This essay aims to critically identify Gender and the issues surrounding female representation and accessibility women get within the sporting world. The figures above represent gender inequality, the majority of this essay will have a specific focus on football. Sexism, the act of discriminating against someone based on their sex, has always been a deep-rooted issue in society, specifically in sport. But, as the world seems to be adapting to Gender equality, the world of sport is lacking behind.
A recent example of this is that it was only until 2012 that female Beach Volleyball players could wear shorts and leeved tops, as the previous rules stated that a bikini or body suit was the official uniform (Federation Internationale De Volleyball, 2015). Football is a unique sport than most because both the men and the women play by the exact same rules and have the same equipment. This makes it a perfect example for assessing gender inequality as both versions of the sport should, in theory, be completely equal.
Riemer and Visio (2003:202) found that “high school participants continue to perceive football and wrestling as male-appropriate” whereas aerobics and gymnastics were seen to be more feminine sports. This goes ith Metheny’s (1965) theory of a Gender Classification model. The Gender Classification model is based on Matheny’s view that some sports are socially based for girls and some for boys. Most boys feel that they are more likely to be athletes compared to girls showing how at a young age people are taught their role in a sporting world (Klomsten, Skaalvik, and Espnes, 2004).
Matheny’s study states that there is a general social consensus on what is viewed as a male and female sport. This shows how there is gender inequality in sport from a young age at a social level. Coakley (2014) agrees with the fact that a dominant gender deology leads to see male and female sports in different ways. More feminine activities are devalued compared to the male versions of the sport. This is seen in the figures above as football is mainly seen as a male orientated sport and so the Blackburn men’s team gets the bigger and better venue compared to Blackburn’s female team.
Due to the Gender Classification model Riemer and Visio (2003) suggested that an individual may not be judged on how skilful they are in the sport but if the activity is gender appropriate. So, a female footballer could be better than a male footballer in terms of skill. However, due to football being classed as a ‘masculine’ sport by the gender classification model then they will not get the recognition and attention due to them not fitting the social mould. This again is shown by the figures above.
The counter argument to the Gender Classification model is that the Blackburn female football team may not be as good as the Blackburn male team and it is not due to football being a masculine sport but just that males are better, this is the same with volleyball which is seen as a feminine sport. This could just be because females have a better skill set than males in olleyball. Also, if you consider the growing popularity of women’s football around Europe it shows that from 1995-2015 the number of registered women footballers has increased by 5 times to 1. million players (UEFA 2015).
This negates the theory that there is a classification system as more women are starting to be successful in what Matheny believes are male sports. Another theory that represents gender inequality is Hegemony. This explains how “ideas and practices which seem against the interests of subordinate groups are believed in and carried out by them so as to become ‘commonsense” (Hargreaves and McDonald, 2000:50). Within football, hegemonic masculinity is still apparent as football is seen as the male sport. This is socially imbedded in our lives.
When people talk about football in general conversation people automatically assume that you are talking about male football unless specified otherwise (Coakley 2014). So when a female footballer is shown or broadcast it is going against hegemonic masculinity due to them being popular in a ‘masculine sport’. Theberge (2000:331) states that “Sport remains a powerful vehicle for the construction of an ideology of gender difference”. This is apparent in the figures. One reason the Blackburn female players could be in a smaller venue is because Blackburn themselves believe that they are not able to gain a crowd.
Unlike the men because they are more physical and entertaining. On the other hand hegemonic masculinity is not as apparent anymore in tennis and golf. The performers get relatively large prize winnings and extensive media attention. So, we are past the times of making a woman seem abnormal because they are in a ‘male’ sport (Maguire, Jarvie, Mansfield and Bradley, 2002) . Hoffmann (2006) supports that it isn’t that socially women are seen as weaker but its more he fact that women financially cannot play sports to a high enough level, this is why the richer counties have a higher rate of participation than in the poorer countries.
However, Theberge (2000) does counteract that argument as he believes that while challenges to hegemonic masculinity are occurring they are disputed by hetrosexualisation of women in sport. This is where women are associated more with their looks than their skill. This links to the previous point with regards to Riemer and Viso’s (2003) comments about a women’s skill not mattering but it’s more whether they fit ‘the modell. Feminism, the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes, has always been around in sport.
