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What’s that? Did you just say “equality between men and women?” Yeah…right.

April 7, 2011

After discussion today, I immediately asked one of my friends do you think a girl could beat a boy in a basketball game? He said, well it depends on the ability of the two. If the boy is taller than the girl, then the boy will win. If the guy is awful, and the girl is a decent player then the girl will win. But, if the guy and girl have the same ability, the guy will win.

At first, it sounds like sexism. But, one should consider the following question: are these just society’s social constructions or are gender abilities actually different inherently?

Personally, I believe that people will sometimes claim that men are better than women, or that women are better than men-it just depends on the context that you are comparing them in.

 

Let’s continue our basketball example. If you watch this YouTube video, you see that the guy’s ability in basketball is much better than the girl. He also slows down whenever he gets near her to show that if he was playing at full speed, the girl would have no chance in beating him at all.

Guy Verse Girl Basketball:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-MKELWMsek

 

If Mills was watching this video, he would claim the following: “For, however great and apparently ineradicable the moral and intellectual differences between men and women might be, the evidence of their being natural differences could only be negative” (663). Here, Mills alludes to the fact that there really are no differences when men and women are born. They have the same abilities when they are born in terms of mental capacity, but his ideas do bring into question if this is the same for physical differences.

 

In my opinion, people develop different skills and capitalize on them in different ways, which leads to the social constructions we have in society. For example, men were always nurtured beforehand to be more physically active in the fields, while women were told they should stay at home and take care of the family. It develops different stigmas that men are stronger than women, so they should prevail in physical ability situations. However, this norm is tested when you have a woman who can compete at the same physical level as men. If society didn’t already think there was a difference in ability between men and women, then a woman beating a man wouldn’t be so surprising.

 

Mills would also agree with me because he writes, “If men had ever been found in society without women, or women without men, or if there had been a society of men and women in which the women were not under the control of the men, something might have been positively known about the mental and moral differences which may be inherent in the mature of each” (662). I believe that Mills was reinforcing the idea of social construction. If society had never created them, we would be living in a much different world where the abilities of the different genders wouldn’t be questioned or tested. However, this is a limited explanation of what Mills thinks; but, now I want to know what do you think? Will men and women ever be able to compete at an equal level in the same context?

5 Comments
  1. Pierre Gerondeau permalink
    April 7, 2011 8:53 PM

    This was a really interesting and insightful post. I agreed with many of your points. In terms of your last question, it is hard to say if men and women will be able to compete at an equal level in the same context. I think that it is possible, but it will probably take a while. Traditionally in society men are thought of as stronger and more physically capable, and it is true that many of “men’s” games are more physical than women’s, such as basketball, but women are still really good players. I think that if men and women are to compete in the same league of sports, it would probably start with the less physical sports. Maybe it is because I don’t know as much about these sports, and all of the skill-sets needed to succeed, but it seems as if women could definitely compete with men in golf and tennis, where it is less about the physicality and more about finesse, strategy, and for tennis, great footwork.

  2. Anna Gwiazdowski permalink
    April 7, 2011 11:08 PM

    This came up in discussion section today for me as well (perhaps we have the same section, 1-2 in the chem building?). Anyways, I also agree with many of the points you are making. I think there are many answers to your last question. In the context of intellect, I believe men and women do compete on an equal playing field. For example in college, grades aren’t based on gender, they are based on how well one does on the exam. Teachers don’t have separate curves for different genders; it’s all one curve, one test, one grade.

    However, in the context of physical ability, I think it is a bit more difficult to determine. As you mentioned, gender constructions have created separate spheres for men and women in sports. But I don’t think this has to deal with just gender constructions themselves. The physical differences between men and women put constraints on this idea of equality in sports. In terms of build, most women do not have the same physical strengths as men and vice versa. With these differences, one would have to determine what equal is based on stature and size. Even then, it can be difficult to decide which males and females are considered equal enough to play against each other/with each other. Because of this, I’m not sure that extremely physical sports such as basketball or football could be played at an equal level. HOWEVER I do believe sports that do not require much physical contact, such as golf and tennis, should have equal playing fields for men and women. Look at tennis great Billie Jean King. She beat Bobby Riggs, who up until that point, hadn’t lost a match in quite awhile. He had claimed women couldn’t beat men at any sport, but she proved him wrong.

    If you take physical abilities away from the equation for every sport, I believe there should be an equal playing field. Determination and grit can go a long way, making the playing field more equal. However, when physicality comes into play, I believe that makes it a lot harder for men and women to compete on an equal playing field because strength does make a difference for sports where physical contact is the center of play.

    • michaelambler permalink
      April 15, 2011 12:49 AM

      Interesting points, certainly. I hesitate to agree without reservation, Anna, simply because while many women are undoubtedly better than many men at, say, tennis, the very best men all have serve speeds and quickness which are somewhat higher than the very top women. I have no doubt that women could do very well in an open-gender tennis tournament, even win at local or regional levels, but I very much doubt there would be many female champions of the US Open. At the very highest level of competition, men do seem to have an edge.

      I also strongly disagree with the suggestion that all of this is due to social constructions. I don’t mean to suggest the author of this piece is being intentionally condescending, but to make that argument really does suggest that female athletes just aren’t working as hard as their male counterparts. A girl who’s been practicing her tennis serve since she was three, every single day, doesn’t serve with less power than an equivalent guy because society tells her she can’t; she serves with less power because she’s an average of five inches shorter and has about two-thirds the muscle mass.

      The suggestion that if she just worked as hard as her male counterpart, or ‘believed in herself’ as much, or whatever, is patronizing and should be rejected.

  3. April 17, 2011 6:20 AM

    This is an interesting thread to have stumbled upon. I would only add this: in American society “male” is normal and everything is judged against the male norm of reference. Therefore women, despite their best efforts in training, are likely to lose in a physical sport against men because the sports were designed to be played by men. It’s hard to win in a game when the rules were written for the opponent.

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