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A Male-Hegemonic Society: How Gender Equality in Athletics Still Hasn’t Been Achieved

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Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth: what do these athletes all share in common? Sure, they are the greatest to ever play in their respective sports, but more evidently to a non-sport fan, they are all male. Females are not the faces of these sports.
Gender inequality is a prominent issue in today’s society. In continuation of the patriarchal tradition from the first modern-day Olympics in 1896, men are placed “over” women in America’s society, especially in sports (Schell). In regards to unequal funding, media portrayal of women, and segregation in sporting events, women have continued to be discriminated against, a major problem which isn’t being discussed across the nation. In order to solve this problem, I have brainstormed micro and macro-level solutions in which everyone can participate in.

My Interest in This Topic

Like stated in my video above (watch it for an overview on my webpage if you haven’t already), sports has been and is a huge part of my life. Having played since a very young age, I have been exposed to the basketball and soccer communities throughout the Bay Area. However, with the rise of social media in my teenage years, I have also seen people across the country comment on post after post on Instagram, labeling women as not able to play sports or not being interested at all in women athletics. Adding to the fact that many of my woman peers participate in sports, I would hate for any of these types of comments to be directed at them, and it is also just not true, as some of the best athletes in the world are amongst the female gender. Thus, the past couple of months, I have channeled this motivation into my research and have compiled the origin of this disgraceful stereotyping all the way up to the present day problem, along with pondering on reasonable solutions which we can all push for today.

U.S. Women’s National Team supporters protesting for compensation of equal pay in comparison to the U.S Men’s National Team

Why are Women Considered Inferior to Men in Sports?

The problem of females being disenfranchised in sports dates back to the era of Ancient Greeks, Romans, Asians, and Egyptians, who all used combat sport to prepare their men for war, encouraging the physique of “macho” men, or men who are muscular and have a low tolerance for pain (Burnett). Continuing the supremacy of males in athletics, an ideology called hegemony was introduced in the early 1900s by Italian Socialist, Antonio Gramsci. This ideology proposed that hegemony is achieved when the lower classes in society accept the upper class’ rule, which can be enforced through manipulation of education, media, or by any national outlets that lower classes have access to.

Boston Marathon official pushing Katherine Switzer, No.261, off the running course in 1967, three years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act.

Hegemony was quickly applied to the capitalist society of America, barring women to play in most sports since women were now regarded as “second class” due to society limiting their athletic abilities after they were not allowed to participate in the first Olympiad (Schell). Although women gradually gained access to participating in national sporting events, the race for equality in sports was still far from culmination. Around the Civil Rights Movement in the 1940s, a majority of women protested nationally for gender equality. After 24 years of protest, the Civil Rights Act was passed, making it illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, gender, or national origin (Aliprandini). However, in 1966, female professional athletes earned less than 50% of what male athletes were earning (Schell). There was no piece of legislation directly enforcing gender equality.

Title IX: The Solution to the Inequality… or was it?

In 1972, a landmark legislation, the Title IX of the Higher Education Act, was passed by Congress stating

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”

Title IX of the Higher Education Act, 1972

Supporters believed that the enforcement of the law in 1975 was necessary because, for the first time in history, it promoted equality in athletics: equality in recruitment, admissions, financial aid, counseling, scholarships, activities, facilities, insurance benefits, and programs, and forbid sexual harassment (Aliprandini). In 1987, the median salaries for athletic administrators for women were $11,000 below the median salaries for men. In 1991, the highest paid female sportscasters received $250,000 in pay while the highest paid male sportscasters received millions.

In 1995, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) applied a three-part test nationwide to clarify the Title IX law. Educational institutions had to meet ⅓ requirements: athletics had to be offered substantially proportionate with the student body, or in other words, the percentage of women who are athletes must be within a few percentage points of the percentage of women in the undergraduate student body; institutions had to show that they were expanding opportunities for female athletes; or institutions had to offer equal playing opportunity for females interested in those sports. However, defeating the purpose, most colleges ended up using the proportionality test as a way to meet the OCR’s requirement since the OCR assured that it was “safe”. As a result, most schools did not experience penalties, as most schools defined their own percentage difference (Aliprandini).

46 years after Title IX: the Problem is Still Relevant

Equal Play, Equal Pay

(From Left) Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn using the phrase “Equal Play, Equal Pay” three months after filing a complaint to against the U.S Soccer Federation for Wage Discrimination.

