Women have confronted a battle throughout the history of sports to be able to compete without favoritism, receive proper funding, have access to facilities to play, and much more obstacles. It has been up to women to organize their own sports programs rather than compete with men and their organizations. Every woman in sports has had to endure the existing issue of feminism and culture. Feminism and culture strongly affects participation in sports. Feminism in sports is the support of women’s rights based on equality to take part in sports.
Culture consists of values, attitudes and beliefs one may ave based on sports and how it should be played. Feminism and culture go hand in hand when focusing on female athletes. Female African American athletes such as Serena Williams has been affected by this when perusing her career in the lime light as a tennis player. I find this issue compelling because, in society today when watching channels comparable to ESPN there is mainly a focus on men’s sports like baseball, basketball, football, or soccer. The players on majority of the teams shown on television are white males, but there is an exception to men’s and women’s basketball.
However, men’s sports are more advertised than women. There is not much attention on women’s sports. Women in the sports world are constantly ridiculed based on body image, culture, femininity, participation, and gender to be considered a good athlete. As a woman entering a specific sport many social and moral issues arise which can become challenging. Women are criticized by their body image. Body image is how people picture themselves and how others may see you. Media has created an image of how athletes should look based on public opinion. Public opinion has made players and fans strive to be someone else’s perception of a perfect athlete.
As a female athlete, you must have the perfect ody based from societies standards and which sport you participate in. “While gymnasts and marathon runners need to be thin, they must have a high power-to-weight ratio, according to Jeukendrup and Gleeson. Bodybuilders build muscle mass and gain weight, but keep their body fat percentage to a minimum. As of yet, body fat percentages considered ideal for female athletes have not been established” stated by Kay Tang in Live Strong Magazine. Women tend to be affected the most when it comes to having the most acceptable body image in sports.
For example, there have been times when tennis player Serena Williams body image has been criticized. She has been criticized for being too masculine in build and was also judged on that due to her performance. There have also been comparisons of her to men in her sport. Criticisms has put a damper on endorsements as a tennis player due to her looks and culture. Williams said it best in her interview with ESPN’s “The Undefeated In-Depth”, “I think, if I were a man, I would’ve been in that conversation a long, long time ago. Like six, seven years ago. Eight years ago .
I think being a woman is a whole new set of problems from a society that you have to deal with, as well – and being black. So it’s a lot to deal with,” she said. The reproach of body images may cause athletes to suffer from inner conflicts which could harm their career as professional. Body image in sports can make or break an athlete which can put a damper on participation in sports. The number of minority women that participate in sports vary from sport to sport. Culture plays a big part in sports as well as in society. This is the reason why games take place in different countries around the world.
In the culture of sports there are stereotypes surrounding various sports such as basketball, there is a conception that black athletes are most talented at basketball. As for other sports like soccer, Hispanic males are more successful at soccer. All the stereotypes surrounding sports are … learned behavior which contribute to culture. Due to learned behavior within a team, young players obtain ways to consider specified athletes as who they want to be like and how they are an inspiration to their lives. For example, Serena Williams has opened countless opportunities for minorities to follow her foot steps in tennis.
At the age of 33 she has achieved 69 titles playing singles and 22 titles for doubles. Not only has tennis been a sport that only inspires white females to play but, it is ot as popular as football is among Americans. Many children look up to athletes for guidance as to what they should pursue as a sport. Before athletes like Serena Williams young African American girls looked up to males as role models. Now that tennis has become a popular sport black girls can admire someone of the same gender and similar cultural background. As a woman in sports it is important to gain acceptance by balancing femininity.
There have been articles in sports magazines that have shown women fulfilling “wifely duties” such as cook and cleaning or taking care of the children. It is raditional for women to be considered the weaker sex; emotionally, mentally, and physically. Females are held accountable for being feminine and males are expected to conduct themselves in masculine behaviors. In sports women try to be accepted by society for their career to take off in sports. Feminism should be accepted first, then athleticism which will make the player more acceptable to society.
