Gender Series: Women and Sports
By Aisha Dumbuya, NCCJ Contributor
“Why can’t run like a girl also mean win the race?” ~ Always commercial
This is the exact question that has needed to be asked for a long time. “Running like a girl”, is thought of to be an insult because according to society, girls are thought to be inferior in sports. The “Like a Girl”commercial shows that girls do not start off believing they are weak but rather, are conditioned to think that they are as they get older. When the older girls in the commercial were asked to “run like a girl”, “fight like a girl”, and “throw like a girl”, their running looked sloppy, their throws were weak, and their punches were almost nonexistent. However, when the younger girls were asked to do the same things they didn’t hold back. They ran, fought, and threw with power and determination… like they should.
When I was 9 years old and one of the only two girls on my youth baseball team of about 15 players, I remember “throwing like a girl” meant to deliver strong throws, “running like a girl” meant running as fast as I could to get to the bases, and “playing like a girl” meant playing just as hard as everyone else. Once gender roles enter sports, we lose the girls who run, fight, and throw with power and create the weak and graceful girls society is teaching them they have to be.
If girls at a young age are taught they have to be graceful, and only participate in sports that aren’t aggressive, they are automatically going to be steered away from the activities they love. If a young girl goes to her parents and says she wants to wrestle then they should let her and if she wakes up one day and decides she wants to join her local youth hockey team, they definitely shouldn’t steer her towards taking figure skating lessons as an alternative because it is “less dangerous”.
While on the topic of parents steering their girls away from sports because they are too “dangerous”, I just want to point out that two of the most common sports parents place their daughters in because “all the other little girls are doing it”, are actually the most dangerous despite the many false perceptions many have about these “sports for women”. Cheerleading and gymnastics both rank over football, hockey, boxing, and wrestling in multiple lists of the most dangerous sports. Think about that for a second and let it sink in that any reasoning there may be against girls boxing, playing football, or joining a wrestling team because they’re “too dangerous” just became invalid.
Title IX is a law that was passed in 1972 that required equity in every educational program that is federally funded. In regards to sports, this law specifically has made it easier for women to participate but still hasn’t made a breakthrough with the gender barriers. The reason I’m mentioning this law is because if these restrictions of females in sports (Specifically in elementary through college) are still being instilled even after laws are being made. We as a society need to find a way to work past that. I think the way to break the gender barriers within sports is to let the girls play.
When I say let the girls play, I don’t just mean their parents allowing them to join the team and I also don’t mean the coaches handing them a uniform to make them happy. What I mean is, once they’re in the sport, actually let them play. I mean, treat them like every other player on the team. In a NIKE commercial, "Voices" a girl states that her male teammates on the soccer team would never pass her the ball. This is just one example of girls being on teams and still not being able to play because the people they are playing with refuse to include them. We as a society “need to respect women for the strength and the power that they bring to the field” (Jos Dirkx; TedxCapeTownWomen). So the next time you see a girl out on the baseball field, in the ring, or on the court, cheer her on. Cheer her on just as you would cheer on the other male players on the team. Show them that they don’t have to be pretty but they should strive to be “pretty smart, pretty courageous, and pretty strong” (Jos Dirkx; TedxCapeTownWomen). A sport doesn’t have to include skirts, bows, leotards, makeup, or graceful movements in order for girls to be able to play.
Sports weren’t labeled with a specific gender until, we, society put the labels on ourselves. So, if we are the ones who put the labels on sports, why can’t we be the ones to take them off? Think about it.
The Entire Gender Blog Series:
Monday, August 4 - Gender Blog Series Introduction
Monday, August 11 - Female Gender and Toys
Monday, August 18 - Male Gender and Toys
Monday, August 25 - Female Gender and School
Monday, September 1 - Male Gender and School
Monday, September 8 - Female Gender and Sports
Monday, September 15 - Male Gender and Sports
Monday, September 22 - Female Gender and Body Image
Monday, September 29 - Male Gender and Body Image
About the National Conference for Community and Justice
Formed 1927, NCCJ is a nonprofit human relations organization that promotes inclusion and acceptance by providing education and advocacy while building communities that are respectful and just for all. Celebrating the diversity of races, religions, cultures, genders, abilities, and sexual orientations.
The opinions and information expressed through News Views posts are solely those of the individual authors and not representative of NCCJ’s overall stance on related issues unless specified. Any information presented as fact could entail inaccuracies or be incomplete. We encourage open discussion through our blog, and welcome respectful responses from everyone.
For more information on NCCJ’s variety of social justice educational programs, click here.