According to Birrell (2000:62) “Feminist theory is an openly political or critical practice committed not just to analysing gender in sport but to changing those dynamics”. Women will try to change those dynamics so that gender equality is achieved. There are many ways that the feminist theory is applied in sport. One of the main signs of feminism in sport is going against the sporting patriarchy. This is a system of power relations by which men dominate women. There are clear demonstrations on how woman will go against the patriarchy by committing feminist acts (Nelson 1994).
For example, if a female footballer commits herself fully to sport and achieving what she can and she doesn’t have children, a husband or a boyfriend then she is committing feminist acts. This is due to her being out of the ‘norm’ so she can pursue her love of the sport. However Hall’s (1996) interpretation of the feminism theory does show how their can still be Gender inequality in sport. “The woman bodybuilder cannot follow the ‘masculine’ imperative too far, for she must maintain a seemingly ineffable quality of femininity,” (Hall 1996:62). This is saying that a woman’s muscles cannot be too big or they will be seen as masculine.
So, while feminism strives to get equal rights between the sexes, the women cannot become too masculine or they lose their identity of being feminine. This in turn will sway a lot of female athletes to dissociate themselves with Feminism in sport: “Female athletes have a long tradition of dissociating themselves from feminism. Their desire to be accepted or to acquire or keep a boyfriend or a job has often equalled their passion for sport” (Nelson 1994:30). This shows that females may be put off eminism and there may be other factors as to why women have shown a growing interest in sport.
However, it all comes down to the fact that most women feel out of the ordinary when taking part in a variety of sports. Connell (1987) believes that the main factor of gender inequality is that a man will always try to dominate a woman establish and gain power. This brings everything back to the patricidal system. This may not always mean to physically dominate a woman but something as simple as having a male manager in a ladies football team establishes control. Even though the it’s the women who are doing the hysical activities, they are being managed by a man for a man’s gain (Bray, 1983).
Manchester City have one of the most progressive ladies’ teams in English football, yet still they are managed by a male and have male owners to appeal to. Manchester United do not even have a women’s football team and that is an immediate sign that there is gender inequality in sport. The club used to have their own female squad however they were closed in 2005 due to the owners feeling that it was not best for business. (Gray, 2016) The fact that one of the biggest clubs in England has still yet to re-establish a football eam shows how people still interpret women’s football.
If female football was a profitable business plan which guarantees audiences, then most likely United would have a female football team. This is shown in the figures by yet again the difference in the facilities during a game day for the Blackburn ladies team. If there was gender equality in football, then both teams should be playing on the same pitch with the same facilities. Hust (2012) believes that Patriarchy is enforced by a woman’s portrayal of the media. The argument is that while females have made a considerable step in sport, the way the media publicises emale activates shows that they are still inferior to men.
For example, if a footballer was going to have a photoshoot he would look strong and athletic however a female footballer would have to look sexy for it to appeal to the male audience. On the other hand, while it is apparent that patriarchy does still exist, it is certainly being decreased in recent years. Women’s coverage of sport has increased in recent years (Menon, 2017) and with the help of athletes such as Ronda Rousey, there is a social image that a woman can be athletic (Weaving, 2013). Yet if you look specifically in football, there hasn’t been too much evelopment especially when your referring to the pay gap in football.
The highest paid female football player in the world Alex Morgan earns about the average salary for male footballers in the English Premier League (Women on Boards, 2016). However, is this because of a gender inequality or just that women’s football isn’t exciting enough to get media coverage. Other sports such as tennis have female athletes who are their main stars because of their skill and not their gender, so maybe there is a bigger skill gap between male and female footballers as a whole. After taking everything into account.
This essay suggests that there isn’t a single factor that is the sole contributor to gender inequality in football. However, it is a multitude of social ideologies that have formed a different perception in people’s minds as to why there is gender inequality in football. The media believes that people do not find it interesting enough, so businesses do not invest in it and then the average person believes that because there is no media coverage or funding then it mustn’t be as good as the male version. It is only until that barrier is broken, much like in tennis and mixed martial arts, that women’s football will feel equal.
Theories of hegemonic muscularity, the gender classification model and patriarchy still exist in football because there has been little to change people’s opinions. If a widely popular team like Manchester United are not willing to believe in women’s football, then it’ll be hard to expect others to believe in it also. So, to conclude while other sports seem to be thriving on this social change where sports are slowly becoming more gender neutral. Football still seems to be stuck in its ways of being a predominantly male sport hence the clear difference in the two pictures.