Respect Women’s Sports

Photo by: Rachel Boettcher

Title IX is the representation of the efforts made towards reaching gender equality in collegiate sports. It has given female student-athletes the opportunity to participate in all kinds of athletic events by requiring schools to give the same amount of scholarships to men and female student-athletes. It is a huge step in the right direction to abolish gender discrimination, but I believe there is much more to be done. Regarding college sports, the fact that now women have equal opportunities as men in terms of scholarships available is great, but their efforts are still undervalued and not appreciated when comparing them to their male counterparts.

Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty mentioned in the chapter Being a Women and Other Disabilities of his book The Playing Fields of Eton (2009) that there are beliefs of women’s weaknesses, vulnerability and less capability that are linked to the reason why their athletic performances are undervalued. But from my perspective, the biggest factor as to why female athletes are not taken seriously is because spectators tend to appraise their bodies instead of appraising their athletic talents. I observed this behavior when I attended a University of Michigan Varsity Volleyball game earlier this semester and heard  all sorts of disrespectful comments. Take a look at the following video titled “Why you should watch volleyball: hot sports women” for example:

 

Videos like this are sexist and derogatory. Even the title encourages viewers to look down at women. The reason why you should watch volleyball is because these female athletes are extremely talented and they put a lot of effort practicing; not because they wear tiny, tight shorts. I found a bunch of other videos similar to the one above but I refuse to attach the link to them because I don’t want to encourage people to watch them, even if I just want to prove how wrong they are.

Photo of a NC student-athlete taken by Jarrett Campbell

 

I also attended a University of Michigan Women’s Varsity Soccer game and I did not hear any comments referring to the bodies of player’s from people on the stands like I did in the volleyball game. I only heard people talking about the plays, the team’s season and the athlete’s abilities. Is this pure coincidence? I don’t think so. I would dare to assume it has to do with the fact that the soccer players were wearing longer shorts, which are less feminine in a way. Will I fall under the hasty generalization fallacy if I say I believe the soccer player’s talents were being recognized at a greater extent because they were using manly shorts while the volleyball player’s abilities went unnoticed due to their tight spandex?

The role of women in sports has definitely improved a lot over the years, but women’s efforts are still not recognized as much as male’s. Women sports are not as popular, not broadcasted as much, and as I experienced in the volleyball game, a lot of people go for the wrong reasons. Professor La Vaque-Manty recognized that part of the problem is the general perception of women as vulnerable and weak. I think this misjudgment, added to the sexism evident when women wear certain athletic gear, only worsens the issue. From what I saw when I attended the volleyball and the soccer games, the more feminine (or provocative some could argue) the female athletes dress, the less recognized their athletic talents are. We need to stop sexualizing female athletes and start appreciating the effort they put into playing sports if we ever want to reach gender equality.

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4 comments

  1. shenwick · November 21, 2014

    I understand that women sports should be treated equally. However, do you believe people should have their own say in what sports they want to watch. Mens sports are played at a higher level and for more people this is much more interesting. Mens sports brings in millions of dollars in revenue, while women don’t. People are not always treated equally in life and people would rather watch the sport played at its higher level knowing the best players are playing in it than watch a tier two version of it.

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  2. haleyzap · November 21, 2014

    It is extremely unfortunate that this is the case in female athletics. I have also noticed that women in sports must market themselves usually based off of their looks. The prettier a woman is, it is likely that she has a higher chance of receiving sponsorships. And because of this, women agree to market themselves off of being feminine and pretty to earn more or become more well known. An article on the Huffington Post said, “Anyone who has seen Danica Patrick’s series of Go Daddy commercials knows that women are sometimes complicit in perpetuating such sexism, however this occurs within a climate that very much limits the options available to female athletes for earning publicity and income as compared to their male counterparts.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-j-jackson/olympics-2012_b_1736415.html I applaud female athletes who choose to not market themselves based off of their looks but their talent instead.

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  3. sklokiw · November 21, 2014

    I went to one of the theme semester events that was a documentary talking about representations of female athletes in the media. The documentary covered exactly what you’re talking about–the sexualization of strong female athletes. One of the most appalling stories to me is that of Brandi Chastain who, after winning the World Cup (something she and her teammates had worked their whole lives for) was chastised for removing her shirt, revealing her sports bra. The fact that this event in any way overshadowed the fact that the women’s team had just won is disgusting–men take their shirts off all the time, yet the second a woman decides to do the same while not in the context of stripping for a magazine etc. the act is suddenly the source of controversy. Your observation that the women’s soccer team was treated differently because they were wearing more clothes is saddening: in order to gain respect on the field like the soccer players, women have to cover up their bodies and in order to gain respect from the public when off the court/field female athletes will gain more attention if they use their body to market their image.

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  4. nicolesigmon · November 23, 2014

    I went to a women’s volleyball game earlier this year and also heard a lot of sexist and derogatory comments made about the athletes. I heard guys comparing which girls were hotter, which girls had the best asses, etc and it made me really uncomfortable. I agree with you when you say that these types of comments are probably correlated to what the women are wearing, which I think shows the type of patriarchal society we live in, that the more a woman shows the more she’s seen as an object for the taking. I also agree with the comment haleyzap made about how female athletes have to use their looks to market themselves, which once again points to the underlying misogyny in our society. I hope one day we can evolve into a society that treats female and male athletes with equal respect.

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