Thursday, May 7, 2015

Muscles aren’t sexy

           Since Title IX was passed, women have made huge accomplishments in the sports industry. For instance, Pat Summit, University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, has the most winnings than any other coach in other sports; the first women’s Olympic boxing match at the London Games in 2012; and Billie Jean King won the “battle-of-the-sexes” tennis match in 1973. With all these accomplishments, women athletics are still not taken seriously. In order to gain respect female athletes are training harder and becoming stronger in order to succeed. This new strength is not being accepted in society because it challenges gender norms. Women are suppose to skinny, beautiful, and elegant, but this is not the case in sports. In order to keep this gender norm, sports are classified based on gender. Sports like football, ice hockey, and boxing are considered masculine and aggressive so they are for men. Sports like tennis, gymnastics, and figure skating are classified as female sports because they are more elegant and based on beauty. Women are not playing ice hockey, football, and even boxing. Women who are physical and masculine receive harsh treatment and criticized for not being womanly.  Due to this new challenge of gender roles, the media is criticizing them and even covering fewer women sporting events. Athletic women are facing the challenge of being successful at their craft and maintaining gender roles. Doing this is hard because in order to be successful at sports, one must train which increases muscle strength, which is not sexy. A former athlete that wants to remain anonymous states, “I remember being made fun of because I was strong and fit. I played on an AAU team so I was always working out and even lifted weights, but people thought it was weird for girls to life weights. There were even times people called me a lesbian simply for being athletic. It was hard being a varsity athlete and a girl at once” (personal interview, May 3, 2015).  This statement demonstrates how women are still not accepted in the sports industry. Women are excepted to be successful, but inferior in the masculine sports world.


        Women participating in sports are seen as a joke due to sports being seen as masculine. Due to women sports not having a huge fan base, these sports receive little media coverage. When a female athlete does receive media attention, it is normally non-sport related. Female athletes receive media attention for their physical attractiveness, off-court, and non-athletic purposes. Due to the societal gender roles, athletic women are portrayed as feminine and sexy in the media instead of as athletic and aggressive. This allows for society to still showcase the gently and non-threatening natural that females obtain. Female coverage is classified as: wholesome, hyper-heterosexual, sex babe, and or soft pornography. All these forms of coverage do not display an aggression, competition, and talent that is involve in athletics.

            Women are challenging gender roles by playing sports so the media is hyper sexualizing these females to sustain these gender traditions like elegant women and strong men. An example of an athlete is Anna Kournilwva, who has been ranked amongst the most important individuals in sports, but she has not won a professional tennis tournament. Another example is Marion Jones who is a strong masculine, track athlete. She does not receive any media coverage due to her physical appearance despite her winnings (Lamoureux, 2012). A former athlete who wishes to remain anonymous stated that, “While I was playing basketball, we were often asked to try and look pretty. The crowd thought we looked too much like boys and even were told to wear makeup for big, televised games. I just wanted to play basketball and be good, not be a fashion model” (personal interview, May 3, 2015). Women are seen as eye-candy for the world, so the media is trying to make female athletes look pleasing instead of displaying their talent.

The X Chromosome

A huge form of entertainment is sports. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and all the sports can be considered as recreational entertainment and leisure time. While this is a pastime for some people, there is a group of individuals that are not represented: women. Women have always been considered inferior in sports and use to be excluded from participating. In 1972, the U.S. Congress passed Title IX which states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, on be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (Dusenbery & Lee, 2012). Since the passing of Title IX, female participation in high school was 1 in 27 and has increased to 2 in 5 in 2012 (Dusenbery & Lee, 2012). Also the number of women participating in college sports increased to over 600 percent. Even though there are more female athletes, there is still gender equity in sports. For instance, in high school girls have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play compared to boys. In college, women have less than 60,000 fewer participation opportunities than their male peers (Dusenbery & Lee, 2012). Women are not only given the short end in participation, but also jobs and money opportunities. Female sports receive less money for coaching staff salaries, recruiting, and scholarship funds in college athletics. There is a decrease in female coaches and women journalists are normally hired for their looks. Women sports are not considered equal so they have to face so many obstacles to receive a small amount of respect. Janelle Pace, a Division I student-athletes, states “Honestly, I do not know when we will see the day where men’s and women’s athletics are equal. They may get more attention in the future, but they will never bring in the same fanbase and revenue as men’s sports” (J. Pace, personal connection, May 3, 2015).

            While women are participating more on the court and the work field, they are always under represented. Women sports only receive two percent of network news and ESPN Sportscenter coverage compared to men sports, which composes ninety-six percent of the coverage.  Based on a twenty-year study by the University of Southern California, the media coverage of women athletics has declined to less than two percent despite the increase in female athletes. Based on this information, it can be observed that people are not watching women sports and are not given the opportunities to watch these games. “It reinforces the historical stereotype that sports proves men are superior to women, that the women’s product isn’t the same quality or would not have the same mass appeal” (Messner & Cooky, 2010).