Female Masculinity: Sports as Fuel of the Building of Manhood
Gender study is a multidisciplinary domain which deals with various aspects of gender. Lately, sport is one of the fields experts are trying to analyze according to gender. According to several analysts, people believe that sport is meant for a category of persons. In the present Occidental society, for instance, sport has mostly been considered as a fertile ground or a means for men to express their virility in our society. In this compositions, I will examine how sports facilitate the building of manhood by raising some important points which include the following: the part played by Homophobia in the building of manhood in sport, bias towards women who are given less freedom than men, the responsibility of broadcasting and how it solemnizes male athletes; how sports as a hold fast custom among men. I will quote some prominent authors including Michael S.Kimmel, Thornton Andrew, and Drummond Murray. In each of the points raised above I will show how sport contributes greatly to the social domination of men.
I will begin by spelling out the origin of gender inequality in order to demonstrate how sport has been dominated by men. We belong to a society where the father decides for the whole family. Which means that the role played by women is accessory and does not go beyond the house since the man is the breadwinner. She takes care of household chores and procreates, while the man goes to work. However, things are gradually changing as women now provide labor force and can take care of themselves. Sports no longer obey to gender factors but to the physical strength of athletes. Men are naturally believed to be more efficient than women in sport since they are stronger, tougher and more violent. This is the foundation of gender discrimination or inequality. Drummond in his work entitled ‘’Sport and Images of Masculinity: The Meaning of Relationship in the Life of ‘Elite’ Male Athletes.’’ says that “so much emphasis is placed on how well their (men) body can perform that being defeated by a woman can significantly undermine their masculine and sporting achievement” (p.135) This confirms what Kimmel says “Masculinity is the Repudiation of Feminity.” (p.126)
Andrew Thornton, in his thesis paper, “The Accomplishment of masculinity: Men and Sports” agrees with the above authors by saying that “Sport has been organized as a ‘Male preserve’ which excludes and forms a site of oppression for women.” (p.13). Sport has been recognized for many years as the primary activity of men. This mindset has developed into homophobia which has contributed to gender inequality in sport. Barbara Smith in her article “Homophobia; why bring it up?” explains that “Homophobia is usually the last oppression to be mentioned, the last to be taken seriously, the last to go. But it is extremely serious, sometimes to the point of being fatal.”(Smith, 99) She explained that many people escape from this debate because people might question their sexuality. Homophobia is defined by Thornton as “simply a fear. A set of actions that is done by people to other people.” (p.15)
Sport has been recognized as a predominant activity. Men who practiced sports were considered as real men while those who abstained from were perceived as gay. Women who took part actively in sport were considered as man-like. Women who take part in sports are more exposed to homophobia than men who do not. This idea is analyzed by Kimmel in his work entitled “Masculinity as Homophobia”. He defines hegemonic masculinity as the image of masculinity of those men who hold power, which has become the standard of psychological evaluation, sociological research, and self-help and advice literature for teaching young men to become real men. (Kimmel, 125) Thornton adds that hegemonic masculinity is “the subordination of women, the marginalization of gay men and the connection of masculinity to toughness and competitiveness”. (p.14) what is the meaning of a real man? Kimmel defines a real man as “doing no sissy stuff, be a big wheel or be a sturdy Oak.” (p.125). Men practice sports from childhood and it makes them stronger and look important. On the other hand, Halberstam Jack in “An introduction to female masculinity: Masculinity without Men” talks about females who act as males. He uses the term “tomboyism which generally describes an extended childhood period of female masculinity.” (Halberstam, 5)
Nowadays, men who are feminine in their ways and women who behave like men are termed homosexuals. That is why athletes, men or women struggle to maintain their virility or femininity during competitions in order to avoid being attacked. Kimmel explains this by saying that men are mostly characterized as tough, aggressive, competitive, violent, physically strong, athletic, and it is because of this that people question the sexuality of women participating in sports. More so, women who practice sports are always recommended to maintain their female image in the field. They have to perform well in the field while maintaining their womanhood. This is very difficult and discourages many women who are unable to practice sports without being tough. In his book “Masculinity as Homophobia”, Kimmel would say “masculinity is a homosocial enactment. We test ourselves, perform heroic feasts, and take enormous risks, all because we want other men to grant us manhood.” (p. 129) Moreover, sport has become one of the best means through which men make friends. It offers boys the opportunity to develop standards, competence and perspectives which are mandatory for an adult. The main reason why sports plays this role is that boys during sports activities make connections, they come together, create bonds and get to know one another with the aim of creating male solidarity and help. Drummond Murray in “Sport and Images of Masculinity: The Meaning of Relationship in the Life of ‘Elite’ Male Athletes.” says that “It has been speculated that organized sport develops a sense of male solidarity that encourage men to identify with one another, this providing a medium for the regular rehearsal of masculine identification” (p.192)
Most of the time, sports is aggressive with a great deal of physical contacts. This contributes to creating athletic bodies with muscles which is a sign of virility in a man. Sport strengthens a man to the extent of replacing a father who is absent. It helps men to express and show their manhood to the world. Drummond in his book mentioned above says that “sport is important to Australian surf lifesaving because it promotes muscular, suntanned male bodies that appear to be the epitome of masculinity as they are pushed to extreme levels of physical endurance.” (p.133) In addition to that, women are not advised to practice some violent sports like boxing, wrestling since they femininity. This sustains men’s domination on women as concerns sports. Drummond continues in the same book above with an illustration done where a group of elite male athletes undervalues female performance in surfing. He goes an extra mile to say that ‘’women are regarded as secondary to men in virtually all aspects in life.’’(p.138). This shows how much women are discriminated in professional sports. As concerns the financial aspect, most companies which market their products through sports prefer men at the detriment of women. Even as concerns salaries, male athletes are paid higher than female athletes who complain about that and even perform poorly at times because of that. So, sport is perceived as a men affair. For instance a male athlete in (the NBA) makes at least five times more money than a female athlete (in the WNBA). This proves that sport is a ground for male hegemony.
Nowadays broadcasting plays a vital and essential part in humanity and has an impact in our thoughts and behavior. Mass media has greatly attributed manhood to sports. Most televisions, radios, Magazines, newspapers cover only male sports and show little or no interest in female sports. This shows how much broadcasting has facilitated male domination of women in sports. Thornton, in his text “The Accomplishment of Masculinity: Men and Sports.” gave the following information to explain sexual division in sports and the building of virility. He says “It has been well documented that the content of Magazines reporting on sports is 85-90 percent coverage of male Sports.” (Thornton, 5) Monique Luisi confirms Thornton’s statements about mass media. In her paper “Homosexuality and the heartbeat of a locker room: An analysis of quotations in the context of Hegemonic and Inclusive Masculinity Theories”, after investigating, she declared that “Multiple studies have demonstrated that Hegemonic masculinity has been consistently showcased in the portrayal of athletes in the U.S media.’’(p.1316). She explains how the media and players reacted when NBA player Jason Collins and NFL player Michael sans publicly announced they were gay. According to her the media put into doubt their virility. Such an attention is most devoted to female Sports. For both Thornton and Luisi, media contribute to Hegemonic masculinity. In addition to that, women play secondary roles in the sport media and have no access to locker rooms no matter how competent they are. This reinforces gender inequality in sports.
Definitively, the society as a whole has been forged in such a way that people do believe that sports is meant for men this rendering women accessory when it comes to that. I strongly believe that sport is a great hindrance to sexual equality and women empower. Fortunately, things are changing nowadays. Female athletes are treated with much more respect, their salary is revalued and they are more and more recruited in sports media.
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