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The Equality of Women in Sports

December 6, 2010

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.

5 Comments
  1. ann900 permalink
    December 6, 2010 11:23 PM

    I am a female athlete and personally I would choose to watch a male sport over a female sport. Like most of the rest of the country, I think that men’s sports are a lot more interesting and intense, which is the enjoyment that people want out of watching them. But as an athlete myself I am thankful that times are changing and people are paying more attention to female sports. By stations like ESPN airing a women’s game they are allowing opportunities for these women. For all female athletes because it shows hope for them in the future. That the public is interested and that they should be given more air time opportunities like that.

  2. aubriem permalink
    December 7, 2010 12:33 PM

    It is true that America chooses to watch men’s sports more often than women’s, but could this be because the media gives prime airtime to only those that are men’s sports. As stated in the post it was around 2pm on a Sunday when the specific women’s soccer game was playing. Usually at this specific time, American’s are having a late dinner after church/mass and before the Sunday football games, not flipping through the channels. Again, this observation could be because it is thought that Americans want to watch a male sport over a females. Although, male golf tournaments are also usually shone on Sunday mornings into mid-afternoon, while people are at church/mass or completing tasks they needed to get done over the weekend. The possibility could be that it isn’t necessarily a women’s sport that people choose not to watch, but also the type of sport. But, overall I do support the fact that overtime, women’s sports have gained more respect and do offer hope for the sports to receive more credit than they do currently.

  3. Eric Tellem permalink
    December 7, 2010 3:01 PM

    Coming from a family of sports, I can honestly say I have never watched a full women’s sports game in my entire life . It is not because I don’t like women or have something against women, it is simply because I believe mens sports is played at a higher level and thus is more entertaining. I don’t think women’s sports will ever be watched equally or more then men’s sports; however, I think women sports is starting to get the opportunity to show its still great talents out. There is no such thing as equality in the TV world or sports world, so I think Mills opinion is insignificant.

  4. Floyd Simmons permalink
    December 7, 2010 5:34 PM

    I agree that America wants to view the most popular sports but I’m quite sure if women played football it would be just as intense as football is now. So I’m not sure if the reason for this inequality is because of an intense factor. I think that when it comes down to it it’s about money and if women brought in more money from sports being shown on television there would be a complete change. The problem is the way people view women compared to men and the problem may stem from the beginning. Which is just stating “Men’s Sports” or “Women’s Sports,” there is no one sport that just entitles one sex to play versus another. There all just sports and anyone can play and if both women and men played together, there would be no mercy and even more excitement.

  5. Mycki Kujacznski permalink
    December 8, 2010 1:29 AM

    In high school, I played lacrosse and I always got so annoyed at the different rules for the guys and girls. Guys can hardcore check each other and the girls get yellow-carded for almost anything. I do agree that when it comes to things like that, and other inequalities that still exist between men and women’s sports, they should be changed so that there are no differences between gender. However, I still don’t know if the two will ever reach full equality. I personally love watching NBA games, but I would never put the TV on a WNBA game – even if it were the exact same rules. I’m not being sexist because I am a girl, and I don’t even really have a reason. I just find men’s sports more enjoyable to watch, just like it seems the rest of America does too.

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