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Sports as a key to unlock Gender Equality and Women Empowerment

INTRODUCTION:

Women were always considered to be the weaker sex of the society. They were expected to be at home rather than playing in the fields. The society always had a stereotypical view based on their physical appearances and capacities. Inequality and gender discrimination in sports has long been a debatable subject due to discrimination concerning pay, viewers watching numbers, and the total array of prospects that is present amid men and women in the field of competitive sports. Gender discrimination is still a matter of debate in today’s world. People still watch men’s football than women’s, and women’s football is seldom telecasted by the media. This article discusses about the existence of discrimination and inequality in sports against women and how sports can empower women.

SPORTS AS A SEED OF GENDER EQUALITY:

         In almost every culture, sports have customarily been divided with the gender. Men sports are often emphasized as showing of strength whereas women sports were considered to be indoor like dancing, cooking etc. Women and men who expressed lesser interest for the sports which were meant for their genders were considered less feminine or masculine, and those who cross these gender classifications were seen as a disregard to the culture or going against the social norms. As more women come forward to challenge restrictions which stop them from sporting a specific sport, they are also challenging prevailing gender discriminations. Every time a woman gathers the courage to join a cricket team which is stereotypically considered a men’s game, or otherwise starts an all-girls cricket team, she reveals to the men in the society that she is eligibly tough and can compete equally with the men challenging the gender discrimination and stereotypes which consider women as delicate or inferior. In cultures where a woman’s role is mostly limited to domestic activities and where they are not even allowed to take part in civic life, involvement in sports activities can challenge these blocks and empower women to shoulder new parts inside their societies. Thus, sports offer an atmosphere in which gender discrimination and believed origins of manliness and womanliness can be rewritten. In sports, principles such as belligerence and fight are appreciated. Grounds are one of the appropriate places for women to prove these qualities. As these ideals turn out to be more engrained, gendered stereotypes are gradually transformed, and women who show their potentials are appreciated by the world. 

Sports impart coordination skills such as devotion to one’s co-players, respect to an instructor’s instructions, and the fact that players are selected based on comparative skills and not on the basis of fame or behaviour makes sports an ideal ground to grow and develop. Nurturing prospects for women’s involvement in sports is not just about backing for the right of women to play but it involves recognizing the social and financial barriers women face in order to participate in sports and scheming agendas which will be predominantly appropriate and expressive to woman participants. Women also encounter poverty-related blocks, such as absence of suitable equipment, sanitation, healthy diet etc. These aid as exceptional hindrances to women’s involvement in sporting activities.

INEQUALITIES AND DISCRIMINATIONS RESTRAINING WOMEN IN SPORTS:

         The encouraging consequences of sport for gender equivalence and women’s empowerment are constrained by gender inequalities in all extents of sports and physical activity, fuelled by remaining stereotypes of women’s bodily capabilities and societal perception and pressure. Women are often ghettoized reluctantly into various categories of sports and events explicitly besieged to women. Women as a leader is always restrained in all levels, from domestic to international. As women’s sports are often looked down, there exists a lower level of recognition, prizes and unequal pay scale or wages. Media expressions are also discouraging. More often than not, they are shown in a negative aspect with expressive gender stereotypes. Women face violence, harassment and are exposed to discrimination because of the male dominance and they believe women to be incapable of participating in men-stereotyped sports as there is a need for strength and aggressiveness. Numerous crucial fundamentals have been recognized for stimulation against gender discrimination and creating an empowering atmosphere for equality and women empowerment in various fields. They include enlightening women’s abilities and skills through education and fitness. Enhancement of women leadership skills, self-confidence, access to employment opportunities, healthy diet and freedom can help women in coming up against these stereotypes and discrimination. The role of men in challenging inequality and discriminating is very crucial. In recent years, a sturdier attention has been established on the constructive role of men and how they play a very vital role in encouraging women empowerment in various fields. The present supremacy of men in the sports world makes their participation and contribution to accomplishing gender equality in the area of sports very crucial.

MEDIA AND WOMEN SPORTS:

            Gender inequality, as well-known, has various adverse results for female players. In addition to the inadequate attention that female players obtain, they also obtain lesser overall coverage. Women’s sports are often professed as less entertaining and boring than men’s sports. The media, however, does not give women’s sports considerable attention, diminishing the sports enthusiasts’ view time of women’s sports. Media’s depiction of sports and players can contribute to the building of destructive gender stereotypes. Media has a tendency to signify women players as a female in the first place rather than a player. Exposure of women in sports is repeatedly subjugated by representation of their physical appearance or domestic life, while men are portrayed as authoritative, self-determining, leading, and appreciated as players. The media’s absence of attention for women’s sports replicates the community’s overall opinion of females that they are not as much of their male equals, and that the social custom of the world we live in is that men are portrayed to be the strong, sporty ones who control the world of sports.[1]

CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES:

