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Sexism is the belief or mind-set that one sex (usually the male) is innately superior to, more skilled, or more worthy than the other is. It includes all kinds of prejudice, overt or covert, concerning gender. It is the belief that a certain gender is inherently better than the other; therefore, it should be in charge of the most significant spheres of political, financial, and social life. It principally involves detestation of, or bigotry towards whichever gender as a whole or the appliance of stereotypes of masculinity to all men, of femininity to women. Sexism is also known as male and female chauvinism. Sexism has been narrowed down to be described as the practice of dominance of men over women. Sexism is a practice that is held up in various ways such as through language, visual links, media depiction, and stereotyping, particularly based on the maternal/caring role of women. These ways are significant to our socialization into our gender roles, and as a result, it makes this dominance tolerable in the community. Sexism is such a significant issue because all women go through it in various ways. For example, in the workplace and at home depending on their economic and social situation; it restricts the ways in which women go about actualizing their potential.
The Sports organizations are not free from sexism either. This controversy is not a new issue that has risen. Sexism in sports goes as back as sports and sexism itself goes. Sexism in sports dates back to back to B.C.'s. Even from as long as 776 B.C., antique Greek prohibited women as contenders and audience from the Olympic Games. Any married woman who was found around the stadium was thrown from a cliff (Borish, 1996). In August 1890, W.S. Franklin declared the creation of a women's professional baseball league. It was required that for one to take part in the league, they must be aged below 21 years, beautiful, and have a gorgeous shape. This was a step forward but was still not sufficient for the women. In the 1900 Olympics edition, in Paris France, was made up of 1308 men and only 11 women, another positive step from primeval Greeks but still not sufficient. Prior to 1916, women were not permitted to attend boxing matches since the sport was viewed to be too violent for the women. In the 1920 Olympics, the judges warned American figure skater Theresa Weld for making jumps that they deemed not “lady-like.”
Before that, it was worse with jumping itself being deemed “unlady-like.” In early bobsled contests, two of the riders had to be women; however, they were not allowed to drive nor work the bakes. In the 1928 Olympic 800-yard running event, a number of women collapsed, this provoked the then IOC president Compete de Baillet-Latour to attempt to free the games of all women's track contest. In 1936, Avery Brundige, the then chief of the US Olympic Committee remarked, that he was sickened to the ears by women who wanted to participate both as field and track competitors. According to Brundige, they do not have any charm although they are adroit and beautiful, they cannot perform not in the swimming or diving category (Danziger, 1999). He went on to become the chief of the international Olympic committee in 1952. Women track competition longer than 200 meters were banned until 1960 when the 800-meter race was re-established. Women were also not permitted at center court for the Italian championship tennis finals before late 1960's. In 1972, the 1500 meters track competition was introduced in the Olympic sports.
The women's AAA in the UK barred women from taking part in long-distance road races prior to 1975 when they were allowed. The International Olympic committee declined to allow women to take part in the 3000 meters track event for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in the USSR, since the event was considered “a bit too arduous for women.” In the subsequent Olympics games in1984 the 3000 meters race alongside the marathon was added. In 1997, in the US, a women's professional basketball league was started, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). As evidenced by this account, it has it has been a protracted and sluggish battle for women in sports. Sexism was deeply rooted in sports, and the fight against it has truly advanced through the years.
On a positive note, however, there is far less offensive and overtly sexist handling of women athletes than it was the situation two or even one decade ago. Undoubtedly, there has been a gender revolt in American sports in recent times (Hargreaves, 2000). Millions of girls participate in sport competitions daily be it in college or professional leagues. Women’s athletic ability levels have also done up astronomically over the last two decades in sports ranging from basketball to volleyball, from hockey to soccer etc. There still exists a long and hard journey to go for women athletes to attain the same opportunities and hold up as their male counterparts. Although discrimination of people based on their gender has almost ended in regards to whether sports bodies allow women to participate in some sports games, more need to be done to improve the way sports commentators and the general population characteristically speak of women athletes. The media and sponsors are also guilty of propagating sexism in sports. For example, the overall coverage of women’s sports has gone down to ridiculously low levels. It is time for the news media and the sports shows to up the tempo to be able to keep pace with this revolution. It is a fact that women in professional sports have never been entirely supported, either fiscally (by sponsors) or psychologically (by the media and the fans). Women have tried hard to get reorganization and respected by governing bodies. The media and public need to change their sexist outlook; this will enable sexism in sports to be wiped out.
