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Women’s Sports Foundation

23 Sep

Did you know that:

  • High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy, more likely to get better grades in school, and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
  • Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.
  • Eighty percent of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys” and having played sports.
  • More than 3/4 of 12th-grade girls are unhappy with their bodies, and one in three adolescent girls will experience depression, anxiety or eating disorders. Physical activity has been shown to improve self-image.
  • Women’s sports is only 8 percent of all print and television sports media coverage (just exceeding horses, dogs and fishing).
  • Females have 1.3 million fewer high school and 56,110 fewer college sports participation opportunities than males and receive $148 million less in athletic scholarship funds each year.
  • Women represent 41 percent of coaches of collegiate women’s sports, only 4 percent of coaches of men’s sports and 18.3 percent of athletic directors.

Neither did I.

I learned all this from the Women’s Sports Foundation site. The mission of this foundation is to promote physical and mental strength in girls through physical activity. Their goal is to break down the barriers between men’s and women’s sports, and I have to say, I’m impressed.

You should really check Women’s Sports Foundation out. The site alone is worth your attention. It has news on women in sports, events and scholarships. It’s a cheerleading squad for your athletic aspirations. So if you were ever wondering how to effect change, here’s a way to get involved!


What Can Be Done?

22 Sep

There is not doubt that when it comes to women and sports, it’s an un-level playing field. Change needs to happen, but how do we start?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

“Femininity discipline begins working upon females during childhood (perhaps even infancy) by transmitting to children a mental connection between femaleness and weakness and by forcing girls to embody that weakness in their bodies,” said Amanda Roth in her article “Femininity, Sports and Feminism.”

It’s true.

What is so genius about the evil scheme that is gender profiling is that it begins immediately. Practically in the womb. Hell, maybe even there. Girls are consistently goaded into “being a lady,” that is, embodying the idea that an “ideal” woman is submissive, weak, soft, dependent. Youngsters can’t yet deduce that this profiling could be confirming an overgeneralized stereotype of the woman. I mean, I’m over two decades old and the magnitude of the effects of gender profiling are just starting to hit me.

Of course, the door swings both ways. Boys are also constantly being conditioned to be “manly.” Stereotypically, that would be strong, muscular, aggressive, oozing testosterone, independent. Boys are “supposed to” reject all things feminine, except for the woman herself.

After realizing the effects of gender profiling, it’s become increasingly clear to me when parents are egging their kids to behave according to the cultural norm.

A couple weeks ago, I volunteered at an Iowa Children’s Museum event called “Move It! Dig It! Do It!” My station was a “Cozy Coupe” track, where there were six “Coupes” for small children to ride around it: blue coupes, fire truck coupes and pink and purple coupes. A father, mother and son approached my station and the little boy, I’m guessing age two or three, immediately ran for the pink coupe. The father chased after the boy saying, “No ____, not the pink one!”

Other examples of gender expectations are present in studies Roth cited in her article.

“[There was] a study that involved parents sitting in the middle of a room blockaded by pillows; their toddlers were left outside the blockade trying to get to their parents. Parents were likely to lift girls over the pillows while encouraging boys to climb over them. Similarly, Iris Young (1990) pointed out that girls are taught not to get hurt, not to get dirty, not to tear their clothing, and so forth so that their movements are con- strained, and they eventually come to have a feminine (i.e., constricted) walk, way of sitting, and other movements. For instance, a study of 2nd graders found that boys threw with their dominant arm 72% faster than girls did. Yet when the same children threw using their nondominant arm, boys and girls performed identically. The boys’ better performance on the first task was not a matter of sex but of practice (Dowling, 2000). Because girls typically are not taught how to throw in this society, girls’ bodies are not as able as boys to do so.”

What can be done to eliminate gender profiling?

I think the most important thing is to recognize it. Participation in gender profiling cannot be stopped it you don’t know you’re doing it.