The evolution of women in sports
As a matter of fact, historically, sports is initially something that men do and that women don’t. Indeed, sports have always been more accessible and open to boys and men. What is more, when women started to practice sports it was more about doing gymnastics, dance or other “feminine sports”, which means that sport is (or was) a gendered activity. This phenomenon that consists in putting a genre to an activity or a thing is also observed when it comes to job occupations, clothing etc. Fortunately, nowadays it’s different, female football or rugby teams exist. Some of them are even prestigious but still, we cannot deny the fact that there’s a lack of representation or possibilities regarding access for women to some sports for example at a local scale. Thus, in this sense, let’s try and understand the evolution of women’s access to sport over time.
Women in sports before :
To begin with, we absolutely have to mention the fact that women have been (and sometimes still are) a victim of major inequalities when it comes to sports. On the first hand, some argue that women are physically unable to do well in sport because of their strenght, or because some assume that women are more fragile than men (even tough it is just that women are in general more likely to express their feelings). In fact, it is a sociologic issue that spreads false ideologies that makes it more difficult for women to prevail in sport.
On the other hand, another tragic problem is that there is kind of a vicious circle regarding inequalities because since women are discriminated, they are few in their sports which contributes to keep inequalities as they are underrepresented and less visible (so less heard as well). Hence, because of backwarded thoughts, women often find it hard to access or perform in sport. Beyond this, most women have become used to being discriminated in sports.. However, we cannot deny the fact that things have changed (in a better way)…
Women’s evolution in sports until now :
The truth is, there is a real improvement in regards to women having acess and visibility in sports. In this sense we can talk about women’s empowerment. Indeed, women are stronger, more confident as they gathered to fight for representation and equality in their sports. Besides, there have been a general awareness not only regarding women, but also regarding (developed) societies. Hence, waves of activism trough the creation of organizations and awareness campains allowed women to mark a step in their fight for equality and recognition, especially when it comes to sport.
A concrete illustration we can mention is that tournaments and World Cups are open to women : The Women’s Rugby World Cup which was only founded in 1991 took place in Wales but it was only accepted by the International Rugby Board in 2009… Which is extremely recent! But still, better late than never. Since then, the Women’s Rugby World Cup has been more and more followed and publicized. For instance, the last tournament took place in 2021 in Auckland (New-Zealand) where the Black Ferns (the New Zealand women’s team) won for the sixth time in the Women’s Rugby World Cup’s history ! This illustrates the fact that women in sports is becoming a pride as well as a part of a country’s culture.
A possible evolution for women in sports tomorrow ?
I am not willing to break the mood, but even if things got better, we have to realize that there’s still a lot to do to achieve a better situation for women when it comes to sport… So let’s try and analyze how it could be improved. One of the points on which something could be done is the aspect of unequal pays. When comparing male top athelte salaries with female top athlete ones, we undeniably see that there’s a huge gap.
But more importantly, it is about women’s safety that we mostly have to work on : training conditions, sexual abuse or inappropriate gestures are part of too many women’s daily lives. For instance, focusing on a recent case, we learn that the President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso (a player of the women’s Spanish football team) without her consent after the victory of the Spanish Women football team at the Women’s Football World Cup on August 20. of 2023. This example shows that there’s a failure in the protection of women even in an environment in which they should be respected and admired. Finally, let’s talk briefly about sexism, which remains even today trough the example of a series. Indeed, in the series « Young Sheldon » : the sister of the protagonist, Milly is willing to play baseball, but there’s no female team in her town so she decides to ask the coach of the male team if she can enter the team. However, the team coach refuses arguing that a girl doesn’t know how to play baseball and that she should rather practice dance..
As a conclusion, letting women play sports freely is the first step, it means fighting sexism and narrow-minded ideas. Nevertheless, the real goal to reach is a perfect equality and an equal consideration of male and female athletes.