Equality. What does that mean? What does that mean in sports for men and for women? Is it merely the right for a woman and a man to be able to play the same sports? Is it really that cut and dry? Not exactly and here’s why. Continue reading GLMS: Girls League for Meaningful Sports
By now, most of us have heard of 13-year-old pitching phenom Mo’ne Davis, who caught the world’s attention at last summer’s little league world series by delivering a show-stopping complete game shutout. Against all boys. What made her performance so fascinating, in my eyes, is that she expected to pitch that well, even though she was pitching against all boys at the highest level of little league baseball. We have seen Michelle Wie compete in men’s golf tournaments, but rarely do we see a performance by a female while competing against men quite like Mo’ne Davis’s.
Unless your name is Samantha Gordon. Because in that case, outcompeting and running all over boys is just another day at the office. If you have never heard of Sam Gordon before, I suggest you get used to hearing her name a lot because her football highlights are going to be shown on SportsCenter for years to come. Not to mention a picture of her on the cover of Wheaties. And she’s only 11 years old, for crying out loud. (If I recall correctly, I was concerned about not spilling any Wheaties; not being on the flipping cover of it). For those that don’t know about Samantha or her unbelievable football talent, her highlights first went viral about two years ago and resurfaced about few weeks ago. And just like Mo’ne, Samantha was playing with all boys.
But why don’t we see women compete in men’s sports more often? And why can’t women’s sports gain the popularity that comes with men’s athletics?
In today’s society, a girl who plays basketball is usually considered as more masculine than feminine. This is an inherent problem that is rooted in the way that we – as a society – socially construct gender. There is an intrinsic difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ that many people seem to forget. In terms of biology, there are males and females. However, masculinity and femininity is the way in which we as a society associate these sexes. Furthermore, an example of a masculine gender norm is one of athleticism, strength, aggression, and power. On the other hand, a feminine gender norm encompasses women as nurturers, domestic, overly emotional, and weak.
Unfortunately, women who are very talented at athletics are seen as freaks of nature. This is a commonly held stereotype that many people posses. Thus, when I was 13 years old and starting a new middle school, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to try out for the girl’s basketball team. In 7th grade, I wanted to ensure that my new middle-school reputation was perfect in order to become a member of the popular girls. At my school, the popular girls embodied what I interpreted feminism to be. For example, they solely wore pink clothes, gossiped about boys, wore a full face of makeup, and stylized their hair perfectly. Most importantly, this Mean Girls type of group would never think twice about playing a sport – especially not basketball.
Throughout elementary school, I was the star player on the girl’s basketball team. In elementary school, all of my friends were also on the team and I did not think twice about being perceived in a masculine manner. It was almost expected that I would go on to play basketball at my new middle school because of how talented I was.
In early September, my mom drove me to school and wished me luck on the first day of girl’s basketball team try-outs. I decided not to tell my mom that I was unsure of whether or not I would try out because I knew she would be angry with me for trying to be someone that I was not.
That same day, the popular girls invited me to sit with them during lunch and I had the best time. After that lunch, I decided against trying out because I wanted to fit into my new group of friends who would never be caught dead playing basketball. I sat through my next two class periods in a quandary. Should I give up doing something that I love to fit into a group of girls? Or should I be myself and not care what anyone else thought?
Fortunately, I listened to the little voice in my head telling me to try out for the team and continue playing a sport that I loved. I tried out for the team and was extremely happy with my decision. The next day, I came to school and my new group of friends congratulated me on making the varsity team. I was shocked. I thought I would be dropped from their friend group immediately.
I learned a lot from this experience. Although many members of society do not feel as though they could break social norms and construct gender, I proved them wrong. By playing a sport that is considered more masculine than feminine, I broke with society’s rigid classifications of men and women and I couldn’t be happier about it.
However, I think that I was only able to be accepted as a girl’s basketball player in my small private middle school because I lived in a bubble. This bubble was not part of the outer world and I was sheltered from opposing viewpoints and people regarding me in a different way. This is a problem in and of itself. How could we enforce this same type of social contract in the outer world? In my bubble, I was living in a Locke centered state of nature in which there was no harm to others and most everyone lived in a peaceful state. How can we make the outer world operate more like my Locke centered bubble? Locke believed in a state of nature in which “all mankind being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” A world that centered around this type of thinking would benefit all members of society.
Whether these so-called “gender roles” are small ideologies or huge differences in lifestyle, society has set a mark for women and men to live and act a certain way. Coming from a traditional indian family with a sister and a mother, I, personally, am affected and shown to many indian gender roles daily. No matter the absurdity or complete sexism on some of these roles, gender roles have been a part of my life since I was born. Born and raised in America along with my sister, we are accustomed to a completely different lifestyle than my parents (born and raised in the villages of India), and with dedicated perseverance, I can attest changing these ideologies is more than difficult. Social norms and gender roles keep our society in a sort of check. When people or even organizations try to change these norms, people get uneased, unhappy, and ultimately, uncomfortable with the situations. But will these completely absurd gender roles ever change? Do we even need to change them?