Take a moment and think about your favorite athlete or sports team. Was the athlete or team that came to mind male? Most likely, and that’s by no fault of your own; women’s sports do not receive nearly as much media attention or recognition in our society as men’s do and that’s a result of the idea that women are inferior in sporting capabilities and their long history of restriction from sports due to the fact that some doctors believed it would somehow damage their reproductive organs. Yeah, right.
This semester in class we learned about gender and sports, and the disparities between men and women when it comes to athletics when we read a chapter entitled “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities” in Mika LaVaque-Manty’s (Hey prof!!) book The Playing Fields of Eton (2008) and the New York Times article “Either/Or”. While attending a both a men and women’s sporting event, women’s field hockey and men’s ice hockey, at the university, I noticed some of the aspects that we learned about in class.
When I went to the women’s field hockey game against Maryland in late September it was my first time ever having been to Crocker Field, and while there were a decent number of fans there, the stands were significantly smaller than those for other sports at the University. Actually, the stands were smaller than the ones at my high school. The lack of a large audience may have to do with what we learned about in lecture regarding the fact that women were long banned from participating in college sports and that many people still view women as being inferior in athletic ability. In regards to the latter, let me just say that the women on the field were absolutely incredible and immensely talented. I played field hockey for two years in high school and lets just say that these girls would have killed me on the field. And even though it was an exciting game, we lost in overtime, with crazy talent on the field, it still didn’t garner the attention and appeal that other men’s sports do.
The men’s hockey game was held at Yost Arena, which had significantly more seating for spectators than did Crocker Field. The arena was filled with sponsors and corporate advertisements, as well as half time games funded by different companies. In Mika’s book he writes, “no women’s sport is what universities call a “revenue” sport—that is, a sport so popular that its paying spectators make it a major business,” but I think its more than just the spectators generate revenue, it’s the
massive sponsorship as well. Additionally, there were long held traditions that were being displayed throughout the games such as all the chants that the spectators sung at various points of the game (I was very confused as to what was going on/what the words were). And the game was being broadcasted on several different TV stations giving it significantly more coverage than the field hockey game received.
The larger turnout for the men’s hockey game game, despite what I believed to be equal talent among the players for both the men and women’s teams, just goes to show that we have a long way to go in terms of sports and gender not just at this university but in general.