How Sports Actually Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes & Why We Need To Rethink The Way We See Athletes

Woman lifting weights
PHOTO: GEORGIE COBBES / UNSPLASH

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You can’t play football because you’re a woman. Hardcore wrestling is also questionable because you may injure a vital organ or something. Has anyone ever seen women thrive in the MLB? Probably not. It seems that no matter how much we progress as a society, we can never get away from gender stereotypes that frown on women participating in certain activities all while encouraging men to reach for the stars. Unfortunately for us, sports actually perpetuates gender discrimination more than it destroys such prejudice. 

“How so?” you may ask. “I see women breaking down barriers in sports all of the time.” 

While it is true that notable lionesses, such as Serena Williams and Allison Schmitt, have blazed a way for young athletes, their accomplishments are in fields deemed acceptable for women to participate. Serena is a tennis star, which is presently considered more of a feminine sport. Allison has followed in the path of succeeding in “women’s athletics” by winning eight Olympic medals in swimming, which also has that feminine edge. How many women, though, have notoriety because of their incredible skill in sports like American football and baseball? 

Much of the reason for the division in sports is because of traditions passed down from our ancestors. It wasn’t until the civil war of the 1800s concluded that women were allowed to participate in organized sports such as golf and archery publicly. Men were careful to monitor the type of athletics their wives became involved with for fear of their lesser half popping something and ruining her reproductive health. Imagine a man telling a woman that she could not play basketball because all of the jumping and running could cause cancer or delay menstruation. Such claims were not far-fetched during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

The notion of women in sports has also been underrepresented in media. A study done in 2015 showed that TV ignores women's sports more than it did 25 YEARS ago. How many times have you walked into a bar and seen women's sports on television? How many times have you flipped through TV to see any women's sport but tennis on ESPN when there's "nothing else" going on in sports — AKA when men aren't competing for something at that time.

What do you think girls who watch these broadcasts think of themselves? Do you sincerely believe that they believed the sky is indeed the limit after having it implemented that men are inherently stronger? 

We have seen incredible moments as women in sports that men have deemed as acceptable for us to play. In this realm of feminism where we are fighting for equality on all fronts, it is vital that we not conform to established stereotypes. We will see real change when we as women shift our mindsets and take the limits off ourselves in every area — including sports. Because who says that a woman cannot be a serious player in the NFL besides territorial men? 

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