Sports and gender bias

From a young age, girls are taught to play with dolls and to be gentle. Boys on the other hand, are taught to play sports and to get dirty. Therefore, an athlete who wants to break these stereotypes, such as a male cheerleader, or a female football player, has a difficult path ahead of him/her.

It is no question that more and more girls are taking the field of sports typically reserved for their male counterparts. Many people believe that it is wrong for various reasons, such as the physicality of males versus females, the message that it sends to boys that it is okay to hit girls, and that it strips women of their femininity.

As Americans, we tend to cling to the old philosophical idea that women are less capable than men. This idea stemmed from the individuals that were against women suffrage. They believed that women could simply not handle the pressures of politics. Similar people said that women could not handle sports and physical activity. Clearly, both of these statements have been proven wrong. Yet, some people still believe that women can’t play sports like men. Today, women are taking the field and hitting the mats with their male counterparts, and, in some cases, winning. Just look at Danielle Coughlin, a female wrestler who just this last February won the state title in Massachusetts. Women are not only playing with the boys, they are competing.

Not only are girls revoked of the right to play sports typically reserved for males, but also their sports are severely restricted. Take cross-country for example. In the state of Wisconsin, girls run a 4k while the boys run a 5k. This is a long standing principle from the 1970’s in which it was believed that women simply could not run farther than that. But times have changed, and women compete in marathons on a regular basis. So why are high school students limited to a 4k? Not only does this policy affect our running performance in Wisconsin (no female high school runner has qualified for the Foot Locker National Championships), but it also reinforces a stereotype that women cannot run as far as men. Female students do compete in 5k races outside of season for recreation. It is time to change our stereotyping ways that limit performances.

Women are not the only people being limited by stereotypes. Men are told that they should not be a cheerleader or a dancer. The men that choose to do so are instantly referred to as “gay” and are judged from the moment they step out onto the field or the court. Is it right to put people down or insult them for following their passion and doing something that they love?

Not all male athletes are going to dance though. Many boys are deciding to play sports such as rugby, lacrosse, and field hockey. In many school districts; however, there are only girl’s teams available for these sports. Controversy surrounded a young boy who wanted to play field hockey but didn’t have a boys’ team to play with. He joined the girls and proved himself to be a valuable member of the team. Some parents; however, became aggravated at the fact that he was on the team. The league refused to let him play any further saying that he was, “too good”. Is this the message that we want to send to our children? If you become too good, you can’t play. Also, this young boy is being restricted from playing a sport that he loves. One player does not make an entire team. The idea that he is the sole factor in them winning their games is simply not logical. In court, it came out that the boy was discriminated against because they believed that he was stronger than the other players and therefore had an advantage. In reality, the boy was undersized for his age and smaller than most of the girls. But even if he was stronger, the better competition would only help to improve the girls and better their overall game. In this situation, the male also learns to play at a different physicality.

Although it is true that boys can be stronger and faster, girls play dirtier. In my experience with scrimmaging the boys, they tend to call more petty fouls than the girls do. It is my belief that playing with other genders is not only tolerable, but it is also beneficial.