Sports and Gender Socialization
Children spend more than half of their non school time in play and games. but the type of games played sometimes differs with the child’s sex. Studies indicate that boys are socialized to participate in highly competitive. rule-oriented games with a larger number f participants than games played by girls. Girls typically are socialized to play with other girls. in groups of two or three. in activities such as hopscotch and jump rope that involve a minimum of competitiveness. Other research shows that boys express ore favorable attitudes toward games and sports that involve physical exertion and competition than girls do. Some analysts believe this difference in attitude is linked to ideas about what is gender-appropriate behavior for boys and girls Stardust, 1996).
For males. competitive sport becomes a means of “constructing a masculine identity. a legitimated outlet for voice and aggression. and an avenue for upward mobility” (Lobber, 1994: 43). For females. being an athlete and a woman may constitute contradictory statuses. One study during the found that women college basketball players dealt with this contradiction by dividing their lives into segments. On the basketball court. the women “did athlete”; they pushed, shoved,
fouled. ran hard. sweated. and cursed. Off the court, they “did woman”; after the game. they showered. dressed. applied makeup. ND styled their hair. even if they were only getting on a van for a long ride home (Watson. 1987).However. researchers in a more event study concluded that perceptions about women athletes may be changing. Specifically, ideas about what constitutes the deal body image for girls and women are changing as more females become involved in physical fitness activities and athletic competitions. Young women and men in one poll rated the athletic female body higher than that of the anorexic model Heywood and Woodworking, 2003).
Since passage in 1972 of Title IX, whim mandates equal opportunities in academic and athletic programs for females. girls’ and young women’s participation in athletics has increased substantially. More girls play soccer and softball and participate in other ports formerly regarded as “male” activities. However. even with these changes over .he past three decades, only about 42 percent of high school and college athletes are female. According to the sociologist Michael A. Messner (2002), girls and women ave been empowered by their entry into sports; however, sex segregation of female and male athletes, as well as coaches, persists.
Most sports are rigidly divided into female and male events, and funding of athletic programs is often unevenly divided between en’s and women’s programs. Assumptions about male and female physiology and athletic capabilities influence the types of sports
whim members of each sex are encouraged to participate. For example. women who engage in activities that are assumed to be masculine” (such as bodybuilding) may either ignore their critics or attempt to reduce the activity or its result as “feminine” or manly (Klein, 1993;Lowe. 1998). Some women bodybuilders do not want their bodies to get “overbuilt” They have learned that hey are more likely to win women’s bodybuilding competitions if they look and pose “more or less along the lines of fashion odes” (Klein. 1993: 179). In her study of more than) 00 people connected with women’s bodybuilding. the sociologist Maria R. Lowe (1998) found that “women of steel- (the female bodybuilders) live in a world where size and strength must regularly be lanced with a nod toward grace and femininity.
Cautious optimism is possible regarding the changing nature of sports and gender socialization. based on several studies of women n sports (Heywood and Dworkin, 2003; Messner, 2002). Clearly. manged have occurred that might positively influence the sender socialization of both girls and boys; however, it appears that much remains to be done to bring about rater gender equity n the area of sport. One sum area is how the media report on women’s and men’s sporting events, and the attributes (sum as physical attractiveness) that they highlight regarding female competitors while they emphasize the athletic skills of male competitors
Recently. courts in states such as California have told some colleges and universities that they must increase their proportion of female athletes, which in certain cases means bringing female participation in varsity sports to within 1.5 percent of their proportion of the overall student population. Universities are also being advised to add women’s sports teams. such as women’s field hockey, in order to offer a wider diversity of sports in whim female athletes and coaches might participate (Thomas, 2009).