The Enigma of Equality

Equality is often a difficult concept to define. Many people may believe that our society is far from reaching a state of equality (which there is definitely evidence to support), while others may claim that our society is generally as fair and just as it should be (which can be a valid argument). Much like the idea of disability, equality is dependent on the way in which it is defined by the individuals discussing it.

There are a number of different ways in which we may view the concept of genuine equality. Now, there is absolutely no doubt that equality is nonexistent in a society in which equal opportunity and treatment are not given to individuals based on truly trivial characteristics, like gender or race. However, if one defines “equality,” the ultimate, idealistic, utopian idea of it, as simply an equality of opportunity, then our society may be on the verge of achieving that; however, if true “equality” is defined as an equality of outcome, then we may be quite far from reaching that point. According to many statistics (compiled in Claire Cain Miller’s New York Times article: Pay Gap is because of Gender, Not Jobs“), women in some fields may be paid as low as two-thirds the salary of their male counterparts. With no evidence that this disparity is due to anything but gender, it can be seen as very reasonable toargue that our country has a long way to go to achieve what many people would call genuine equality.

Jackie Robinson paved the way for racial equality in American sports

In the realm of athletics, equality is certainly not a new topic of conversation. Few would argue that system of professional baseball of the past was an equal and just system. Until the great Jackie Robinson came along in the late 1940’s, professional baseball was separated into an all-white major league, and the far less prestigious “Negro league baseball.” This idea, now something that seems preposterous, was considered the acceptable during that time period. This change in attitude can be accredited to both the extreme change in societal norms over the past six decades along with the redefinition of what equality is.

Caster Semenya is a frequently discussed individual when it comes to equality in athletics

Today, almost all sports leagues are entirely accepting of different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds (though some leagues, professional and amateur, may wind up all-one-race due to socioeconomic settings), and race is not often a topic of discussion in regards to equality in sports. Nowadays, the discussion exists regarding different topics. An example of one-such topic is brought up in Ariel Levy’s article “Either/Or“: the story of Caster Semenya, a South African runner whose sex is frequently questioned. Though she identifies as female, certain physiological characteristics do give her a definite edge over her other female competitors. These advantages are, however, are not fabricated in any way; she did not take any form of performance-enhancing drug or take any steps to unfairly gain an edge over her fellow athletes. So the question arises: should further steps be made to ensure equality in athletic competition?

Many may argue that what makes athletic competition so great is that each competitor has to work with the talents and physical traits that they were dealt. These same people would make the argument that because Semenya was born the way she is, she deserves the advantage that her particular physiological traits give her. The thought of somehow altering athletes’ hormonal makeup to create a more level playing field makes the idea of competition seem a thing of the past. If all people were created equal, than, consequently, no one was created special. Whichever idea you side with, make sure you take one thing into consideration: what is true equality?


2 thoughts on “The Enigma of Equality

  1. This article really caught my attention and made me think of how I view equality in athletics. I agree with your last point regarding physical equality in sports. If someone was born with an attribute that gives them a slight advantage, they should reap the rewards of having this quality. If all people were created equal in this sense, there would be little to no competition in the world of athletics. Even though I agree that this type of equality should not be tampered with, I do believe that we should view athletes and specific sports equally. As you stated in this post, gender wage differences are one example of how gender differences create inequality. This can be applied to sports in many different contexts, for example in how women’s athletics are generally less viewed and have a smaller fan basis than men’s athletics. For equality in both society and in athletics to truly take effect, we need to address the underlying social issues that are at play and see how we can change certain policies to ensure true equality.


  2. This article was very intriguing as you noted whether people should all start on the same playing field. I feel the biology and genetics play a huge role in athletics as they give some people better body types and structures suitable for certain sports. It is not a coincidence that Archie Manning, a former NFL quarterback, is the father of Superbowl champion quarterbacks, Eli and Peyton Manning. However, this does not mean that Eli, Peyton, or any other athlete is playing unfairly or not competitively. People still practice day in and day out and use their amazing talents to succeed at something they were born to excel in. This argument if it was the case of height instead of hormone levels, would be exactly the same, but regarded completely differently. If people said that 7-foot basketball players are born with an ability that helps them play basketball, and this is therefore unfair, the world would laugh at the absurdity of that statement. However, in the case of Caster, people were very adamant to fight for “equality.” Personally, I feel that in a world of professionalism, competitiveness, and judgement, equality is impossible to some extent.


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