3 Inequalities in sport
In the previous section you reflected on your own experiences of gender discrimination. Now, let’s look at how some of these inequalities are evident in top-level sport by examining global sporting events. You will start by examining gender at the Olympic Games.
Activity 4 Have we come a long way?
At the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, no women were allowed to compete. In this activity you will examine the progress that has been made in women’s sport since that time.
- Look at Table 1, which shows the gender balance at each of the Olympic Games up to 2012. What pattern do you notice since 1908 in relation to the three London Olympics held, and does this type of analysis give us the full picture of gender in sport?
- Read the journal article
. As you read, answer the following questions:
- a.What is the purpose of this article?
- b.What are the key points arising from the article?
- c.What is the purpose of a review paper?
Table 1 Male and female athletes in the modern summer Olympic Games, 1896–2012
|Year||Place||Countries represented||Male athletes||Female athletes||Percentage female|
|1916||Olympics scheduled for Berlin cancelled (First World War)|
|1940||Olympics scheduled for Tokyo cancelled (Second World War)|
|1944||Olympics cancelled (Second World War)|
- If you compare the percentages of female competitors at the three London Olympics, you can see that there has been a substantial improvement, with an increase from 1.8% in 1908 to 9.5% in 1948 and to 44.3% in 2012. This suggests that great strides towards gender equality have been taken, but does this show us the full picture? The data from the 2012 Olympics suggests that we have almost reached gender equality. However, the recognisability of women in sport is still less than that of men, so perhaps gender equality is further away than the participation data would suggest.
- a.The purpose of the article is to raise awareness of the unequal representation of women in sport. This shows that participation data (such as that shown in Table 1) does not give us the full picture.
- b.Fink notes that while there is an increasing number of women in sport, there is unequal media coverage. Furthermore, she analyses how female athletes are represented in the media. For example, she uses the term ‘gender marking’ when suggesting that male athletes and men’s sport are seen as ‘the norm’, rendering women and women’s sporting competition as secondary. Additionally, she highlights ‘infantilising’, which is when female athletes who are highly accomplished are referred to as ‘girls’ or ‘young ladies’. Skilled male athletes are rarely referred to as ‘boys’. She argues that the media focus on sex appeal, femininity and female athletes’ roles as wives, girlfriends and mothers instead of focusing on their accomplishments.
- c.The purpose of a review paper is to provide a concise and coherent account of what is known in the particular field. The aim is to position the research into context, identifying strengths and weaknesses, questioning the design of the existing research and suggesting future areas of research to investigate.
Although participation in the Olympics has edged closer to gender equality in terms of participation rates, evidence suggests that gender discrimination does still occur in sport (Fink, 2014). In order to explore this further you will examine the experience of women’s football.
Activity 5 Gender discrimination in football
Watch the video below which shows clips taken from the BBC programme Sexism in Football, aired in 2012, and complete the questions/tasks that follow.
- In the video, there are quite a few references to women’s experiences of gender discrimination. Select an example and consider how sexism relates to gender discrimination.
- How can you link an example back to Fink’s (2014) paper in the previous activity?
- Sadly, many examples of sexism were highlighted in the clip. Two notable examples are:
- a.Andy Gray and Richard Keys making sexist assumptions about a female football referee links to gender discrimination because the woman in question is being treated less well because of her sex.
- b.Manchester United fans chanting ‘Get your tits out’ at Gabby Logan. Again, this is an act of gender discrimination because the woman is being sexualised and treated less well because of her sex. Sir Bobby Charlton stands up towards the end of the game and pulls his top up to expose himself to the fans. This gesture could be viewed as an act of defiance and a way to highlight the different treatment that men and women receive in sport.
- Fink’s (2014) work enables you to understand the differences in the way women and men are treated in sport, as well as providing understandings for why this is.
Hopefully Activities 4 and 5 have helped you to understand that equality means more than just equal numbers of women and men in sport.
In the next section you will investigate the idea of gender ideologies in sport. Gender ideologies are a set of beliefs typical of how men and women are expected to behave and be treated. Key to these beliefs is the culture of masculinity, which you will also explore in the next section.