The Way People View Women in Sports

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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What are The Struggles That Women In The Sports Industry Have Faced and How Have They Impacted The Way People View Women In Sports Today? The prejudicial and unjust treatment of another group, individual, or thing. In history, we’ve often associated the word discrimination with controversial subjects such as slavery and racism. Discrimination could be used to also describe the ill treatment of those from different cultures or religions. People do not often see the word discrimination used to describe the way women have been treated over the last century.

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Sexism in the sports industry is a prime example of how women have been constantly suppressed and restrained from performing to the best of their ability in the sports that they dedicate their entire lives to.

There are many ways that one could describe the tough female athletes of the past. One ideal word to describe these women would be revolutionary. These women have made great moves towards being recognized for their hard work and dedication towards the sports they love. Although, they have had to face a lot to to have got to where they are today. In this day and age, anything people say or do can be strewed out politically or put into a political aspect. Every experience we have or decision we make as human beings has political implications. With this in mind, it would seem that the personal experiences of female athletes should add up to the resistance of male power and dominance over the past century (Christian).

While these women can be seen as revolutionary, the potential that they hold when it comes to making certain goals remains unreached. Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, the number of girls and young women participating in recreational and competitive sports has dramatically increased. Before Title IX, women were 2 percent of college students participating in sports, and by 2001 this rate had risen to 43 percent. The number of girls participating in high school athletes rose from 294,000 in 1971 to 2.8 million in 2002 (Christian). Title IX is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. This federal law states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” (Title IX Frequently). The increased political leverage of female athletes has brought about changes in attitudes toward competitive sports. While these women may never reach equality for their athletic programs on college campuses or in public schools, federal mandates have been issued to try and assist with these issues. The issues will begin to hold higher priorities as these generations of women who have played competitive sports start to have children and encourage them to take part in the world of athletics, whether they are male or female (“Women in Sports”). While Title IX was written documentation that the people needed to follow, it didn’t stop strong reactions from those against women in athletics.

Women across the world have been faced with unwanted backlash from those above them. Unfortunately, the threat of female strength and power has drawn down a patriarchal backlash. As these determined women made powerful advancement’s, the patriarchy’s fought back with great force. One way that the United State’s patriarchal social system has tried to repress the radicalness of women in sports has been by questioning female athletes femininity. The media raise the ridiculous and inconsequential question of whether or not a woman who is an athlete– or a woman who is strong– is still a woman. Female athletes are asked to make their transgressions acceptable by demonstrating their heterosexuality. This is accomplished with the considerate help of the male-run mass media that continually portrays women athletes as sexual objects for male consumption rather than as competitive athletes. Unsurprisingly, the unflattering media coverage diverts attention away from female athletes’ skills and achievements and instead focuses on the physical appearance of a few “pretty” female athletes men find aesthetically pleasing. The hate and backlash comes along with the berating double standards that women see in the athletics industry, even today.

There has been a call for an end to double standards when Ada Hegerberg was announced as the winner of the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or award in Paris. In the midst of this breakthrough moment for women’s sports, she was asked by Martin Solveig, a French DJ, if she knew how to twerk. “It’s not so much the dance that shocked me,” Roxana Maracineanu mentioned, “It was more remarks I heard in the crowd, like ‘On top of that, she’s pretty.’” Roxana Maracineanu is an Olympic medalist in swimming who is France’s new minister for youth and sport. In Maracineanu’s view, work remains to be done in changing attitudes toward women’s sports such as improving the tone and volume of coverage, and in increasing the number of female coaches and officials as well as athletes. She will get her own chance to make changes in the spotlight when the Women’s World Cup of soccer is played in France this year.

Through their very existence, female athletes have given people a space to critique the ideology of what it means to be a woman. Every time a young woman participates in sports or displays her athleticism she breaks down naturalized gender categories and expectations. The image of women who are not passive, weak, emotional, noncompetitive and dependent on men shakes up society’s perceptions and assumptions about men and women. Bodies are signified with meaning, and female bodies that are athletic, strong, and muscular disrupt gender binaries and provide a foundation for deconstructing oppressions grounded in biological difference. By building their strength in sports, women challenge a root cause of male domination and women’s political, economic and social subordination– men’s physical dominance over women (Christian).

