The Equality of Women in Sports
This weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Yale University with my Mock Trial team for a tournament. Every day we dealt with 6 hours of trial, with little time to eat. On Sunday, our trial had ended at 2 p.m. and the next was scheduled for 3 p.m., so we ran to the closest place possible to take care of our grumbling stomachs.
We found a little pizza place, whose name I wish I could remember so that I could recommend it to you if you were ever in the nice town of New Haven, Connecticut. Needless to say, the pizza was much appreciated by our starving and tired bodies.
Besides the great quality of the pizza, I was very surprised at what was playing on the restaurant’s television screens. They had every TV set to the Women’s Soccer College Cup National Championships between Norte Dame and Stanford. The fact that they were playing a women’s sports game at a public place instantly struck me as out of the ordinary, and yet again I felt POLISCI 101 creep into my everyday life.
In discussion last week, someone brought up the point that women’s sports will always be unequal because women’s sports aren’t as popular or as well loved and watched as mens.
But is this the point we should focus on?
Regardless of whether or not people want to watch women’s sports, the fact that they have the ability to play shows that they now face more equality in sports than their ancestors. Perhaps the focus should be less on societies’ reaction over women’s equality and more on their general opportunity to participate.
In his lecture and piece, The Playing Fields of Eton, Professor Mika Lavaque-Manty highlights in his chapter Being a Woman and Other Disabilities the inequalities in women sports. He brings up the example of women’s basketball at the University of Michigan in 1910 where no spectators were allowed. Women were given unfair treatment because they were seen as less than their male counterparts.
Professor Lavaque-Manty tactfully highlights the gender issue when it comes to equality today. Women should be allowed equal rights to involvement in society. However he says that with the qualification,
rights at most ensure an eligible person a right to participate in a pursuit of excellence but no entitlement to anything that would count as excellence (Lavaque-Manty, 135).
Essentially he makes the point that equality is necessary in terms of ability to participate, but natural abilities may still hinder the “entitlement to…excellence”. This means that someone may be able to partcipate, in say a sport, but their own abilities do not guarantee them to succeed. It is interesting to point out that this statement applies to both men and women.
I was interested to find out that one of my team members’ friend, who is male, tried out for the women’s soccer team. As a result he is allowed to practice with them. I was fascinated by this because usually the case we hear about it opposite. We usually face situations where women wish to join the men’s teams. On terms of equality, I am not sure where I personally stand in the certain case, but regardless, I think it is important to recognize the fact that society is changing previously held notions on what is acceptable in sports and gender.
As Mill pointed out in his piece, The Subjection of Women, value changes and institutional changes are needed in order for a complete emancipation of women. I believe the case of the boy on the women’s soccer team, and the case of the restaurant playing women’s soccer reflect these very changes.
Perhaps society is in fact moving forward and achieving equality. Despite typically held notions over women’s sports, the restaurant still played the women’s soccer game (which was on ESPN), and I enjoyed watching it. It’s something we can view as a big step from the women’s spectator-less basketball game in 1910.