Do they really want women in sports?

Despite the progress women have made in sports, it is still to be seen that any women’s sport is as fiercely watched and supported as the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB. Recognizing the leaps and bounds women have made in sports, we must ask, are women truly wanted to be competing in mainstream sports. This article discusses the lack of support women face in sports and our cultural inability to recognize co-ed sports as even a possiblity.
Some interesting excerpts…

It has been 32 years since the feisty feminist King took on an aging Bobby Riggs, won the tennis match and made Neil Armstrong-moonwalk-historic strides for women in sports.
What followed were generations of female athletes who gained Title IX rights to have their own high school and college teams, earn scholarships, garner million-dollar marketing deals, attain Olympic gold-medal fame and have pro careers in women’s leagues.
But while many pro leagues have folded, floundered and faded from their novelty appeal since the 1996 “Summer of Women” Olympic Games, today’s biggest motion and commotion in women’s sports surround the same battles between the sexes that sparked the revolution more than three decades ago.

“We’ll have to see how the women compete, whether they hold their own as athletes. It would be sad if Americans weren’t ready to see co-ed team sports, but we’re a country that doesn’t seem ready to have a female vice president.”
Fortunately, sociology professor Messner said, today’s girls have many options to continue playing sports at the amateur level. The problem lies “when they leave high school, that they become invisible,” said Messner, who co-authored a study with Margaret Carlisle Duncan of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, “Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlights Shows, 1989-2004,” which concluded that “women’s sports is still largely ignored.”
The study states that men’s sports received 91.4 percent of the airtime in six weeks of early evening and late night TV sports news on three network affiliates. Women’s sports got 6.3 percent and gender-neutral topics, 2.4 percent. In Los Angeles sports news shows, men’s reports outnumbered women’s reports, 9 to 1.
“There is a continuing marginalization, or downright ignoring, of women’s sports by the media,” Messner said. “And a lot of that has to do with the choices that TV producers and newspapers editors keep making, preferring to play it safe rather than lead a gender revolution.”

Join the Conversation

  • JesusJonesSuperstar

    Well, women’s tennis is very popular. I am afraid that when it comes to sports, well, men are bigger and stronger. It is a big deal when a woman slams a basket. people are like “yea, ra ra, woman power!) but seriously, what male nba player cant do that? yea, if people want to see women just for the sake of seing women, great. But, it takes an elite female athelete just to compete on an average, somewhat recreational men’s team. HOw the hell can that be changed? If people want to see the fastest, strongest athletes, they watch men. Mother nature was a sexist.
    Perhaps we can genetically engineer a new breed of women? I dont know. maybe im missing the point??

  • puckalish

    yeah, i think you’re missing the point.
    i was just parousing olympic records for track, archery, swimming… and found that, in fact, the numbers are pretty darned close, with the men leading in most places by a margin…
    a margin that i think may be as due to the lack of competition among women because athleticism is not encouraged (ever hear of ‘girl pushups’?)…
    training, encouragement, support, competition and social acceptance figure no small degree in determining the stock of women atheletes in the world. to claim otherwise is foolish.
    considering that most women are trained from an early age not to seriously persue athleticism outside of the usual arenas of gymnastics, tennis, etc., i find it pretty darned compelling how close women’s and men’s times are…
    so, yeah, in other words, you are missing the point… encouraging women to pursue athleticism is a pretty realistic approach to increasing competition (the stock of women available and training hard for each sport) and competitiveness with men’s sports… geez. didn’t think i’d hear that argument on here… so cliché.

  • Zaij

    And of course, archery, track and swimming are the most highly televised sports in the world *sarcasm*.

  • puckalish

    sorry, kid, i just looked at the first listings i saw, alright… you want me to do further research, i will, what is the most televised sport?

  • puckalish

    hmm… yeah… you’re right… what a loser i am… well, the fact is, i couldn’t find too many world record classes on the IOC’s website, but shoot, maybe i’ll do more research to please you…
    what those results do show is that women can be as quick as men, as strong as men (men – discus – 74m, women – discus 78m), and as accurate as men in easily quantifiable contests. it follows that women are just as biologically capable as men in physical feats.
    so it follows that it’s mad beat for men to keep their heads stuck up their asses and progressively discourage women from participating in sports.
    it’s harder to get easily comparable results from such sports as basketball, baseball and football and american football because such sports are closed systems (team against team, not time or distance records)… however, it seems pretty clear that if women’s scores in olympic athetic events are comparable to men’s that their performance in team sports would be no joke as well…
    if they were given the proper encouragement, not called ‘dykes,’ ‘mannish,’ etc. just because they unhinge men’s artificial dominance in the physical realm.

