender-test-forces-olympian-redefine-athletic-career-espn-magazine

I'd believe that one solution to break the gap and divide is to respect the athletes. Moreover, the data and the test should only be applied in a way that is not intended to affect human rights or human dignity based on stereotypes. The third possible solution is to be a voice and communicate through Journalism. Mass media is often inconsiderate. Majority of their conversation pertaining to women sports are fraud, require minimum effort and no consideration. I believe that it is time to choose carefully how Journalists are representing women in the society and transition to transmitting an effective uplifting message. Women’s sports should be broadcasted by those who truly believe in the female competition, and that women do not have to be genetically tested because they are working hard to become good at their craft. If the media is transmitting the message well, women’s sports will be more appreciated and females will not have to wrestle against stereotypes.

Having people in the Journalism world is making them aware that women are working harder than men to become professional athletes. For example, both sexes are having to cope with strict exercise and diets. In addition, women have a greater risk in competing by letting media and society determine their gender. If Journalists can’t be a voice of those who don’t yet feel comfortable to speak on and prevent such a situation, female athletes would also need psychological assistance because we tend to blame those in the realm who are seen first.

Professional athletes start their career at a young age. They are not thinking of the consequences of playing at a professional level, but the stature and such opportunity. Most of the times, their intentions are to do what they love most and make it as a career in the future when they become more mature. When they finally reach the age to compete at the professional level, their responsibilities and influence increase. The strict training has been paid off, and it is time to get recognized. Unfortunately, for women, they have to deal with gender roles consisting of how the society deems them sticking to barbies and taking care of the home vs any sense of competition. Once they were a child, it was only a matter of exercise. But when they become adults, they put their identity at risk. Therefore, young girls competing in middle school and high school level should get prepared not only for a specific sport, but also for life. In the case that they’d become professional athletes, their schools would prepare them. They were taught that to embrace their true identity without the society telling them wrong, they’d have to remain true to the percception of who you know you are.

Sports can create a safe environment for all people instead of bringing harm, hatred and racism. One of the ideas is to maintain the same Olympic sportsmanship during any other regular competition. The Olympics are a great example of many nations being so culturally different, but they come together with one purpose to represent their country with pride without any sense of discrimination to others. In the same good spirit, for women, we need to create an environment for them conducive to the uplifting through the media to support women’s sports. Coaches are also an important influence to the players. They could be role models by creating a respectful environment between themselves and the fans. If players can trust the highschools Institutions and the faculty, they will be more comfortable and they will not feel as much discrimination. For this to happen, coach education programs need to create strategies to prepare educators about gender identity.

To conclude, marketing and advertisement will be the key to shift people’s perspective about women’s sports. Women cannot definitely do everything alone, but she can do it all with men’s support and enthusiasm and all that they need is praise and confidence.

Photo Credit: Bianca Toto

Video by Darina Martin

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