With the rise of media in the 21st century, major corporations have been allowed to showcase women athletics in front of a national audience. In the 2015 World Cup final, 27 million Americans tuned in making the game the most watched soccer match in U.S. history (Stoffers). Yet, despite winning the final, each woman on the team only received $75,000. Although that prize money may seem substantial, that is less than 25% of what each player on the men’s team would’ve made if they would’ve won their World Cup (which they lost in the quarterfinals in 2014).

A further look into the Gender Pay Gap between the USWNT and USMNT.

But the inequality continues on in sports trailing soccer. In the spring of 2016, Raymond Moore, the former director of the BNP Paribas Open Tournament for tennis who later resigned, proclaimed this after being questioned about Roger Federer winning $731,000 while Serena Williams only gained $495,000 despite both players’ coming in first place in the 2016 Western and Southern Open (Stoffers).

“If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night … and thank God that… Federer and… Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport”

Raymond Moore, former director of the BNP Paribas Open Tournament

However, at the high school and collegiate levels, actions have been successful in the fight for equality. In Indiana in 2012, the Franklin County High School girls’ basketball players sued their school for having to play primarily on weeknights, contradicting the weekend-heavy schedule of the men’s’ team (NWLW). Although the school ultimately agreed to reschedule their games proportionally to the men’s, they received a message from the school stating that the girls were “less important” and “inferior” to the boys. In 2014, more of the same transpired. The Sweetwater High School of California was accused of unequal opportunity to play sports, equal athletic facilities, coaching, and publicity. In retaliation, the school district fired the well-like softball head coach.

In the representative positions, women have continued to experience male dominance. As of February in 2011, five out of 120 athletic directors in women D-1 programs are female and 19% of collegiate athletic directors in all NCAA divisions are women (Cooky). Woman head coaching and athletic administrating have declined from over 90% to about 40% since the passing of Title IX, lower than at any time in history except for 2006.

What can we do to Solve the Missing Variable in this Inequality?

Although women have progressed towards the goal of equality in athletics, sexism and masculinity continue to dominate athletics. In order to solve this problem, I have brainstormed micro and macro-level solutions in which everyone can participate in. One solution which was proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul is one which all of society can address and can very likely get passed: the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) (Salam).

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Equal Rights Amendment

Its ratification would allow states to mediate in cases of gender violence, such as equal pay. Its success is yet to be determined: 37 states have ratified as of the writing of this informative paper, one more state away from continuing the process of the amendment becoming a law. If people can simply join groups in support of the E.R.A. or spread campaign slogans such as Emmy-winning Award “#Likeagirl” across social media platforms, the likelihood of persuading senators to ratify the amendment will increase (Berman). On a micro-level standpoint, a solution viable to anyone is to simply attend a women’s sporting event to gain interest or exert one’s already-high interest of women’s athletics. The rise in passion amongst millions can lead to legislation furthering the improvement of gender equality.

Always’ Commercial, Emmy Award Winner “#LikeAGirl” describing how girls are stereotyped into being “weak” in comparison to males in athletics leading to a decrease in morale during puberty.

Another solution I propose is to cease the precedent of women and men playing separately in respective sporting events. If the E.R.A. is passed, this termination will most likely occur. If not passed, I suggest that legislation on a city, state, or federal level should be passed forcing all non-contact sports to be integrated between the two genders. Obviously, there is a difference between the physical capabilities of the average male and average female. However, non-contact sports are solely based on skill. Hence, physical abilities will not play a huge factor in these competitions. By integrating the two genders, gender discrimination will be lessened throughout athletics. Furthermore, girls at a young age will be encouraged to play and gain interest in sporting competition while not being intimidated of being dominated in competition.

Jackie Young, the First Overall Pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft

In continuation of micro-level solutions, everyone should resist the urge to publish or comment anything deteriorating female status in athletics. For example, if a comment arises under an article or post describing a Women’s National Basketball Association player’s strong performance in a game which undermines the role of a woman in society, such as “That’s a nice looking apron” which sarcastically places women into the Separate Sphere of living in the kitchen, one should follow their conscience by reporting that person on the site (US History 10). By doing so, a surge of American citizens won’t let the theme of male athletic hegemony perpetuate.