Just this year, two leading British soccer radio commentators, were relieved of their jobs a day after being taken off the air for making sexist remarks about a female assistant match official during the English premier league duel between Wolves and Liverpool. The duo requeted that a person should go to the field to show the dumb women what was meant by the offside rule. Women do not know what it is,” asserted one. “Certainly not,” the second one concurred. Britain's Sky Sports, Richard Keys, and Andy Gray were criticizing the work of the linesman Sian Massey, and they were aware that they were on air. Then as if that was not sexist enough, they laughed about the policy of West Ham United concerning sexism in football. Keys and Gray asked each other rhetorical remarks that were aimed at lowering the morale of Karen and never thought of what she would feel. Now this could be disguised as humor; however, it is also true that jokes at a person’s race, or gender expense are a mask of anger to that person’s race, or gender. The words of sports commentators and sports shows hosts, repeated many times by different commentators in the same or similar manner, just like propaganda, provide a theoretical frame for the sports experience. This abstract frame is of interest since the fans often relate it even to non-athletic situations.
In Wimbledon, it is a widely known that the scheduling of women tennis at the central court is mostly based on looks rather than prowess. In fact, the reason why female tennis is so popular has everything to do with the sex appeal of the female players and little (if at all anything) to do with their ability to play tennis (not to say they are not good players but to say their abilities are ignored). Marketers of female tennis sell its sex appeal rather than the skill of the athletes. Furthermore, it is an open secret that the world over, more importance is attached to men sports. Media coverage in general is better for male leagues and tournaments than female ones. Even the cost of courtside tickets for NBA vis-à-vis that of the WNBA points to this. It costs more to attend NBA matches that WNBA matches. This is a testament to the fact that more value is attached to men's sports.
The media, as an institution, is guilty of perpetuating sexism in tennis and sports in general. Media gives more emphasis on male sports compared to female sports. This, they claim, is because more men attracted to sports than women are. This is not true, and the assertion is contradicted by facts. Nationwide statistics point toward the fact that women make up to 38% to 42% of all sport and physical activity contestants. Nonetheless, study indicates that female sports get roughly 6% to 8% of the entirety sports coverage. According to the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles (2000), the main factor that plays a part in deciding what sports gets coverage in newspapers is the interests of the editor; the number of sports covered grew when the ability of women in sports was devalued. The media also perpetuate sexism in sports by depicting female athletes as feminine and sexually attractive. From a traditional perspective, it is easy to say there is nothing wrong with portraying women in general as attractive. However, female athletes surely warrant equal acknowledgment for their sporting capabilities as male athletes. When a female athlete appears in a sport periodical or an ad to market in a sport she ought to be portrayed with respect as is male athletes, an accomplished athlete. Another problem for depicting sexual images of female athletes is the fact that images are very influential and form as well as mirror attitudes and values (Birrell and Cole, 1994).
Depicting female athletes as sexual beings, or “pretty” sends the message that they are not greatly skilled as athletes. Depictions that overlook or belittle females’ athletic abilities dent the significance of women's sports and esteem for the skills of sportswomen (Fields, 2005). The use of sexist imagery to sell female sports by advertisers, promoters, and the media in general sells the athletes not as so, but as sex objects. Instead of fans going to matches to see the sporting prowess of the contestants, they go there to see the “pretty ladies,” they were promised in the promotions. The media and the promoters might argue that the selling of sexy images of females in general works. Of course, if it did not work they would not do it. The underlying argument would be that this is what their target market wants. This argument would be an astonishing insensitivity to the detrimental results of sexism. The sports media and the advertising industry have a responsibility of not perpetuating destructive and restrictive images to the society. The same “This is what the target market wants” and, “This is what works or sells” would not be acceptable if the images portrayed are racist or anti-Semitic. The fact that pornography sells and might be “what they want” to consumers does not make it any more acceptable. This argument is obviously unacceptable.
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