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The Treatment Of A Women In Sports

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1265 words
Social Issues

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"Women are always nervous about being aggressive. Parents don't even realize this. And it's not done on purpose. But girls are taught to be passive from the pink blanket to when she falls down, to how they are held, how they are talked to, how they are told they are pretty. If a boy falls down, the father says, "Get up, you're okay." If a girl falls down, they say, "Oh, are you all right?" She's being told to be passive. If a woman is aggressive, people say she's a bitch, they don't like it. But women and men need to be appropriately aggressive. And we're not."
Hall of Fame tennis player
- Billie Jean King

Women's Professional sports? In early 20th century the idea of women engaging in an aggressive or even a 'perspiring' sport was unthinkable. Throughout history women have been creating stepping stones to achieve parity in exposure in compensation that is provided in today's male sports world. With the 1996 induction of the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) a substantial leap was overcome, and the precedence of women in sports was changed not only for the 90's but forever. Only with the help of Title IX legislation and the persistence of women athletes to demand equality was such an accomplishment to be achieved. Although, women are making strives towards equality, and making progress in acknowledging females for their athletic ability, there are still many signs of sexism and poor treatment because of their endeavors.

Even today with the press towards a new 'equalitarian attitude' women athletes still encounter the old school view of the norm and the politics of a male dominated realm. This being the case women are still being ridiculed for playing sports. Many females with athletic ability are being stereotyped as 'Lesbian' or masculine simply because of their accomplishments in sports. Simply stated, this is just another form of ridicule to hold down women in society. Is this sexism or 'machismo' ever going to change? Through research I hope to grasp an understanding or the premise behind this type of treatment of women in today's sports world.


Growing up it was understood that the girl's part in sports was to be the cheerleaders on the sidelines, with pom-poms, short skirts, letter sweaters, and those funky white shoes. Girls weren't athletes, they weren't supposed to be. Sweating was very unladylike, and the idea of getting dirty was even worse. Even their participation in gym class was nothing more than the fulfillment of an educational requirement. Girls certainly couldn't perform great feats of strength, speed, and agility. Women's feats in athletics have been evolving to a greater level whether it be Martina Navratilova's performance in battle with Chris Evert at Wimbledon and the French Open. Or, Billie Jean King's sound defeat of Bobby Riggs in the infamous battle of the sexes at the Houston Astrodome. Many observers had finally heralded the accomplishments of these women as proof that modern women had finally cast off the physical and psychological shackles of the past. Yet others looked less favorably on these developments, perceiving women's entrance into the sports arena as an unsettling and unwelcome intrusion into the realm of masculinity.

In the early seventies, as sexism became a household word, women began to resent the lack of college scholarships, the limited travel schedules, and the bake sales. They began to seek greater challenges, wider arenas in which to stretch, move, and run. 'We want what the men have'! The Title IX passage to the Education Amendments Act of 1972, helped cross some of these unequal barriers for women in sports. Although, as we approach the year 2000, nearly twenty-five years after the passage of Title IX, girls and women in sports are still fighting an uphill battle. It is unbelievable that in 1999 girls and women in sports remain challenged by out-of-date beliefs and by an athletic system that is reluctant to change and continues to subdue equitable advances. The real questions is whether or not we truly will ever have equality is sports?


In layman's terms, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funds. In brief it states: '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' (Salter 5-6). Title IX requires proportional participation opportunities. The percentage of female athletes in the athletic program (numbers of athletes, not numbers of teams) needs to match the percentage of girls in your student body. It has provided women with greater athletic participation opportunities and more equitable facilities in addition to raising the salaries of coaches for women's teams allowing them exposure to higher caliber fundamentals and knowledge. As a direct reflection of these opportunities, Title IX has managed for women to receive athletic scholarships and in turn, opportunities for higher education that some may not have been able to afford otherwise.

Although, these are great strides in the progress women and girls have made under Title IX legislation they still fall far short of achieving gender equity. "The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the organization that is charged with enforcing Title IX, is under funded and, despite the reluctance of schools to comply with the gender equity, has never pulled federal funding from schools or colleges that discriminate against women and girls" (Feminist Majority Foundation; Series #4). Enforcement of Title IX has, instead, been left to individuals. Women and girls have been left to file lawsuits on their own to challenge discriminatory practices in schools and colleges. While almost all of these lawsuits tend to favor of women athletes and coaches, this is an expensive and time-consuming avenue toward gender equity. Should this be something that is on the mind of an athlete when she is striving to mentally prepare herself for the sport? To excel and become the best at what she has worked so hard to achieve? Many don't realize the effects that this may have on the performance of an athlete (male or female).

Since the passage of Title IX, for the most part resistance has come from those who argue that the further we step towards equity in sports it will ruin college football. Traditionally, NCAA has dedicated substantial proportions of athletic department budgets to football programs, including a disproportionately large number of scholarships. Advocates for maintaining this imbalance suggest that it be warranted due to the revenue generated by football. The reality of it is that although many feel football is a key economic contributor to athletic funding, football is only 20% of the teams are making profit and 33% are actually losing money out of 554 schools that had teams in 1995. (Coakley, p.225) While this myth has been laid to rest this is just another example of the types of excuses backed by false information continues to hold down opportunity in women's athletics. Before it was said that women couldn't / shouldn't play because there was no funding available, now that resources have been allocated (from various sources), the story turns to finger pointing. Who is really taking from whom?

With Title IX setting the pathway of opportunity, there are several other areas that will need to be addressed in order for an "understanding" or middle ground to be found when it comes to the participation both ...

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