Sports as a Culture of Oppresion If one Googles ‘greatest athletes of all time,’ several headshots of athletes will appear. Of the 51 athletes that you can scroll through, 5 of these are women. Raising awareness of women in sports is important because women don’t get recognized enough not only in the world of sports but in society as a whole. Today, society has seen a new third-wave of feminism that I claim is crucial for the progression of our society and for an area that is infamously known for being sexist: sports. The phrase ‘you hit like a girl’ is very well know across the U.S and is used to describe a female’s lack of physical strength. This negative view towards women is held across the board with physical activities, especially in sports. The quote, “How can she compete with a man when she’s a woman?” from the TV series Pitch, sticks out for that reason.
Women are thought to be the less physically-able of the sexes, even when the woman has incredible athletic talent, like Ginny. Ginny was mocked and questioned by reporters in terms of her ability, something male players didn’t experience. A scenario that makes me think about this was an interview that occurred earlier in the year with famous tennis player Andy Murray. I watched a video of the interview and in in the reporter stated that Murray was the first American player to reach the semi-final of a Slam since 2009.
Murray was quick to interrupt as stated, “Male player.” Serena and Venus Williams, Madison Keys, and Coco Vandeweghe are all US players who have qualified for that tittle since 2009. This raises some red flags because not only are women already thought to be less than men in terms of sports, but when women do compete and show that they can in fact perform at the same level or above as their male counterparts, their achievements is disregarded. This is a concept that is new to me, it is called casual sexism. Casual sexism refers to a microaggresion directed towards a woman that is offensive but might not seem like it at fist glance. The phrase ‘you hit like a girl’ is casual sexism.
Jess’ mother in the film Bend it like Beckham exercised causal sexism a lot. She tried to fit Jess into her traditional gender role by the clothes she wore and the activities she spent her time on. It’s important to talk about this because the difficulties surrounding women in sports has formed a culture of oppression. When women are doubted from the very beginning of their athletic career, that is enforcing the sexism found in sports. It gets to a point where women having a role on a male sports team is something that is seen as unrealistic and wrong. I recently saw a video on social media talking about a girl who is aiming to be the NFL’s first female kicker.
People In the comment section were going crazy talking about how she could never make it and how her small body could not handle it. It is as if these people didn’t even watch the video to know she is just a kicker, yet they presented their sexism so freely. Oppression and sexist culture in sports is so deep-rooted because of the long history of feminist issues the United States and the whole world has seen. Women have had to fight for their right to vote, to work, and recently to be seen just as a human and not a piece of meat. I bring this up because often in sports the concern with women getting involved is whether they can handle such intense physical action. This is a silly concern to have because women proved in the second wave of feminism that they could do the jobs men did just as well as they did.
This second wave occurred during World War II as men were leaving overseas. This left a lot on jobs open and women were the ones that took over the jobs, especially manufacturing ones, to support the war effort. Though this doesn’t seem related to sports much, it is actually a fact that crushed the belief women are fragile and can’t take physical work. I finish this paper with a call to action. Women are under a culture of oppression and the world of sports is only further exercising that oppression. Their physical and mental abilities are put under a spotlight to be debated by everyone in their life: family, friends, and fans. Even when women achieve athletic greatness, they are often overlooked in comparison to men.
Sports fans, players, coaches, anyone who is involved with sports should be aware of the sexism that occurs and strive to do something about it. Even it is simply educating oneself about ways to stop microaggresions and casual sexism or learning more about female athletes, that goes a long way. Female athletes deserve much more recognition than what they are given. They deserve better and we as a society need to do better, we need to be better.