Making New Goals: Striving for gender equality in sports
Though women have made great strides toward equality in sports, there is still a long way to go. According to athletic director and wrestling coach Jason Amy, the turnout at Northwood’s gates often reflects that more people come out for male athletic events. Many question why this is.
“I know that girls work just as hard as the guys do, but the guys get more recognition,” sophomore football player Carson Barker said.
Some students and coaches believe that moneymaking potential plays a large role in which sports are paid the most attention. Male sports are the predominant money makers in the professional world, and this trickles down to the high school level.
“Football and basketball are revenue generating sports, and most of the time, colleges and high schools are going to focus on sports that are going to make the most money,” junior diver Bailey Revels said.
Volleyball coach and gym teacher Lyn Smith agreed.
“I have been in athletics for a long time and it has always been that way; that the [boy] sports seem to have priority,” Smith said. “We keep trying to build the program and trying to keep up the girl scholarships. If it weren’t for Title IX, girls wouldn’t have as many scholarships as guys do, because they say that guys are the money makers and they bring money into the school.”
Before Title IX—a law passed in 1972 that requires gender equality in every educational program that receives federal funding—only one in 27 high school girls played sports, and they were rarely given college scholarships for playing sports. Though women’s athletics has come a long way because of the law, according to Titleix.info, high schools are providing 1.3 million fewer chances for girls to play sports compared to boys. According to Amy, Northwood has 456 male athletes compared to only 236 female athletes.
“I know that there is Title IX, and they have to keep everything equal so that one isn’t favored over the other, but I definitely think that one is favored over the other because one is revenue generating,” Revels said.
Some say that they understand why male sports often overshadow female sports.
“In my opinion, guys put more into their sport,” senior football player Dimitri Nobles said. “In the offseason we do fundraising and stuff. When you look at the other sports, the girls don’t really do offseason fundraisers for their sports. In reality, boys get their names out there more than girls.”
The athleticism of participating athletes may play a part in the attention that a sport receives.
“There is a stereotype that male [athletes] are more fun to watch because they are more athletic, and they might be faster and bigger,” junior baseball player Peyton Walker said. “They say that girl sports aren’t as much fun to watch. I think that the way the games are played is different because there are limitations [for girls]. When people come to watch a faster paced game, they might come to a [male] game. With the girls, it is more team-based.”
Though males are typically faster and stronger because they can build more muscle mass, many say that the stereotype is unjustified.
“Girls work just as hard and sometimes harder because our bodies don’t develop muscle at the same rate that boys do,” Revels said. “It’s sometimes frustrating for people not to recognize that.”
Some blame society in general for the inequality.
“In society, when it comes to jobs, the guy is always paid more [than the girl] for the same job,” Smith said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten to the level yet where girls are looked at as equal as guys, so I think it trickles down in the business world, the athletics world and the community.”
Amy agreed that society’s perceptions are often wrong.
“I know for a fact that most of our female athletes and teams are equally as good, if not better than some of our male teams,” Amy said. “I think that it is a direct reflection of our society and the world that we live in, and we need to keep promoting all our sports to become equal.”
Others blamed the professional world.
“The professional world itself puts more emphasis on men,” junior Alex Bortey said. “There are women’s professional sports that are hardly ever put on TV, or if they are, they are put on hours that they know that nobody is going to watch.”
Many feel that this emphasis is unjustified.
“I feel that girls are just as rough and put just as much heart into a sport as boys do,” senior basketball player Mariah Morrow said. “I know a lot of girls [who] have just as much skill as any [boy], and they shouldn’t be belittled just because they are female.”
There are many questions regarding if and how these stereotypes will change.
“I think that everybody hopes for [equality between men and women], but the world’s not perfect, and I think that the large reason that guys [get] more attention is because of their physical condition; they can do more,” Revels said. “Stereotypes aren’t going to go away.”
The one thing that many seem to agree on is that full equality between male and female sports will take time.
“Let females continue to play sports, and time will change itself,” Morrow said. “It takes time to change society.”