The Crossroads of Gender and Sport

balletIn our Equity & Access to Sport course, students were asked to comment on one of two topics this week. In the first topic, they were asked to explain how sports can on one hand,  provide women with participation opportunities that are personally empowering; and on the other hand, tend to perpetuate a gender ideology that works to the disadvantage of women in society. For the second topic, they were asked why the NBA became involved in fighting homophobic language among teenagers through the www.thinkb4youspeak.com campaign and what impact the NBA’s involvement might have on the LGBT community. Below you will find one response to each topic question.

By: Malinda Robedeau

The Art of a Segregationist Gender Equity & the Sexual Objectification of Women Athletes

As you turn on your television, pass a news stand or even read an article on social media, it’s hard to do so without overlooking some form of sexualization of women. Whether it’s the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine or the political rants of women in society, it’s a topic we have become all to numb to. Since the 20th century when the women’s movement took hold on societal reins, women have been fighting for their proper place in the public eye. Breaking barriers and making monumental strides, women have fought for their freedom breaking gender expectations and perceptions that have clung to the feminine title for far too long. But has our society come to a plateau? Have we as women developed acceptance to our underdeveloped new roles? When Title IX was enacted, women saw it as a stepping stone to a world of equality, one without segregation and without gender stereotypes. Yet women to this day still face the same scrutiny and gender role division that are publicly portrayed and upheld through social media. It’s this negative female representation that calls for back lash. So could it be that women have accepted our new found place in the world creating a plateau in the women’s movement, or is it something bigger than any woman could take on alone? I believe that it is the lack of information, not by fault of our ancestors but the lack of recognition in the media and I give full blame to the embryonic stages of Title IX that needs to reflect change.

Although Title IX has had a significant impact on the sculpting of societal views, increasing women’s athletic participation from 1 in 27 to 1 in 4 in 1978 (Jacob, 2014), the gender ideology that rests with this one movement does not contribute to the positive reform of women stereotypes creating a disadvantage that remains in the sports realm. Women from the beginning of time have been seen as fragile, pessimistic creatures that are too dainty for the likes of “manly” activities. Rising above, women have overcome the once prohibiting rules in athletics, breaking gender notions and shaping the culture we have come to know today. However, even though women are allowed in the sports world that does not mean they hold the same weight of significance and our social media only aids to that very perception.

With women athletics visibly seen on the back-burner to their male counterparts, media coverage under represents and under recognizes women’s athletic abilities. In fact the main portrayal of athletic women is through the sexualization of their bodies. With their under clothed figures representing women’s athletic capabilities, it is prominent that it is this recognition of their physical appearance not the emphasis of their abilities that hinders societal view of the seriousness of women’s sports. This portrayal is a manner only upholding gender roles not breaking them down.

In fact, women who are perceived as a powerful being, especially in sports, are initially assumed by our fellow male gender to be lesbians. As this label is stamped on every dominant woman to belittle and dis-empower them, the men are giving reason behind these women’s influential skills as an excuse for their intrusion on their territory (Seene, 2016). According to Joshua A. Senne in Contemporary Sport issues, Sport Studies and Sports Psychology, it’s this very imposition that Title IX has failed to recognize only prompting the institutionalization of masculinity as the operation principle within sport (2016). This unfulfilled attempt to change Title IX has only aided to the reinforcement of masculinity restricting women’s access to leadership roles with only 33% holding a general manager position in even the Women’s National Basketball Association (Seene, 2016). It’s this limitation as well as the poor portrayal of women in the media that sets back women’s opportunities.

One reason behind this sexual image publishers like to portray is based off of the concept that “sex sells”. Many social outlets claim that it is this erotic model that helps them make profit yet when put to the test both men and women stated was irrelevant, and that the depiction of athletic competence was far more appealing (Aagenes, 2014). In fact the sex sells concept is just an excuse to better diminish the respect that women in athletics fight for. It’s this lie that even Anna Aagenes in the Daily Dot states is the reason behind women’s poor social image.  It is the sexual objectification and sexualization of women’s bodies that affects public perception of the importance and significance of women’s sports.

The unfortunate fact is that the media is not the only reason behind the poor image of women’s athletics in society. Yes, it holds significance, as does the dire need for Title IX reform, however the differences between the WNBA and their male counterparts, the NBA, as well as the masculinity ideologies upheld by institutions, gender socialization being taught at a young age and so on and so forth only add to the building heap that women have to attempt to hurdle over to find equality. The whole heap is what stands in the way of women’s ability to receive proper media coverage and acknowledgements. It’s that heap that aids to the dis-empowerment of women creating what appears to be a plateau in the women’s movement when in reality it is a continuous uphill battle. So on the one hand, sports has provided women with an amazing amount of opportunities and confidence our ancestors never had, but on the other, it has also built an ideology that only hinders women’s positions in not only athletics, but society.

