Challenges faced by women entering male-dominated sports
It was indeed a proud moment in the history of women in sports when Madge Syers competed against men in figure skating in 1902. At that time, it was a universally accepted fact that only men play sports and hence, the rules of the sport did not specify the gender of the participant.
Syers took advantage of this loophole and entered the World Figure Skating Championship bagging the second prize in the competition. The International Skating Union considered what had happened and finally decided to run a separate Figure Skating Championship for women.
Since then, many women have been inspired to participate in sports where only men have competed from centuries. By 1948, Mildred Zaharias had mastered golf, basketball, softball, baseball, bowling, skating, and diving. She actively participated in golf tournaments against men and won every single of them.
Janet Guthrie not only designed race cars as an engineer but also participated in racing events. Manon Rheaume has similarly broken out in hockey and Nancy Lieberman in basketball, etching their names forever in the history of women’s sports.
Without a doubt, women have worked very hard to leave a mark in the world of sports. They have not only crossed the physical barrier but also dealt with the cultural and social stigma associated with women playing sports. Even today, a sport is synonymous with hobbies for men in many cultures and there are still several problems faced by women in male-dominated sports.
Interviews with women who actively participate in sports have provided several revelations into the specific problems they face and how their passion for sports is only matched by their unwavering determination to make it in this field.
- The biggest problem women currently face is the lack of suitable training infrastructure. As a female kickboxing champion describes, women’s kickboxing gyms are not focused on the sport but rather it is considered a means for women to lose weight. On the other hand, men’s kickboxing gyms have highly inappropriate women’s changing rooms which were probably added as an afterthought. In such a scenario, many women feel uncomfortable pursuing their passion for sports.
- Another problem, which is true for women not only in sports but across other industries as well, is the pay gap. Women athletes are paid considerably less than their male counterparts. And this pay gap is evident even in the prize money for male and female championships.
- Also, women practicing sports are often considered targets for sexual objectification. According to a popular badminton player, women are often judged on their ability to play sports on the basis of their looks and their bodies. And this is true of both live as well as television audience, coaches, mentors, male peers, and people at higher levels in organizing committees.
Despite the “progress” that we have made as a society, this is a serious issue where we have fallen behind. However, for a woman determined to realize her passion and achieve her goals, nothing can get in her way – not leery looks from men who can never reach this position, or whispering neighbors for whom life cannot get any tangier than gossiping about these ambitious women.
Despite the fact that women have to put in more effort to get what men achieve fairly easily, kudos to those who are not deterred by these challenges. They have their eyes on the stars and they don’t let anything get in their way to success.