Gender and Sexuality in Sports
When individuals, male or female, decide to enter a non-traditional sport for his/ her gender, there will inevitably be benefits and costs. Because sports themselves are divided along gender and race lines, one would expect that individuals who intend to play a sport deemed by culture and by society as counterintuitive are bound to be criticized and alienated because of their choices. Difference automatically threatens conventions, traditions, and expectations, and hence, it threatens the individuals who belong to that traditional sphere. Because sports are affected as much by funding as they are by issues of diversity and accessibility, the following questions address those issues: which group of people have access to what sports (the type of resources a school has determines the number of athletic opportunities and leagues that are available), what racial groups are represented more in which sports (African Americans are over represented in basketball but they are under represented in iced hockey, whites are over represented in winter sports but they are underrepresented in football), and how do those two questions overall affect a society and culture's response to "deviations?"
Generally, society has certain gender constructions that apply directly and indirectly to sports. Men are primarily thought of as physically stronger, more aggressive, and more physically active. Hence, men involved in sports are seen as fulfilling part of their experiences as men. Because they are men and because society has all these expectations about men and their physical abilities, sports becomes an arena in which men can prove, assert, and measure their manhood. In past generations, men could assert their masculinity by the type of labor they performed and by engaging in battle; however, in the absence of these activities, men have relied on sports to reinforce their masculinities.
Women, however, are perceived by society as the gentler sex. Women are thought of as nurturers, mothers, daughters, but they are not thought of as being physically strong or physically capable of being strong. Once women began to enter the sports world, their coaches and spectators had different standards for them. They were expected to look feminine, to wear feminine uniforms, and to compete against each other but to have no physical contact with other players. The fact is that when women first began to play sports they were still something to be objectified. They were something to survey, and they had to be pleasing to the eye (men's eyes). "I want foxes, not oxes" (Ed Temple, Tennessee State 1952). This statement reinforces society's expectations regarding not only the ways women are supposed to look as they are engaged in a sport but it also gives credibility to the type of sports women are traditionally allowed to play.
Because gender constructions have been so influential in deciding what positions men and women occupy in the world and what...