Through the many hardships faced over the last century, there are some females who braved through the struggles and succeeded as an athlete. Manon Rheaume was the first woman to take part in any of the four North American major sports, taking the ice for the Tampa Bay hockey team. Pioneer Wilma Rudolph made her way at the 1956 Olympics after suffering from scarlet fever, polio, and pneumonia. Doctors held the belief that Rudolph may not be able to walk again, but she defied the odds as she smashed the world record in 1960 for the 100, 200, and 4×100 meter dash in track. The famous Billie Jean King pushed herself through an outstanding record of 20 Wimbledon titles in only 18 years, which consisted of her entire career in the tennis court. Billie accomplished ehr fight for equal prize money for men and women in 1971. She became the first woman in history to win more than one hundred thousand dollars. In more recent years, race car driver Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race and pole position for a Nascar Sprint Cup race. Along with Patrick, Lisa Leslie proved herself on the basketball court as she became the face of the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) from the year 1997 all the way to 2009. Lisa Leslie became the first WNBA player to win the MVP award in the regular season, playoffs, and All-Star game all in the same year of 2001. Lastly, Ibitihaj Muhammad became the first Olympian representing the United States to compete while wearing a hijab (“Women Pioneers”). Athletes like those mentioned have paved the way for young girls to work hard and aspire to become the best athlete they can be.

The current past year alone has shown just how far women in the sports industry have come. The feats they have taken on alone show their strength, but their determination is shown through the hard work and the wins they take home. 2018 was a year in women’s sports where much progress was made. Athletes reached goals never done before in history. Women’s surfing teams have been given the equal opportunity to win the same amount of award money as men during competitions. There have been efforts towards equal pay for both women and men in the national soccer teams from both New Zealand and Norway. This has a great chance of starting a trend, hopefully leading to other women’s national soccer teams getting paid equal as well. At the Asian games, the woman from North and South Korea joined forces in order to compete in sports such as hockey and many others in the Winter Olympics. Serena Williams made a triumphant return after her pregnancy at thirty six years old. Williams made it to not one, but two Grand Slam finals. Serena Williams has put in a lot of effort in the tennis industry in order to create more allowances for working mothers. Compared to all of the years in the past, women have pushed their way through many obstacles in order to make it where they are in the past year. 2018 was a year a triumph for women in the sports industry.

Many of the breakthroughs in 2018 were much overdue. None were more heart wrenching and moving than the one that took place in January in a Michigan courtroom as more than 150 sexual-assault victims had the opportunity to confront their abuser, Lawrence G. Nassar. Nassar was the former team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics and an employee at MSU (Michigan State University). He had been committing his crimes for more than 20 years. One by one, over several days at Nassar’s sentencing hearing, the women rose and delivered their victim impact statements. Some were prominent athletes. Some were not, but all shared a common cause, strengthened in part by the #MeToo movement. Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman from the United States gymnastics stated, “Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice. Well, you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve: a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.” Strong women like this have gone through sexual assault for decades and it hair-raising to see just how far some will go to tear down these female athletes (Clarey).

There are many more current benefits of the increased opportunities women have been able to accumulate over the years. Women and girls benefit from the increased opportunities they have strived for. It has been shown that females have acquired benefits psychologically, physically, and socially from taking part in sports throughout their lives. They have much higher self-esteems, better confidence in themselves, and are less likely to be diagnosed with depression. In accordance to the Women’s Sports Foundation, these females have much more of a positive body-image of themselves. They are more likely to become independent, strong individuals who are much less likely to do drugs. Unlike younger women who do not partake in sports, female high school athletes are more likely to get higher grades and graduate. They are also less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. Due to all of these benefits, female athletes have aided in feminist projects such as those that resist sexist oppression (Christian).

These women in sports today are now greatly admired for what they have accomplished and the messages that they are sending to younger generations of athletes. Women such as tennis player Serena Williams encourage young women to not only stay active, but to fight for what they believe in. She teaches girls that they can grow up and have an unlimited number of options as to what they can be. Williams inspires others to make every effort to perform at their full potential and be proud of who they are. Serena has encouraged body positivity in young women and the public admires her greatly for her hard work on and off the tennis court.

Overall, women have overcome a lot and are continuing to strive for a better future in the sports industry. Sexism has become present all throughout the history of women taking part in various sports, regardless of their age. These brave women have revolutionized the world of athletics with the help of the passing of Title IX and other laws put into place to aid women in their journey to reach equality. As the media constantly breaks down these female athletes because of their weight, age, body, or emotions, they brave through the storms and come out stronger than ever before. Double standards for men and women are slowly coming to an end, creating equal awards and pay for both male and female athletes. The strong, independent athletes have survived decades of sexual assault and are coming forward to have justice done to those who have done them wrong. These women have fought so hard for increased opportunities and have been using the future to their full advantages, breaking down barriers one at a time. Female athletes have faced these many struggles and are coming out on top, slowly but surely. While women in sports today are admired and encouraged, there is still much left to be done.

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The Way People View Women in Sports. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from