Whether in film, television, magazines or ads, images of women are most often viewed as sexual beings first, rather than intellectual beings, but especially in sports women are only seen as sexual beings. Women athletes who appear as strong, muscular and competitively competent athletes and who excel in sports are viewed as not heterosexual, not uniquely talented, but Lesbian. These prevailing mindsets have plagued and prevented women athletes from aspiring in sports, but also from having the opportunity to play competitive sports on the same level as men. As long as these prejudice mindsets and the women who acquiesce to them continue, they will only perpetuate the negative effects and oppression within the lives of all women, whether athletes or not, and will only hinder the progress toward women's equality in sport and life in general. For example, in 1923 a new athletics division was developed to provide opportunities for girls and women in sports. It wasn't until the 1950s that high schools and community outreach supported programs and clubs inspired girls and women to become involved in sports. Further, the goal for the division was to negate male domination and control. Gissendanner (1994, p. 82) states: They believed that male coaches and administrators should be replaced by qualified women, that is, women who adhered to division principles, and that women's sports should promote good health, fair play, cooperative endeavor, mass participation in a variety of sports, and "sport for sports sake." Clearly, it was the division's attempt to prevent any exploitation of its female athlete members. However, in the division's attempt to protect girls and women, they essentially helped to create and foster stereotypical judgments toward female athletes by writing in the division's doctrine specific guidelines prohibiting females to play sports. For example, as Gissendanner (1994, p. 82) states: The division's platform decried such practices as the collection of gate receipts, frequent and distant travel, long schedules, large expenditures on uniforms and equipment for varsity teams, and the promotion of star performers. They feared such practices would allow or encourage female athletes to compete when injured, exhausted, or menstruating. Furthermore, women's body images in the sports arena is dictated by those sponsors who demand the appearance of women as highly feminine and sexual simply to promote and sell more tickets and products. Whether in bikinis or shorts and sports bras, women must look the part of women because sex sells. For example, Brace-Govan (2002, p. 403) quotes Becker, 1963; Blumer, 1969; Goffman, 1959/1990: "Although hard work and self-discipline may be conveyed by images of women models, final positive judgments are based on the potential heterosexual desirability and not on objective, instrumental, or measurable abilities associated with successful athletes. " Unfortunately, women themselves buy into the sexist logic and believe the only way to a successful sports career is by using their sexuality to sell their sponsors' products. Otherwise, female athletes are threatened with negative press and labels, such as "dykes." Therefore, when the issue of what is feminine in sport arises, a controversy also arises. As soon as women appear muscular and strong, their gender is called into question and name-calling ensues. Specifically, Brace-Govan (2002, p. 405) offers a precise assessment when she quotes Devor, 1989, pp. 47-49: In Western contemporary society, it is crucially important to determine the sex and the intended gender of the body that is being read. If shoulders are large and broad, then it is crucial to the social interpretation whether they are part of a male or female body. Sometimes, visual gender identity cues are manipulated by the person or misread by others. In this regard, it is clear that according to the cultural standards within society, it is imperative that women remain feminine for the sake of their femininity as well as their gender identity, all the while dictating and segregating genders. Similarly, an issue of equality in sports reporting within the current sports arena has arisen when women sports reporters have been allowed into men's locker rooms, but men sports reporters have not been allowed in women's locker rooms. Instances such as this example provide ample opportunity for the opposition to charge foul play. As Gissendanner (1994, p. 82) states: "Furthermore, the division feared for the morality of the scantily clad sportswoman surrounded by male coaches, leering male spectators, male sponsors, and the locker-room masseuse. " In fact, the "scantily clad" uniforms women wore, were primarily dictated by men and women who insisted that women must look and appear as women, not men. The skirt-like uniforms were not only sexualizing women to maintain their femininity, but highly impractical because the uniforms were injurious to women's safety and health when playing sports. Specifically, in the 1940s women's professional baseball teams uniforms wore mini-like skirts, which did not allow for protecting women's legs as they would round and slide onto the bases, causing horrible bruising and hip injury. Although this is a classic example from the predominantly male perspective, clearly as long as women are sexualized by men and those women who agree with their male counterparts, equality in sports reporting in locker rooms and on the playing fields will continue to be an issue. Finally, if all of society continues to allow the perpetual stereotyping of what's feminine and what's not, women athletes will never be on the same playing field as men. The wonderful opportunity that the Women's Movement brought into focus so clearly, was that it provided women with the opportunity to have the right to choose in any aspect of our culture. Should women decide to choose to exploit their bodies sexually or become lured into the world of sexualizing their athletic talent to play sports, then they, too, perpetuate the problem; however, although female exploitation is a huge price to pay, ultimately it's their right to choose right or wrong. More importantly, it's imperative that our culture modify its thinking about equality issues for all genders within all areas of society, including sports; thereby society will be able to play the proverbial game of life equitably and without the risk of exploitation, but rather positively affecting today's cultural ideal of women. Reference List Brace-Govan, J. (2002). Looking At Bodywork: Women and Three Physical Activities. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 23, 4, 403-420. Gissendanner, C. (1994). African-American Women And Competitive Sport, 1920-1960. In S. Birrell & C. Cole (Eds.), Women, Sport and Culture (pp. 81-91). Champaign: Human Kinetics Publishing.


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