Gender in Sports

December 4, 1996

In high schools and junior high schools across the country the importance of
interscholastic sports competitions is strongly demonstrated to the students.
They see the rewards and accolades given to the accomplished athletes, not only
at these levels, but at the collegiate and professional levels as well. While
most of these teams are formed and exist for both men and women, it is
interesting how different each team tends to be treated. At High school
football games, for example, the students and faculty show up in record numbers
to prove their loyalty to the team and to the school itself. This football team
is always comprised of men who use the sport to demonstrate their masculinity
through the smashing and bashing of each other\'s skulls. Occasionally, one may
find a select number of women who had to fight their way onto the team only to
sit on the sidelines and watch. It is quite probable that such girls are only
able to get onto the teams on the basis that most schools simply do not have a
football team dedicated solely to the women football athletes. This lack of
recognition for female athletes only becomes more frequent as one progresses
through the levels of competition in virtually any sport. The games of women\'s
teams, where they do exist, tend to draw only limited crowds at most levels of
competition, scholastic or otherwise. In the realm of athletic activities, the
American society has chosen not to offer the same opportunities to its women as
it traditionally has to its men. For centuries, it seems, it has generally been
accepted that sports and other activities relying upon physical performance
have been left for the men to participate in and enjoy. The women were
generally left with the "traditional" duties of managing the household for their
amusement. Just as many things have come to be drastically altered over the
course of the last century or so, so has this old fashioned idea. Women have
shown an interest of their own when it comes to sports. They have demonstrated
that they, too, want to be able to prove their physical ability and talent
through competition in a variety of athletic activities. While most of these
activities are adapted versions of the same sports that were originally played
by the men, women have shown that they can play them just as hard and as dirty
against each other as the men have been doing for as long as one can recall.
They have shown that they can be conditioned and up to the physical challenge
that most sports demand, despite their being female and traditionally seen as
"delicate creatures" by society. With few exceptions, women have proven that
they really are no different than men when it comes to their abilities to
participate in activities that used to be reserved for the masculine and the
"strong" as opposed to the feminine and the "weak." Only recently have
activities, such as football, begun to present themselves as attractive sports
for young girls wishing to participate in something athletic. Previously, the
participation of the "weaker sex" in such a "harsh game" has been discouraged
for a variety of reasons. Some site the "frailty" of women as the exclusion
factor, relying on the assumption that all members of the female sex possess
this inhibiting characteristic This idea can be proven wrong by any young girl
who has had to grow up surrounded either by a group of rowdy, older brothers or
has lived in a neighborhood consisting primarily of male companions. In this
environment, especially, she has been forced to identify with those around her
by taking part in the same activities and play as roughly as any one of the guys
do with each other. She has demonstrated that she does not let her sex dictate
who she is or who she wants to be. It is in part for this reason , perhaps,
that girls have started to come out of their traditional roles as demure
females and desire to step onto the playing fields with those with whom they
may have grown up. Where teams do not exist specifically for women in some
sports, some have taken it upon themselves to try and play with the guys. These
girls tend to find opposition to this type of change within their schools and
communities. Why should society tell her that she may not participate because
it is not a sport designed for her? Since all women do not possess this
assumed quality of innate frailty any more