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Political Correctness Versus Practicality In Sports

April 10, 2011

Throughout high school and college, most of us have only seen gender segregated organized sports.  Be it girl’s field hockey, men’s football, men’s wrestling, women’s volleyball, not many of us can name a sport in which women and men compete on the same team. Girls that were on “men’s” sports teams were seen as outliers that went against the norms of society, despite rivaling the skill of their male counterparts.  Guy didn’t dare to join a girl’s team. For the most part, organized sports around the country, both in school and out of school, have been segregated by gender. As Mika LaVaque-Manty supported, the Title IX rule has further perpetuated this gap between genders in athletics by reinforcing the line between a male sport and female sport.  Athletics remain one of the last areas of society where sex-segregation still exists.  But should it still exist?

In Mika LaVaque-Manty’s “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities” he questions whether women and men should compete together in athletics.  Should sports be gender-equal or divided? By including an example of disabled people desiring to take part in the New York Marathon, Professor LaVaque-Manty brings up the question of whether different sexes, physical abilities, and ages should compete together in sports. LaVaque-Manty further attests, “The legitimately discriminatory nature of sports—discriminating between better and worse by internal standards—makes them a particularly good case to puzzle through the relationship between legitimate and illegitimate discrimination” (137).  In the case of those with disabilities, LaVaque-Manty theorized, “that “meaningful competition” for wheelchair athletes would be competition among other, similarly situated even if not similarly talented wheelchair users” (148).  Should this segregation be applied to sports when it comes to gender?

Although politically incorrect, I happen to think that gender segregation is preferable when it comes to sports and athletic competition. There are inherent differences in athletic ability between men and women due to physiological and cultural differences which should be accounted for.  By splitting athletics divisions and teams by gender, we are enforcing a fair competing field.  Equal opportunity is given to both genders by leveling the playing field so that neither gender is overshadowed by the skill set of the other. For example, most official Marathons enforce a level of fairness by enforcing a gender segregated races or rankings.  At the most recent Olympics in 2008, the winning woman’s time for the 800 meter run would not have placed for the men’s race.  There are inherent differences in the athletic ability between men and women in different sports, which should be accounted for.  In the future, I believe that this gender line will become less pronounced, but for the time being, we must decide whether sports should be gender segregated or not.

It is supported that the achievements of one gender might be overshadowed by the other gender in most sports, which would not be fair.  We must level the playing field by gender segregating.  Separate divisions and competitions for athletics are discriminatory, but it allows athletes to demonstrate their skill level relative to their athletic level.  In most cases, these gender-segregated sports are often “different games.”  For example, Men’s basketball is a different game than women’s basketball, despite having the same rules.  The games have different tactics, skill-sets, competition and advantages.  By separating the two sports, we are allowing the respective athletes to best showcase their skill sets relative to those will similar physical characteristics.

A rigid enforcement of this gender discrimination isn’t necessary, women should have the right to compete in any “male dominated league” as long as their athletic level exceeds or reflects the level perpetuated by the performing men.  The same can be said for men competing in women’s sports.  There shouldn’t be any rules barring mixed-sex athletics, but the existence of these divisions is optimal.  This is especially so for sports like football where women’s teams are rare to find.  If a girl has a rivaling athletic ability as the men playing football then she has every right to participate in a men’s league.  We live in a society prided on freedom and equality and this should be maintained in our athletics when applicable. The only question would be if men started playing for women’s teams.  If men started playing for women’s field hockey teams what do you think the result would be?

I believe that having separate divisions for athletics is quintessential. Due to physiological differences, it is inherently true that in most sports there is a different competitive level between men and women.  In sports like basketball or track, the achievements of women can at times be overshadowed by those of men.   We must maintain an equal level of competition, where the goal of the participants is to maximize their potential.   In a theoretical sense, women and men should compete against one another on equal terms and equal competition.  But when it comes to this subject we must analyze it with a realistic perspective.  Sexual discrimination makes sports less predictable on a level of parity.  Separation by sex is fundamental for competition and equality in sports.  Although these social practices can stigmatize groups of people (136), there are what is best for the sport and development of an individual’s athleticism.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXbZJ3ZVdF8%5D [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7BqrVtXHkE&feature=related%5D

Some interesting sites and news clips:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/17/high-school-athlete-refuses-to-wrestle-female-opponent/

http://blog.ctnews.com/elliott/2011/03/22/auriemma-not-happy-with-poor-crowd/

Works Cited

Lavaque-Manty, Mika.  ”Being a Woman and Other Disabilities”.  The Playing Fields of Eton. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 2009.

 

5 Comments
  1. alexqhe permalink
    April 10, 2011 11:25 PM

    Interesting post, James, and one that I fully agree with.

