For Women’s Sports Week, four members of the the H+K Sports team tasked themselves to give their perspective on the below statement in 250 words. Here you can find the different opinions from both a male and female point of view.
Girls are more suited to some sports over others and we shouldn’t strive for equal gender participation in every sport
We shouldn’t expect equal participation in every sport, but it’s not about women being more suited to some sports. It’s about choice.
Gender equality is about removing the barriers that effect one gender more than the other, to ensure that no one is limited from playing any sport. This Girl Can has worked so brilliantly because it focuses on one of these barriers – body image – disproportionately more likely to stop women playing sport.
But take away these barriers and that doesn’t mean 50-50 participation in every sport. It’s about giving women the opportunity to make a choice, not dictating that they should be doing the same sport to the same level as men. Given a level playing field, men and women will naturally make different choices. Take music or movies, where some genres are more popular amongst women than men, and vice versa.
Instead of programmes that look to even up numbers, we should be focused on the elements that get in the way of women choosing sport. As the gap closes, increasingly women’s sport doesn’t have a participation problem, it has a promotion problem. Shockingly, research has suggested that outside of major events like the Olympics, less than 5% of coverage of sport is about women. Unbelievably, only 3% of articles are written by women. This is an issue that should be simple to change, and yet it never does. This should be our focus, as if young women are exposed to women’s sport in a real way, participation will take care of itself. Not evening up numbers, but giving everyone the freedom to make a real choice.
Men and women are built differently. It’s a fact. I hate to admit it but boys are naturally faster and stronger than girls.
However, the debate over whether we are all more suited to some sports over others is not a question of natural physicality but of social norms.
In an age where media impacts on every aspect of our lives, before children can talk they’re already being influenced by these social norms. In sport, these norms dictate which sports boys and girls are more ‘suited’ to. Girls play netball, boys play football. Girls do ballet and boys do judo. The list goes on.
In my view, if every child, irrespective of gender, was given the opportunity to choose a sport without being influenced by social norms, I don’t believe we would even be discussing gender participation in sport. The issue isn’t a lack of equal participation; it’s a lack of opportunity to make one’s own choice without subconscious influence.
Sadly, these norms are steeped throughout our lives. They’re the very foundations on which our society is built and exist at the very core of our childhoods; playgrounds were introduced for boys to ensure they grew up big and strong.
However, media has a great role to play in re-educating society and shining a light on positive role models of both genders across all sports such as Sarah Turner, England’s WRFU captain and Nile Wilson, the British Gymnast.
The more we can give boys and girls alike the opportunity to be inspired by athletes who are breaking the mould the better. Perhaps then we’ll see participation across the board increase, which is the only number I care about.
In 1979, former Democrat, Hinda Miller, invented the very first sports bra. How did she do it? By sewing together two of her husband’s jockstraps. Unfortunately the relationship between men and women in sport hasn’t always been so progressive.
Traditionally, girls, women, and femininity have all been defined in relation to boys, men and masculinity. The sports world has learned to obsess over masculine achievement, with a history of bias against the female athlete. In the past few decades this has started to change. Negative and ill-considered concepts suggesting that they should not participate in sports, sweat, or show aggression, have been kicked into touch. Now, sports fans are starting to include physical strength and athletic prowess in the definition of femininity. Stereotypes are changing.
Many will not realise that is was only in the 1800s when women were invited to participate in organised sports, but even then, they were limited to the likes of croquet, ice-skating and archery. These sports of course, were chosen as they didn’t require any physical contact. You see I’m uncomfortable with putting people in pigeonholes. I don’t even think pigeons belong in pigeonholes, but to think that this view was widely accepted, is quite baffling. To say that a certain sport is more suited to a one gender hinders opportunity, and to hinder opportunity will only create division, something we don’t need any more of.
In my eyes, it’s important to split this sentence into two.
Girls are more suited to some sports over others – disagree.
We shouldn’t strive for equal gender participation in every sport – agree.
For me it isn’t about equal participation. It’s about equal opportunity. Girls should have the right to play any sport they please, we’re all human, we’re all made of the same stuff and yes, we might have physiological differences, but if you’re competing against your own sex anyway, it doesn’t matter whether it’s typically a ‘boys’ sport.
This in itself is part of the problem. People talk about ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sports from such a young age which instils the perception in people that some sports are more suited to females than others. Look at school PE. Boys play rugby and football, girls, hockey and netball. It’s so subconsciously drilled into you that you don’t think anything of it, but when you actually digest it for a second, there is absolutely no reason for this divide at all.
When we start looking at it in terms of participation, we become warped as to what the issue is. The issue isn’t trying to get more girls playing a particular sport, it’s about making them feel like they can be physically active (in whatever way they choose) without being stereotyped. Naturally, increased participation is a direct result of this, but by striving for equal participation in certain sports, we’re completely missing the wider objective at hand.
As long as the opportunity is there, who cares whether or not participation is equal.