Are women’s sports not real sports?

When feminists talk about the limited coverage of women’s sports, they usually focus on sports like soccer, football, basketball and so on, probably because these sports get the most coverage throughout the world. These are all sports that are considered as typically male sports. Apparently the world hasn’t noticed yet, that sports that are seen as typically female aren’t even anywhere to be found on the sports page.

Are traditional women’s sports less interesting to watch? No, I think people do enjoy watching cheerleading or dancing for example. Do we want to watch typical women’s sports like cheerleading and dancing, but do we not like to see cheerleaders or dancers compete? Well no, judging by the incredible amount of movies about evil cheerleaders and dancers fighting each other to get a spot in the spotlight, I think most people love seeing cheerleaders and dancers compete.

So apparently we do enjoy watching cheerleaders or dancers compete with their friends/frennemies, but we don’t enjoy seeing them compete together with their friends/team-mates against other teams.

I think it’s because there is a tendency for people to enjoy things that confirm their vision on the world. Racist white people often enjoy black gangster hip hop a whole lot more than non-racist white people. Sexist men get turned off when their precious girlfriend enjoys football more than they do. And apparently people seem to like it when cheerleaders or dancers fight each other instead of being nice to each other, because they seem to assume that the only thing cheerleaders and dancers excel at are catfights.

Do people believe that cheerleaders and dancers love to catfight? Or is it based on truth, is cheerleading and dancing a sport appealing to those who love to catfight?

Even though there usually is one cheerleader that leads the team, it still is mainly a team sport. A good cheerleading performance usually is one where everybody is perfectly in tune with each other. If it were all a bunch of divas doing their big solo-act at the same time, it would just look like a big mess and anything but spectacular and absolutely not like cheerleading. If you are a big solo diva that wants to kill everyone that is a better dancer than you, you’ll never reach a top level in dancing. Without the support of your mentors, you’ll never rise above their level. It’s something cheerleaders and dancers seem to consider as evident, but the rest of the world seems to assume that cheerleading and dancing is all about catfights and vomiting instead about team spirit, commitment and strength.

It’s the new shape of sexism. ‘Girly girls’ (or women that voluntarily do things that are seen as typical for women) are assumed to also correspond to the negative stereotype of women. ‘Girly girls’ are assumed to be superficial and to be evil manipulators that will never have any real ‘buddies’. It’s such a common belief that people don’t even notice it. It’s such a common belief, people don’t even see it as sexist.

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  • Kelsey

    I’m not trying to downplay the obvious sexism when it comes to media coverage of competitive activities, but when I think of dance, I don’t think of it as a sport, (let alone female dominated). I view dance as an art, and place it in the same category with acting, singing, and the other performing arts. Cheerleading is borderline dance/gymnastics, so yes I see it there, but “dance” in a general sense, not so much. =/

    • James

      Yeah, that’s my thought too… dance seems more to me like an art than a sport. I’ve always thought of the difference between an art and a sport as lying in the emphasis on technique and skill rather than expression—which is why I’d put figure-skating in the “sport” category and dance, at least as I understand the way it’s practiced, in the “art” category.

      Art, while acknowledging the importance of technique and skill in making expression work, is at its core about that expression. When a skill or technique is in conflict with the expression—like, if a certain difficult and intricate technique doesn’t work with the effect or idea the dancer is going for—the dancer will tend to choose the expression over the technique. That’s not at all a knock on dancing or art; artistic innovation often takes the form of learning the technique, mastering the technique, and then jettisoning or adapting it in order to provide a new way of expressing the idea or feeling the artist wants to evoke—which is why we have minimalist and avant-garde dance.

      Sport takes the opposite approach; if an Olympic figure skater doesn’t think that the required set of turns and jumps fit in with the idea they’re trying to express in the routine, they’ll put in the turns and jumps anyway, and accept that the expression will take a hit—because the expressiveness is really icing on the cake for a routine that is ultimately about displaying the best possible technique and form using the various elements that are required to be there. It’s the same with the tumbling act in gymnastics; there’s the music and the expressive portion, but ultimately the gymnast has to do a certain number of backflips and turns and twists and such in order to get a good score, so that’s going to be the concern that dominates the gymnast’s choices. We’re not going to get a “minimalist” gymnastics at the Olympics, where the gymnast just does a single somersault and says “fini”—because that would not get a good score at the judges’ table.

      I’m not familiar with whether cheerleading fits into the former or latter category in competition—or, alternatively, if there are dancing competitions that resemble figure skating or gymnastics in their requirement of certain elements. If they’re like figure skating in prioritizing technique/skill/form over expression, then I think they qualify as “sports” and should be treated as such; if they subjugate technique to expression, I think they’re art.

  • Vanessa

    Thank you for posting this. I’m also really annoyed when people say that sports in which most athletes are women are not “real” sports.

  • Laura

    I think that nobody’s really interested in women’s sports unless they’re draped over something, or mud fighting in bikinis, or “sexing it up” ie typically girly cat fighting and hot cheerleading with no brains. Just the typical stuff which ignores women unless they’re being objectified, really.