Support women’s participation in ”manly” sports.

I come from a country where stereotypes are still tangible and I was raised believing that gymnastics is for women and football is for men. As I traveled and got the chance to interact with all sorts of cultures, I realized that this perception is not only limited to my home country. How many women boxers do you know? How many football players? It’s not that they aren’t out there; it’s just that the media is mainly focused on men.

Raewyn Connell, one of the most renowned academics in gender studies indentifies symbols as models of representation of media images. She states that symbols are one of the elements of gender construction and divide.  By choosing to mainstream masculinity as hegemonic, the media is partially to blame for the gender gap. Nevertheless, the number of women licensed as boxers or football players in Europe is far less than the number of men.  It appears that women actively choose or are guided towards certain sports as children. Moreover, studies show that women who practice what is perceived to be ‘’a manly sport’’ have identity struggles, especially in relation to their sexuality and the gender behaviors.

via Flickr/neatpicture_vikes

via Flickr/neatpicture_vikes

Another factor that contributes to the gender divide is behavioral consumerism: data shows that women are less likely to be spectators of sports of all kind. The motives for spectating differ from one gender to the other, men being more likely to have their self-esteem, aesthetics and escape affected by following certain competitions.  Those women who do choose to follow sports appear to be mainly influenced by the men in their lives. One study found that even when women are genuinely fans of a sport, the men in their lives ‘’systematically exclude them from sports conversations or demand their input’’.

By now, it is established as a fact that women’s advancement depends on masculine attitudes towards gender equality. Maybe someday there will be no gender disjointed teams and sports will be played unitedly. Until then, parents, journalists and every individual must support the integration of women in all sports by celebrating their victories, demanding their input, informing them and not judging their sexuality in relation to the physical demands of sporting activities.

Suggested reading : Women in Sport: Gender Stereotypes in the Past and Present

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