In a male dominated world of commercial sports, it stills position of women in the world of sports remains very vague. Of course, not as just cheer leaders or mere fans, but also as active sportswomen in the field. Although there has been tremendous gains to stimulate the inclusion of woman in sports, the success of men continue to overshadow the position of women in the world of sport (Lee, Kim, & Chin, 2015, p. 207). A quick snapshot into their state of affairs indicates that the achievements made in all other aspects of life are yet to find a permanent position in the world of sports. Just look around you, the English Premier League does not feature women sports in the same enthusiasm as that of the men in sports.
Unfair as that may be to women, there is still a huge presence of women in the various levels of sports. Every day you turn on the TV for a live match, it is not unusual to find a huge part of the fans are women.
Then this begs the question, why is it that we are yet to see women sports being aggressively advertised as the male dominated sports. May it be football, the World Series, Rugby or the American-football.The latter has deliberately limited the role of women to cheering men. As important as cheering may be in the world of competitive sport, it is important not to deny talented women the opportunity to exploit their talent (Kane, 1988, p. 93).A quick walk down the memory lane, we can set the clock at 1966, the moment when the position of women in the Olympics became recognized. Let’s see, it was in this year that the first women athlete team received the recognition of print media. The Sport magazine captured their moment with notable sportswomen such as Tara Van Derveer, Kim Batten and Amy Dayken featuring magazines in the sports industry by storm. (Davis, 2016, p. 78)
How did Women Win?
In the previous Olympic (1992), only 30 % were women but in this historic moment, the number grew significantly by a margin of 6 %. The media gave them equal attention as the men. In fact, that may an understatement, the whole women fraternity in Sports went ablaze at the news. However, the only negative thing that year was the International Olympic Committee membership (“Newspaper Coverage of Female Athletes Competing in Selected Sports in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same,” 2003, p. 9). Out of a total of 106 members only 7, yes, 7 were women. Is this really how far we have come? In this day and age, do we really consider limiting the capacity of women to engage in competitive sports? I don’t think so. That is very retrogressive way of thinking and there is need to change the perception of thought to allow women equal opportunities and the pleasure of exploiting their potential to the maximum. Like other legal provisions on the aspect of inequality, we still have a long way to go before we can comfortably say that we have achieved total equality in sports (“Grace & glory: a century of women in the Olympics” 34). So, what was really the secret behind this successful implementation of these changes? Was the world finally accepting that women occupied an important role in the world of sport? The answer is only as sad as the question itself. 20 years down the line, we have little to show or rather not enough to show for the time that has passed over the years. It not logical that excite of the moment was just mere PR stunt by the Olympic organization.
How did it all begin?
The story began of women inequality in the world of sports is as old as the event itself when it began in 1896.Women’s role was limited to lending their applause skills but not anything more. In fact, Olympic historians attest to the biased opinion of women as physically weak than men to justify their claims (Remley, 1996, p. 25). Fast-forwarding to the present we can see that these views were inaccurate. For example even when South African, Caster Semenya, won, she was treated with suspicion and ridicule, something that threatened her gender as a woman (Sloop, 2012, p. 86). Convention wisdom was put to test with 1928, Amsterdam Olympics when women braved 800 meter marathon but almost fainted towards the end of the race. It did not there as women did not give and made a comeback to the race in the 1960’s. In the years that followed, women progressively became active in sports and by 1996; it culminated to the Historic win. It is a permanent landmark in the history of women sportsmanship. In full glare of Camera’s Ethiopian woman Derartu Tulu finished her 10,000 km race at this point, everyone knew things had changed for the women in sports.
In the years that followed women took several other sports and never looked back. Most scholars of sports attest to the patriarchal system of society as the key driving forces behind the century’s old tradition.
How are things now?
If you ask me, I will definitely applaud the efforts so far, but also be quick to add it is not enough. Just look at how women in sports deemed to be for men are treated by the media. Hardly are recognized or given the same attention as their male counter parts. I f you enter any sports premises or stadium during a live match it highly likely that the greatest majority of people in attendance will be there to watch men play and women cheer. Is this the 21st century we really want to live in?
What do we do now?
It would be hypocritical not to recognize the underlying differences in the way that society perceives women in sports or rather men sports played by women. However, at the same time, it is imperative to ensure that we do not stray from the achievement women have made so far in the field of sports. In the spirit of equality and gender sensitivity, women sports should equally appreciated as the one’s played by their male counterparts (Rightler-McDaniels, 2013, p. 1082). So, what is the secret to changing people mindsets? Simple, all the stakeholders should unite with common goals of supporting women in the industry. Research indicates that support from fans and other stakeholders play a crucial role in motivating individual in sport to participate and engage in similar activities. However, it is for everybody to stand up together and agree that it is not business as usual in the field of sports.
The absence of women in world championships such as the world cup raises many concerns especially within the context of this century. Women deserve the dignity to engage in sports of their choice without the being stereotyped or intimidated by the dominance of men. They are equally capable and up to the task. Women soccer, hockey, athletics and other forms of women sports is testimony enough. So, why the delay the inevitable?
Davis, A. R. (2016). No League of Their Own. Radical History Review, 2016(125), 74-96. doi:10.1215/01636545-3451748
Grace & glory: a century of women in the Olympics. (1996). Choice Reviews Online, 34(04), 34-2227-34-2227.
Kane, M. J. (1988). Media Coverage of the Female Athlete Before, during, and after Title IX: Sports Illustrated Revisited. Journal of Sport Management, 2(2), 87-99.
Lee, J., Kim, M., & Chin, J. (2015). Changing Olympics, Paradigm Shift : Olympics and Gender Equality. Journal of Korean Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women, 29(3), 207.
Newspaper Coverage of Female Athletes Competing in Selected Sports in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same. (2003). Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 12(1), 1-21.
Remley, M. L. (1996). Women in the Olympics: Challenge and Change. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 67(5), 25-25.
Rightler-McDaniels, J. L. (2013). Changes through the lens? US photographic newspaper coverage of female high school athletes. Sport in Society, 17(8), 1076-1094.
Sloop, J. M. (2012). “This is Not Natural:” Caster Semenya’s Gender Threats. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 29(2), 81-96. doi:10.1080/15295036.2012.670876