How the Introduction of the Individual into a Non-traditional Sport for His or Her Gender Affects that Individual and the Sport Itself
A high school age boy makes the papers when he joins the girls' varsity field hockey team at his high school. A woman is judged according to femininity rather than muscle mass in a body building competition. An African American is thought inferior to his white counterparts on the sports field. A woman is discouraged from playing contact sports under the pretext of being too delicate. All of these events have one thing in common: they, in their own context, involve individuals entering a non-traditional sport for their gender or race. Over the years, events such as these continually arise causing either promotion of the evolution of this sport, or the destruction or discouragement of similar events occurring in the future. For the most part, such events are initially held in a negative light, only to become accepted over time, nevertheless showing the scars of damage and/or the reaped benefits.
The most immediate and perhaps most obvious cost of such an entrance into the untraditional is the questioning of the participant's sexuality. This inquiry is most common to women as they enter fields such as boxing and basketball. Men, however, undergo the same scrutiny as they enter traditionally feminine sports such as figure skating and synchronized swimming. The appearance of new genders in sport does however take a step in the right direction. Every opportunity seized to create some sort of equality between the sexes in athletics is a step forward for that individual, for his or her gender, and for the sport into which he or she enters. This idea is best shown through the actions of a high school aged boy who joined the girls' field hockey team at his high school. It seems that he was not taken seriously at first. After all, I myself would have been surprised if a boy showed up on the field one day wearing a skirt like the rest of the team and expecting to play in the game. Part of the problem is that it is so uncommon. People are afraid of things that they've never seen or done. Non-traditional athletes in certain sports are partially unaccepted due to the fact that they are a first. This is part of the reason why Bev (from Pumping Iron II), was so unaccepted by the judges of the women's bodybuilding contest: the judges were disgusted by her muscularity. "Images of muscular women... are disconcerting, even threatening... [she was a] threat to established values." (Holmlund 302) There is a first for everything, but firsts are always hard to accept and integrate into society.
There was, for instance, a single female member of the wrestling team at my high school. It was something that we'd all heard of happening at other high schools, but was never something that we'd anticipated coming to our high school. She was seen as being strange: butch, unlady-like, even ugly. I never gave her more than a thought...