Examining the progress and problems of gender equality in the world of sports
Long Island, NY – Sports on all levels conjure up certain feelings in every fan and follower. Whether it’s your child’s soccer game, a high school playoff game, or the Super Bowl, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are why people love the game. But in the world of sports and 40 years after title IX, gender-related issues regarding equality, public attention, and fair treatment have been pushed to the forefront.
The issues regarding equality of both genders in the world of sports are well-documented and clearly observed among habitual fans. On the other hand, certain triumphs that women have had in what many consider a man’s world have also been documented. In recent times, there have been some women that have been able to excel in a male-dominated sport, such as Danica Patrick in NASCAR or Mo’Ne Davis and her 70 mile-per-hour pitching which stunned anyone who followed this year’s Little League World Series.
But are these inspirational stories powerful enough to create further equality among men and women in sports, especially on the amateur level? According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, the answer is no. According to their web page on title IX, “Men’s college athletics receive more money than women’s in scholarships, recruiting, head coach salaries, and operating expenses,” as well as higher opportunities for employment in that field.
Some feminists, like Jordan Danner, think that the issues of women and their participation in sports start from an early age. Speaking from a social standpoint, Danner said “Yeah, as much as there has been progress, there needs to be more done.” This sentiment from someone who wants an equal playing field for women is only one aspect of what many believe is a complex and convoluted issues.
In addition to this train of thought which was bluntly explained by Mr. Danner, recreation leaders and youth sports organizers have attempted to resolve these issues as well. Tom Harkins, a retired administrator with Smithtown Recreation, a youth sports and summer camp program in Smithtown, Long Island, also feels that getting women involved in sports needs to start at a younger age. Harkins, in an interview on Monday, said “In amateur and collegiate sports, we’ve come a long way in promoting women’s sports. When I was with (Smithtown Recreation), our objective on a ground level was to provide equal time in sports for both boys and girls. While there were some obvious differences in how we addressed this, such as with baseball for boys and softball for girls, there is quite an array of offerings that we provided and still do.” Additionally, Harkins felt that the reason why girls aren’t driven toward sports is based on gender-driven logic. “It’s a long haul to change people’s mindsets,” Harkins added.
Collegiate athletics is one of the more notable battlegrounds for equality among genders in the world of sports. Danielle Bitts is a student-athlete at Long Island’s Hofstra University who also feels that more needs to be done to promote women’s sports. “I think we still have a long way to go. We’ve seen first hand how dominant female athletes can be but the media fails to acknowledge it,” Bitts said. When asked about whether women can compete at the same level as men in sports, Bitts felt that women simply don’t get the attention. “I think we have reached the point where everyone knows that women can compete at the same level as men yet they still don’t get the credit they deserve.”
Josh Deford, a camera operator for Madison Square Garden network, has seen the differences in popularity in men’s and women’s sports and thinks that a combination of cultural and physical differences between men and women are the reason why women have struggled to obtain the same attention. “The WNBA for example is a woman’s fan base. Naturally, there aren’t as many female sports fans as there are male fans.” When asked if women can directly compete with men in sports, Deford felt that it’s physically impossible. “I don’t have a problem with women being able to try out for men’s sports. Let them fail on their own. They’d never be able to make a sport like the NBA.”
Other people who work in the world of sports, like Chris D’Andrea, who works for the New York Mets, are highly doubtful that women’s sports will ever exceed or be as popular as their male counterparts. “I believe we have done our best to try and promote women’s sports and we have failed. But a woman in a man’s sport is a different story. If a woman has more talent than a man in a sport, they should be able to compete with them. Mo’Ne Davis is a great example of how we accept women in men’s sports.” When asked about the progress made by women in sports, D’Andrea was confident in stories like Davis’ domination last August bringing more attention to women in men’s sports. “You got to start somewhere and this story about this girl is great, I really hope she sticks with baseball and makes it in the majors. That will motivate a lot more women to try and make it in a man’s world.”
According to Sport and Development’s website at sportanddev.org, the definition of equality in sports has evolved from being “advocating for ‘gender equity in sport’ towards using ‘sport for gender equity and personal development’.” This slight definition change reflects the progress and development women have made as well as the continuing concerns they still face in the world of sports. As the sports world heads into the year 2015 and beyond, the questions of whether women can ably compete with men for attention as well as on the field will continue to be asked.