Discrimination or Disinterest?

In Mika LaVaque-Manty’s chapter, “In Being a Woman and other Disabilities”,  he describes his theory of discrimination. He claims that discrimination is when someone is not given the right to meaningful participation and competition. Although movements such as Title IX have been passed, to make sure women receive the same athletic opportunities as men, there is still discrimination of women that takes place in sport today. The examples of this can range from the lack of interest in the WNBA as well as the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) to even girls being the last ones picked in a game of kickball during recess at an elementary school. Although women are given equal opportunities, they do not receive the same amount of support or spectators as men’s sports. This can make women’s sports seem less important, and makes the participation in each sport seem less meaningful.

The WNBA was announced in 1996, and played its first games in 1997. It is a league consisting of twelve teams and eleven players on each team. This differs from the NBA’s thirty teams, each having a roster of fifteen players maximum. The rosters of WNBA teams had to be cut down due to the lack of revenue the teams were earning. Compared the NBA, the WNBA pulls less than 50% of the population. In 2009, there were only 548,000 viewers of the five game Championship series between Phoenix and Indiana in the WNBA. In the Game 5 of the NBA finals of the same year, 18.2 million people viewed this single game. The difference between an entire championship series compared to a single game should favor the first, but instead the single game held more viewers shown just how much more popular the NBA is.

A similar situation is taking place in the soccer world. The men’s soccer league, the MLS, has been around since 1996, and its popularity has been significantly escalating significantly each year. A women’s national soccer league has been struggling to stay afloat since 1996. There have already been two previous attempts at creating a league for women, but these failed due to the lack of money and popularity. Just this year a third attempt has been made, and so far has succeeded. A nine team league has been created, with the hopes of being more successful than the previous two attempts. Measures have been taken to promise more viewers and support as television contracts, as well as apparel contracts have been made in hopes of providing enough financial stability to allow the league to succeed. It is clear that men’s soccer is levels above women’s soccer in the eyes of the society, as seen from the turnout of games. Because so few people are supporting women’s soccer, the participation is made to seem less important.

Similar situations are taking place even in colleges and high schools around the country. For instance, at the Michigan vs. Syracuse game on December 2nd, an announcement was made by the captain of the women’s basketball team. She was reminding the season ticket holders for men’s basketball that they could be admitted into the women’s games for free. The men’s games charge money for admittance, where as people can walk into a women’s game for free.

Instances such as these make me wonder to what degree this is considered discrimination because people are clearly choosing men’s sports over women’s sports. But it also makes me wonder if discrimination is the reason for this difference or if there are other reasons as to why such results are happening. Many people claim that women’s sports are not as entertaining, competitive, or impressive as men’s sports making them uninteresting. Although discrimination, as Professor LaVaque-Manty states, plays a role for these differences, there are also many other reasons as to why the men’s sports are preferred over women’s.