References:

Aagenes, A. (6 May, 2014).3 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Women’s Sports. The Daily Dot. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/via/three-lies-women-in-sports/

Jacobs, T. (8 January, 2014). Has Title IX Changed Women’s Lives? Pacific Standard. Retrieved from https://psmag.com/has-title-ix-changed-women-s-lives-828b03652b97#.5ce2u864m

Laundra, K. (4 December, 2011). Not Just a Game Part 2 of 3 Womanhood and Sports. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ww49WBROUKk&feature=youtu.be

Seene, J. (26 February, 2016). Examination of Gender Equity and Female Participation in Sport. The Sport Journal.  Retrieved from: thesportjournal.org/article/examination-of-gender-equity-and-female-participation-in-sport/

By: Theo Hagan

The NBA’s Stand on Homophobic Language

Unfortunately, homophobic language has become common place in our society among teenagers. This language is used as negative and derogatory insults targeted toward their peers. While many times, the target of this insult isn’t necessarily homosexual, the lasting effect of using those words as a negative remark can stick with all parties involved. According to Brady and Gleason (2016), “An international study on homophobia in sports, out earlier this year, found 84% of gay men and 82% of lesbians have heard homophobic slurs in locker rooms.” The vast majority of these study participants are teenagers and high school aged children. Teenagers are a very impressionable demographic and many times they are influenced by what they see, hear, and interact with on a daily basis. There is no doubting that professional sports, and the NBA in specific, have a very large influence on how these teenagers act. That is why it is critical for the NBA to take a stand on homophobic language.

There are two main reasons that I think the NBA has taken such a hard stand on this topic. The first being that they are becoming one of the most popular professional sports league in the country. This is due to the fact that they are very good at adapting to new trends and becoming trendsetters in a multitude of platforms. In a recent article (Ferdman, 2015), it was found that “Even the NBA’s official Twitter account has more followers (13.8 million) than the NFL’s (10.8 million) and the MLB’s (4.3 million).” It today’s society, millennials and teenagers want to feel connected with their favorite athletes and teams. That is why the NBA has such a powerful platform at their fingertips. The fact that they can reach millions and millions of people in an instant, on a variety of topics, makes it crucial that they communicate their stand on this topic. I hope that in the very near future, the NBA can influence the teenagers of this country and put an end to homophobic language once and for all.

I believe the second reason that the NBA has taken a prominent stand on homophobic language is one they would like to go unnoticed. There has been a troubled past with NBA players making homophobic remarks on Twitter, game broadcasts, and other social media sites. There are a quite a few examples to choose from and I won’t get into the details of them but take a few minutes to look some of them up. They are pretty discouraging and downright offensive. The NBA has done the right thing in levying fines and suspensions towards these players.  In more recent news, the NBA has taken major steps in supporting the LGBT community. In light of legislation in North Carolina that is criticized as discriminatory against LGBT people they removed their All-Star game from Charlotte in 2017. In a statement by Commissioner Adam Silver, he explained “…that the N.B.A. cannot choose the law in every city, state and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by the current law,” (Cacciola & Blinder, 2016.) This was the first major sports league in the United States to do anything about the law in North Carolina. I find it very commendable for the NBA to take a stand on this issue and it shows their support for this topic.

Like we have seen, the NBA is not shy about their support for the LGBT community or stopping the usage of homophobic language. I believe the views that they have will make basketball as a sport feel more welcoming to the gay community. I also think that there will be a decline in using homophobic language in teenagers. When a very prominent league, company or organization takes a stand on a controversial issue it can sometimes blow up on them. However, I think that the way that the NBA has handled this specific issue, worked with the community, and promoted their brand has ultimately garnered the trust and business of many fans who generally would not be basketball fans. With the NBA at the forefront of the abolishment of homophobic language and the support of the gay community as a whole, I think that we will see the end of this epidemic before we previously thought.

References 

Brady, E., & Gleeson, S. (2016, October 25). Coaches and coming out. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2015/08/18/coaches-power–stop-homophobia-open-closet-gay-athlete/31886659/

Cacciola, S., & Blinder, A. (n.d.). N.B.A. to Move All-Star Game From North Carolina – The New … Retrieved October 25, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/sports/basketball/nba-all-star-game-moves-charlotte-transgender-bathroom-law.html

Ferdman, R. A. (n.d.). What the NBA gets that the other big sports leagues don’t … Retrieved October 25, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/06/what-the-nba-gets-that-the-other-big-sports-leagues-dont/

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