    I had a female classmate back in the 8th grade that played on our football team, and was a linebacker at that. She was much larger than the average 8th grade male, and played her position exceptionally well. However, despite her excellence at the sport, people still shunned her and called her names behind her back (I remember “freak” being a very common one, actually). If nothing else, it was strange to see a girl playing in our midst

    I’ve read articles written by feminists calling for complete desegregation of the genders, but it’s not something that I can fully agree with. The human body is simply built differently across the sexes, and I can’t get on board with those advocating that this is somehow limiting the female gender from their full potential. Why fight against what is instead of celebrating our gender differences? Sexism in the form of glass ceilings is obviously something that needs to be fixed in modern society, but when it comes to things related to the physiology of our bodies, I don’t see anything wrong with gender discrimination in the pursuit of gender-respective excellence.

    Oh, and great videos, too!

  2. rianhandler permalink
    April 10, 2011 11:29 PM

    I agree with you that gender segregation in sports is preferable. I do not think it is necessary in all cases, however. When I take trips home from college, I usually attend my brother’s hockey games. He plays in a very competitive league, so I was surprised when I saw a girl on one of the teams he was competing against. My brother explained that having a girl player is not as rare as you’d think, but that it’s unfair because everyone on the opposite team hesitates or avoids “checking” the girl (slamming her into the wall, like you see players do to each other in all hockey games). Girls and boys can be competitive with each other on their separate teams, but when you put them together, there is a double standard. Girls are more likely to be more aggressive when playing against a team of boys, whereas boys usually go much easier on girls. So, in a sense this makes combining genders in sports even more unfair.

    • Chris Lee permalink
      April 11, 2011 10:54 AM

      James,

      I side with your argument mainly because I am content with the current segregation in sports. Results show that in most sports, there is in fact a difference between male and female performance. In some fields women are superior while men do better in others. Therefore, I feel teams should remain a “boys” and “girls” team rather than integrating.

      During my freshman year of high school I played football with a girl. She was an offensive tackle and stood just over 5 ft. I felt the same way that rianhandler felt about the female hockey player. During practices/games, players never wanted to go 100% with her because in all honesty, no man wants to pummel a short girl to the ground. Like rianhandler pointed out, this gave her the opportunity to go her hardest because the majority of boys don’t want to hit girls. So despite her not being the biggest player on the field, it still prevented other players from trying their hardest in their sport.

      There are teams however that do combine genders. There are countless of non-professional leagues of all kinds of sports that are co-ed. I know that IM sports have numerous co-ed teams and I think these are great! However, for school/college/pro teams, there must remain a sex division so both woman and man can perform to their fullest capabilities in a physically equal environment.

    • Chris Lee permalink
      April 11, 2011 10:54 AM

      James,

      I side with your argument mainly because I am content with the current segregation in sports. Results show that in most sports, there is in fact a difference between male and female performance. In some fields women are superior while men do better in others. Therefore, I feel teams should remain a “boys” and “girls” team rather than integrating.

      During my freshman year of high school I played football with a girl. She was an offensive tackle and stood just over 5 ft. I felt the same way that rianhandler felt about the female hockey player. During practices/games, players never wanted to go 100% with her because in all honesty, no man wants to pummel a short girl to the ground. Like rianhandler pointed out, this gave her the opportunity to go her hardest because the majority of boys don’t want to hit girls. So despite her not being the biggest player on the field, it still prevented other players from trying their hardest in their sport.

      There are teams however that do combine genders. There are countless of non-professional leagues of all kinds of sports that are co-ed. I know that IM sports have numerous co-ed teams and I think these are great! However, for school/college/pro teams, there must remain a sex division so both woman and man can perform to their fullest capabilities in a physically equal environment.

  3. Stacy Radin permalink
    April 11, 2011 2:42 PM

    You make some good points in your post on gender segregation in sports, but I think the emphasis on separation has gotten a little out of hand. After winning the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, South African runner Caster Semeny was accused of being a man in a woman’s race and therefore many people demanded her gold medal be revoked. The following article goes into more detail about the gender situation with Semeny: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/32490580/. In the article, it states that “about 1 percent of people are born with some kind of sexual ambiguity, sometimes referred to as intersexuality.” What would that 1% of people do if they wanted to compete in sporting events? Also, people have gotten so crazed about ensuring separate sporting events that they have accused an innocent 18-year-old girl who happens to have many masculine characteristics that she is in fact a man. Have we become so focused on separation that we are willing to accuse a young female runner of being a man in order to maintain segregation? One of Semeny’s coaches even quit because he went behind her back and gave her a gender test without letting her know. People are letting go of their morals and values just to ensure gender segregation in sports–is this necessarily the right thing to do?

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