Femininity, according to Sherrow (1996), is the issue of what is feminine in appearance and behavior such as being attractive, carefully groomed, submissive, nurturing women. The expectation of femininity discourages women from being able o participate in sports and physical activities. Over the years’ women have been able to challenge restrictive perceptions about physical appearance, athletic ability, participation in sports, which happened to increase women’s involvement in sports. It can be overwhelming and threatening to be a woman in sports.
Since gender roles are important to the foundation of society image of sports, can a detour from these roles effect participation? Culture and social acts effect freedom of the player and their choices. Women are persuaded to participate in sports such as cheering, figure skating, and gymnastics. Then there are some women who are expected to get married and stay at home with children, therefore they have the responsibility of taking care of the needs of their husband and children. However, in sports, women that play professionally live different from the norm.
Women who would like to play sports are affected negatively by the norm, many women feel that because they have a family they are unable to play a professional sport. There should be flexibility seen in participation of sports especially as a woman. However, recently there has been an increased number of women participating in male sports. Zimmerman and Reaville (1998) report that the number of women participating in recreational and competitive football, boxing, and wrestling, has increased. They also express that female participation in life-threatening sports such as snowboarding, skateboarding, and inline skating, has also enlarged.
Borders between the sexes have become less patrolled among the generation which is a contributing factor. Society has persuaded people to think in terms of gender. Sports are divided among his or her gender, which has its pros and cons. Women are thought of as caretakers, mothers, daughters, but not thought of as being physically capable of eing strong. Females have been anticipated to wear dresses, cook and clean, nurture children, preserve an attractive and gentle body, and be submissive to males. Griffin, 1998) Coaches and spectators have different standards for women entering the sports world. Women are expected to look feminine while wearing uniforms and compete with strength without any physical contact. Dividing sports along masculine and feminine lines encourages and allows women to accept physical limits that have been placed on them (Birell, 1998 as cited in McClung and Blinde, 2002). Not only does gender in sports affect omen, it also begans at a young age. Research has shown that children may have stigma consciousness of gender in sports and physical activities.
In their study, Schmalz and Kerstette (2006) report that participation in sports perceived as gender was prominently different among the two sexes. The authors had three substantial verdicts. Initially, they found that children limit their behaviors and sports participation to accommodate the social norms of appropriate behaviors based on gender (p. 550). Furthermore, gender nonaligned sports such as; swimming, running, soccer, and bicycling had the highest participation rates or boys and girls (p. 550). Thirdly, “children as young as eight are conscious of and affected by gender stereotypes in sports and physical activities” (p. 51).
These conclusions specify that even though women in sports have come a long way, stereotypes of gender persevere in sports and physical activities at a young age. Sports and athletics has been limited to males, masculinity, and the manly stereotype. Authors Woolum (1998) and Sherrow (1996) suggestion this relationship and emphasize in what way sports have, over time, progressed for women. They argue that for periods, athletics, competition, strength, and team portsmanship have been considered suitable qualities within the “masculine domain” Sex-typing of sports is still flourishing.
McClung and Blinde (2002) came to the conclusion that gender stereotypes is still affecting sports. In their study they explored the intercollegiate of women athletes which identify with gender issues. Exploring their experiences it is understood that statuses of women players come second to men, women’s sports are not as important as men, and social perceptions of women atheletes were stereotyped as being “lesbian”, “butch”, “tomboy”, or “masculine” (p. 121). Women’s participation and xperience in sports are influenced by stereotypes.
Society is more at ease with gender stereotyping for women in sports. Feminism and culture impact the world of sports for women. Over past years women have been able to overcome the trend of gender stereotypes. For example, Serena Williams is continuing to thrive successfully against the naysayers. She has been a positive role model for young ladies despite the background. Over the next couple of years’ women will most likely continue to tackle negative and limiting impressions and ideas of women participating in sports. One day women will break free of traditional stereotypes.