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Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Student Papers
On Serendip

Final Paper

Aubrey Strohl


Today, we are seeing many changes in regard to gender and its place in the athletic world. More than ever, men and women are crossing "gender boundaries" and entering a non-traditional sport for their sex. Of course this boundary crossing is significant culturally and socially as it challenges conventional view of male and female characteristics and roles. When altering a customary view of gender in a society, there are both costs and benefits to that society. This paper will discuss the costs and benefits to a traditionally male-centered culture when women and men cross gender lines in sport, and provide examples of different sports in which gender lines are being erased.

Allowing men and women to play a sport regardless of what sex tradition relegates to that particular sport is an important idea in the world today. We are entering an age in which emphasis is put on equality and human rights. As technology continues to make the world seem smaller and smaller, bringing the international community together in ways not possible before, heightened awareness of nations' human rights policies is occurring. I absolutely believe that gender equality is a human right, and that if we do not acknowledge this fact, there could be serious political or even economic repercussions. Prejudice in any form cannot afford to exist in the international community if we all hope to live together in peace and progress. Women play an important role in this community, including the world of sports. Females need to be taken seriously in athletics if they are to be taken seriously at all. To say that a female cannot play sports is to imply that she is weaker than a male, and thus her worth and credibility are tarnished. Boxing, for example, is a traditional male sport that women were not encouraged to participate in until fairly recently. However, women such as Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier demonstrate that women can not only be good boxers, but champion boxers. Also, bodybuilding is a traditional male sport in which women have been participating. Andrea Silva-Izard and Laura Binetti are two currently well-known body builders. Even another "male" sport into which women have made an entrance is racecar driving. Sarah Fisher and Allison Duncan are two well-known drivers.

Yet, allowing women into "male" sports only solves half the problem of gender equality. Men must be allowed to participate in sports traditionally seen as female orientated. Although I tried to research men who might be competing in "female" sports such as field hockey and synchronized swimming, I was only able to find information on the United States Men's Field Hockey Team. Unfortunately, it seems that very few men participate in "female" sports. This may be partially due, of course, to the fact that there are very few sports that are seen as female orientated.

I may be somewhat shortsighted in my view and comprehension of the costs of crossing gender barriers in athletics, however the only cost I see is the loss of restrictive traditional views of femininity and masculinity. I believe that a society demonstrates its progressiveness and open-mindedness by acknowledging human rights and equality. Allowing men and women to participate in a sport regardless of their gender does not detract from a society, it only shows the culture's ability to free itself from the chains of backward and oppressive tradition.

In conclusion, changes are taking place in society that advocate gender equality in sports. These changes need to continue if both men and women are to be respected as equals. Although male-orientated culture may fall in prominence, this is a small cost when human rights are involved.





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