        Sports was considered to be a realm of men. The participation of women was restricted mostly because of several gender stereotypes; not only those related to their capability but also was largely influenced by the social role and opinion of the society. By unswervingly stimulating and ousting fallacies about women’s abilities, cohesive sport programmes help to decrease inequality and enlarge the part set to women. A rise of women in management positions in sports can also have a substantial effect on communal view point towards women’s abilities as leaders and decision makers. Women’s involvement in sports carries with it a massive ability for constructive influence on the view towards gender equality amongst the youth group. The sports field offers a prospect in reaching men on matters associated to stereotypical view, discrimination and women inequality. The extensive involvement of men in sports, as both players and addressees, offers a commanding medium for educating and enlightening men on various issues, as well as harassment against women and for breaking down engrained view points and stereotypical attitudes. In order to understand the full ability for sports as a seed for gender equality and women discrimination, gender discrimination in sports should be discussed. The presence of gender-based discrimination in sports reflect societal gender stereotypes and strengthens gender inequalities. Prospects for women to participate in sports may be constrained. Even when partaking is permitted, the changing aspects of gender relations and concepts of manliness and womanliness may result in gender separation in diverse categories of sports and physical education. Differences also exist in access to resources, pays and monetary spurs including media depiction of women players and women’s sport. The absence of women as leaders or decision makers, as well as mistreatment, aggravation and viciousness against women is predominant in sports and the marketable sporting industry.

EMPOWERING WOMEN IN SPORTS:

          Sports can be a significant means for social empowerment of women over the skills and values learned, such as collaborating skills, cooperation, leadership, communication and respect for others.[2] The social aids of involvement in sports are believed to be specifically vital for women, assuming that many women, predominantly in adolescence, have lesser prospects than men for public communication outside their home and beyond family structures. Women gain new social networks, advance a sense of individuality and access new prospects, permitting them to become more involved in school and public life. Taking part in sports also empowers women to relish liberty of expression and movement and rise their confidence and determination. It has also been said that sports can help as the source for a wisdom of optimistic personification. This perception goes beyond the idea of physical fitness and includes mental aids and the quest of lively psychic practices. The psychological aids of physical activity, vital for a sense of optimism, can be learnt through the pleasure of the physical activity. Initiatives that address all forms of viciousness, manipulation and harassment are required at different levels, together within relatives, schools and colleges, sport players, societies, and in domestic and international competitions. There should be an obligation for providing a harmless and helpful atmosphere for women to participate in sports. They should also ensure protection from gender stereotyping, making healthy relationships between the coach and the player. Supporting women by providing employment opportunities, healthy diet, support and encouraging media coverage can empower women in sports as well as develop courage among other women to participate in sports activities.

FIGHT FOR EQUALITY:

Alex Morgan and others V. United States Soccer Federation, Inc.

Twenty-eight players of the world champion United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination law suit against United States Soccer Federation charging violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The players described it as “institutionalised gender discrimination” alleging that it is been in existence for years. The primary allegations charged by the players was that they received lesser pay checks than their male counterparts. Apart from that they also pressed on the fact that the existing discrimination was also affecting their working conditions like the quality of medical treatment and coaching they receive, how often they are being trained and how they travel to matches.

Unfortunately, the ruling was against the women soccer team players. The ruling made by a Federal Judge rejected the central claim that the Women’s National Team was paid less than the Men’s National Team based on gender discrimination. The Justice ruled that the players didn’t prove “a triable issue that Women’s National Team players are paid less than Men’s National Team players.” The order was based on the evidence that US Women’s National Team players made more than the Men’s National Team overall and per game throughout the period under analysis.

TITLE IX: Title IX of the Education Code, 20 U.S.C.S. §§ 1681-1688, provides that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.[3]

Cohen v. Brown University, 101 F.3d 155 (1st Cir. 1996)

This case is commonly viewed as the most significant Title IX case ever to be decided. In 1991, Brown University declared that it was going to remove four sports: women’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, men’s golf, and men’s water polo. Brown University said the teams might still participate as club sports, but it was not going to offer university funding because of its economic snags. At that point, Brown’s student body included of 52% of male and 48% of female students, however 63% of its student-athletes were male. Amy Cohen, a member of the gymnastics team, sued Brown University alleging discriminatory treatment of women in the management of its interuniversity athletics program, thus, violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and its applying guidelines.[4]

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit acknowledged the district court’s ruling granting preliminary injunction to the petitioners. The court held that the University was violating Title-IX and remanded the case for Brown to submit alternative compliance plan.[5]               

CONCLUSION:

        With determination, poise, leadership skills and collaborative efforts, women are well prepared to challenge social standards which exist to dominate women and demote them to being inferior. However, inequality continues to exist everywhere in the world, and turns as a preventive factor to women’s involvement in sports. The cost of stimulating these customs has become progressively agreed, by transnational artists, governmental bodies, and people themselves. Taking spur from the willpower and commitment of women players from around the world, the upcoming generation of women can be encouraged to take part in sports. In the progress, these women are challenging the blocks which are present in their communities, rebutting gender stereotypes, and altering social standards, evidencing that women can outshine in all ways and activities if only given a chance.


[1] Travis Scheadler & Audrey Wagstaff, Exposure to Women’s Sports: Changing Attitudes Toward Female Athletes, Sport j, 05.06.2018,  https://thesportjournal.org/article/exposure-to-womens-sports-changing-attitudes-toward-female-athletes/

[2] Women 2000 and beyond, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs  (July, 10, 2020), https://www.sportanddev.org/sites/default/files/downloads/54__women_2000_and_beyond.pdf

[3] Cohen v. Brown Univ. – 101 F.3d 155 (1st Cir. 1996).

[4] US Legal (15 July, 2020), https://sportslaw.uslegal.com/title-ix-and-other-womens-issues/.

[5] Cohen v. Brown Univ. – 101 F.3d 155 (1st Cir. 1996).

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Author

Prathestha B. A.
Student - SASTRA Deemed to be University