By Excel V. Dyquiangco
There was a time when discrimination and inequity were the only issues that athletes, especially females, face. These days, however, many challenges have cropped up and the role of gender in sports is starting to be a very tricky one.
Earlier this year, two senior high school athletes sparked controversy because of their gender. One is a wrestler who was a transitioning female to male and was allowed to compete in the male division. The other, on the other hand, was a marathoner who was a transitioning male to female and was allowed to join the women’s team. Their competitors, naturally, were against this decision simply because of their gender.
But how did this issue all come about? What is indeed the relationship between gender and sports, and how does society address this?
The relationship between gender in sports
Since the 1970s, gender has become a vital type of analysis in relation to the sociology of sports. Research has proven that sports are gendered activities where boys are more actively encouraged to participate while women are cheering from the sidelines. Research also suggests that more men than females participate in organized competitive sports, which is based on the foundation of masculinity and physical dominance.
That, of course, has been the norm until women started to join the mantle. In fact, since 2000, UN Women and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) celebrate the role models and change makers in advancing women and girls in and through sport through the Women and Sports Award.
“Sport gives girls and women selfconfidence,” says IOC President Thomas Bach. “Especially in countries where women’s rights aren’t a top priority yet, there’s a tremendous benefit to women’s and girls’ participation in sport.”
Air Asia pilot Chezka Garrido agrees. As an advocate on female empowerment, she believes that women have come a long way. “Women have come at par with men in sports,” she says. “We are now accepted in most men-dominated fields and some have even surpassed the men’s marks. With proper training and encouragement, it is not impossible that women will excel.”
While women still face inequality and discrimination in sports, she says that nowadays women are being embraced on the field – and their only concern is to win. “The very first challenge that women face when competing in a maledominated sports is to win over those men in the competition,” she says. “Not only win by a small margin but with a big margin. They need to prove that it wasn’t luck that made them win so go to a bigger challenge to prove to their competitors – and themselves – that they are worthy of their title. And if they are successful, the next challenge is to stay on top.”
She adds that in any case where women are discriminated, she has to prove their worth – and that they need to work doubly hard to attain their goals – unlike men, whether win or lose, they can still hold their heads high.
“Discrimination and inequality are still present, I guess,” she says. “Women just have to prove their worth to address this situation. After all, it is joining these exhilarating events where they can prove that women are equal or even better than men. This, of course, drives them to join.”
The role of society
Because of these modern times, society is gradually welcoming such a concept – through the applause and the hugs that they give women competitors. “I believe society has accepted that women have been a notch higher now in terms of engaging in such activities,” says Garrido. “That is because women have proven that they can really compete and get awards like men do.”
What then is the future of women in sports?
“Women – with a little more push, aggressiveness and proper and rigid training – have a bright future in sports,” says Garrido. “They have all the chances to prove that they can be more athletic than men and perhaps more bemedaled if given the chance to compete. I can say this because in the male-dominated aviation field where I am now working (Air Asia), women pilots have proven that we, too, can fly airplanes like men do. And the number of women pilots is increasing in number which proves that women power is on the rise may it be on sports, aviation or any field, for that matter.”
As for the issue on transgendered athletes joining sports, that is a different matter. While discrimination is slowly starting to dissipate, other issues are being put on the limelight – and society needs a new change of heart to face such problems in the ring, or in the athletic field.