(Skip to 0:21) an example of ex-NBA players Chris Webber (Left), Kenny Smith (Second to Right), and Charles Barkley (Right) Laughing at a joke in which many social media commenters derive the basis of their stereotypical comments from (Living in the Kitchen)

Finally, I propose that schools spend money equally towards men’ and women’s’ athletics. Ironically, although Title IX states that girls’ and boys’ teams must be treated equally, Title IX does not require equal spending on boys’ and girls’ teams (NWLW). Any person associated with a school offering athletics for girls and boys should approach athletic directors asking for equal pay in order to promote equality like Title IX attempts to. With the teams being equally funded, hopefully, this can lead to a reform in Title IX which would include equal funding for girls’ and boys’ teams in order to enforce equality between both genders which is still a long way from being achieved.

Now After Reading my Webpage, I ask you to Answer one of the Questions I Asked Before Scrolling Through my Webpage

Please Comment Below Any Questions or Feedback you have!

Works Cited

Aliprandini, Michael, and Geraldine Wagner. “Title IX Debate.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2018. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89158328&site=eds-live.

Always, director. Always. YouTube, YouTube, 29 Jan. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIxA3o84syY.

“Barkley says women milking pregnancy pain.” YouTube, uploaded by Adam Kingsley, 19 May 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSWl2oVD3W4. Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.

Berman , Jillian. “Why That ‘Like A Girl’ Super Bowl Ad Was So Groundbreaking.” Huffpost, 2 Feb. 2015, www.huffpost.com/entry/always-super-bowl-ad_n_6598328.

Bleacher Report. “The Las Vegas Aces have selected Jackie Young with the No. 1 pick in the #WNBADraft.” Instagram, 10 Apr. 2019, www.instagram.com/p/BwF8vrSFDJ-/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=126me8qx5bwvj.

Connell, Paul. “The Boston Globe.” The Boston Globe, Getty Images, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/sports/boston-marathon-kathrine-switzer.html.

Cooky, Cheryl, and Nicole m. Lavoi. “Playing but Losing Women’s Sports after Title Ix.” Contexts, vol. 11, no. 1, 2012, pp. 42–46. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41960748.

Cora Burnett. “Whose Game Is It Anyway? Power, Play and Sport.” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, no. 49, 2001, pp. 71–78. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4066495.

McCarthy, Niall. “The U.S. National Soccer Team’s Gender Pay Gap.” Statista, 1 Apr. 2016, www.statista.com/chart/4573/the-us-national-soccer-teams-gender-pay-gap/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019. Chart.

Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team are using the slogan “Equal Play Equal Pay” to promote their wage fight. The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 7 July 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/07/08/sports/soccer/us-womens-soccer-players-renew-their-fight-for-equal-pay.html. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

Salam, Maya. “What Is the Equal Rights Amendment, and Why Are We Talking About It Now?” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 22 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/us/equal-rights-amendment-what-is-it.html.

Schell, Lea A., and Stephanie Rodriguez. “Our Sporting Sisters: How Male Hegemony Stratifies Women in Sport.” Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, 2000, pp. 15. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/230655560?accountid=39972.

Stoffers, Carl. “Equal Pay for Equal Play? as Women’s Sports Become More Popular, Female Athletes Are Demanding to Be Paid like Their Male Counterparts.” New York Times Upfront, 9 Jan. 2017, www.questiaschool.com/read/1G1-477640951/equal-pay-for-equal-play-as-women-s-sports-become.http://www.questiaschool.com/read/1G1-477640951/equal-pay-for-equal-play-as-women-s-sports-become.

“The U.S. National Team’s Gender Pay Gap.” Statista, Statista Charts, 1 Apr. 2016, infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_4573_the_us_national_soccer_teams_gender_pay_gap_n.jpg. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

USWNT vs. USMNT equal pay discussion and its complexity. Sports Illustrated, TI Gotham, 13 Apr. 2016, www.si.com/planet-futbol/2016/04/13/usmnt-uswnt-equal-pay-wage-discrimination-graham-zusi. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

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COMMENTS: 3
  1. April 26, 2019 by Sophie Coutu Reply

    I love your webpage! It was really interesting and a problem that definitely needs to be addressed. I think the history of the problem is very interesting and I learned a lot from your project!

  2. April 27, 2019 by Justin Reply

    This was a well-researched project, which opened my eyes on the topic! Your use of evidence, whether it be, quotes, images of statistics, or videos, complimented your persuasive writing. Have you thought of also exploring the difference between women’s athletic uniforms vs. men’s which is thought to sexualize the female body?

  3. April 28, 2019 by Jaedon Wong Reply

    I thought your project was very strong and informative! Not only was your research well composed, but the videos and images you also incorporated were well chosen. I especially like the #Likeagirl video. It truly resonated with me. I feel as if I am more capable to help tackle this problem in the future after reading your project! Good job!

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