  • Thomas

    Puckalish, women and men do not throw the same weight discus.
    I’m a big fan of encouraging women to be athletic and competetive. There are lots of sports where social factors are much more of a barrier than physical ones — the shooting sports, motorsports, equestian sports, etc. There are a few ultra-endurance sports where women outperform men. In other sports, the biological differences at the upper end have decreased, but remain.
    But all sports are entertainment. If the product is a compelling spectacle, a good, competetive sport, people will watch unless they have some preconception that prevents them from enjoying it. Hell, nobody turned off the 1999 Women’s World Cup because those women were not as strong or as fast as the men.

  • puckalish

    I don’t follow sports all that much, so thanks for the tip about the discus… i was just digging for anything, since archery and track aren’t “the most televised sports”…
    The point still stands – if you’re gonna be “a big fan of encouraging women to be athletic”, what do think of tongue-in-cheek pokes like Jones’s comment about “if woman gets a slam dunk”? Do you think that encourages woment to participate in sports if folks don’t take ‘em seriously. Further, if folks don’t take women in sports seriously, some of the biggest potential out there is going to put their energies toward pursuits where they will be appreciated – be it law, writing, medicine, social work, etc. etc. – thus depriving the sports of a certain degree of competitiveness…
    That’s my only point… sorry I fucked up on the discus thing, I never really watch much of the Olympics… the real deal, though is that “Mother Nature” was NOT “sexist” and to say “But, it takes an elite female athelete just to compete on an average, somewhat recreational men’s team” is fucking ridiculous… and attitudes like that are a big reason why most female potential atheletes don’t pursue sports past university…

  • Jason

    I am an avid sports fan, and avid feminist, and this has always been an interesting subject to me. The only sport I can name that is more interesting to watch women play is Tennis. Sadly for tennis, it’s not a very popular sport in this country.
    The athleticism of men in basketball, baseball, football, etc. is not nearly matched by women and there’s not much that can be done to change that.
    I think a terrific inroad for women would be Car Racing. I don’t enjoy the sport, but it is very popular, and many of the physical differences between men and women would be nil in NASCAR or IRL, etc. Coupled with it being a sport of fairly chaveunist fans, it could be amusing and important.
    The other thing I find with high-level athletics is that it’s pretty brutal. Whether it be the attitudes or the stupidity it takes to play football for your life, women generally aren’t raised that way. It’s tough to turn on that “win at all costs” attitude at age 16 or 18 when little boys have been bread as competition monsters since a young age.

  • puckalish

    yo… what about real “football”, known as “soccer” in the u.s. (for what reason, i do not know)…
    the women’s u.s. team has been kicking ass solidly and, well, the men’s team… um… almost qualified for a medal once… yeah…
    and, actually, there are female race car drivers last time i checked…
    do you hear me, though, that most men who pursue a sports ‘career’ actually entertain the thought of being a player in adulthood whereas most women who have the potential to be competitive actually just use sports to get an education and then move on to fields where they have better prospects?
    i mean, i think there are plenty enough ‘competitive’ women out there and plenty enough of them are strong, quick, smart and determined. the fact of the matter is, there’s no future for women in sports.
    so most women with the potential of being serious atheletes prefer to go on to more ‘open’ fields.
    and calling ‘competitiveness’ ‘stupidity’ doesn’t make it any more equal a playing field.

  • Jason

    puckalish, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Women have traditionally used sports as a means for a free education because there was nothing to do with sports afterward. Now, with the professional softball league and WNBA, very talented female athletes are thinking about the draft like any male would be.
    As for your earlier comment that women having to be elite to compete with men being ludicrous, I think you need to look at this realistically. I am aware that every woman in the WNBA could destroy me on a basketball court…every one. But, could an all-star WNBA team beat even a collection of the worst NBA talent…I don’t think it’d be even close. There are physical differences. Women cannot weight lift as much as men. We can’t compare female pro athletes to average joes. That’s dumb. When you compare pro athlete to pro athlete, you can’t even make a comparison.
    I think people who try to pretend that some of the differences are societally driven and not physical are bringing down the women’s sports effort. It’s different, and it should be.
    As for female race drivers, I am well-aware of them. I’m saying it’s a great place for women to make major inroads. If 20% of NASCAR drivers were women and they were successful…it would be pretty terrific and an eye opener.