Sports Sociology I

Sociology of Gender and Sport


I.  Sociology

     A.  Definition

1.  Study of social behavior of individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, communities, and societies

2.  Sociology focuses on the links between different aspects of society, e.g., family and the economy, religion and politics, medicine and law, etc.

3.  Sociology also considers social inequality, social mobility, and social justice


B.  Sports Sociology

Sports sociology considers the relationship between sports and society

    Sports as a microcosm of society

    How culture and values influence sport

    How sport influences culture and values

    Sports and media, politics, economics, religion, race, gender, youth, etc.

    Sports and social inequality, social mobility

    National Velvet (gender inequality)

    Hoop Dreams (racial inequality, social mobility)

    Happy Gilmore, Water Boy (ethnic inequality)

    Casey Martin vs. PGA Tour (disability)


C.  Sociological Concepts

1.  Culture – the patterns, traditions, rituals, habits, values, and beliefs of a society

2.  Subculture – a distinct subunit of a culture, often delimited by gender, age, race, ethnicity, class, religion, politics, sexual orientation

3.  Hegemony (noun) – the tacitly accepted power and dominance of a given subculture, value, or belief (pg 31)


II.  Gender and Sports - Historical Perspective

A.  1800’s

1.  Historically, participation of women in sports was discouraged or banned

2.  Starting around 1850, physical education for women was introduced at colleges

3.  Sports included bowling, ice skating, archery, swimming, and equitation

4.  By the 1890’s, sports venues for college women expanded to include tennis, golf, baseball, track and field, field hockey, volleyball, and baskeball

5.  Basketball was particularly controversial

6.  These sports were generally offered in the context of physical education NOT varsity sports


B.  Early 1900’s

1.  Collegiate sports opportunities for women grew in the 1920’s and 30’s, but opposition did not wane – National Association of Secondary Principals 1925 “sooner or later, the spectacle of interscholastic contests among girls gives rise to undesirable and even morbid social influences”

2.  Basketball, track & field, and softball were considered too “masculine” for proper women

3.  By the late 1930’s, many high schools and colleges eliminated these sports for women


C.  Effect of WWII

1.  WWII sent many women into non-traditional roles (factory work, e.g.)

2.  The All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League was founded in 1943 and lasted until 1954

3.  At the collegiate level, basketball, softball resurfaced, however coaching was less available and travel considerably more restricted than for men’s sports

4.  Recruiting of women athletes was virtually non-existant

    Ellie Daniel, 3 Olympic medals in swimming, 1968


D.  1970’s – Enter Title IX

1.  1972 Title IX, affected all educational programs receiving federal funds – almost all colleges and universities

2.  Enforced through the Office for Civil Rights

3.  Guidelines include:

    Selection of sports that accommodate interests of both genders – participation opportunities in proportion to enrollment

    Equality in equipment, facilities, scheduling of practice and games, travel funds, coaching and tutoring, coaches salaries, access to training and medical services, housing and dining services, publicity


E.  AIAW – Movement to keep women’s athletics from becoming a copy of men’s

1.  Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) founded 1971

2.  Wanted to prevent women’s sports from becoming a copy of men’s sports

    “Must the Women’s Rights movement demand for our young girls a share in the things that are wrong in sports today as well as a share in the rights in order fully to prove equality?”

3.  Outlawed athletic scholarships initially, but rescinded in 1973 due to pressure and Title IX – allowed 4 yr scholarships

4.  Disbanded in 1982


III.  Effects of Title IX


1.  The NCAA incorporated women’s sports and began offering women’s championships  in 1980

2.  “Mainstreaming” of women’s collegiate sports actually decreased coaching and administrative opportunities for women – in 1972 >90% of women’s teams had female coaches, by 1998, this percentage had dropped to 47%

3.  However, participation of women in sports increased, particularly at the High School level


B.  Participation

Percentages of women playing sports

High School

1976 – 19%

1989 – 41%


1976 – 9%

1989 – 11%


C.  Admissions and Recruiting

1.  Percentages of women reporting that recruiting was an important factor in choosing a college

1976 – 3-5%

1989 – 9-42%

2.  Admission advantages (controls for SAT) for women athletes increased – from 15% in 1976 to 26% in 1989 to 53% in 1999.  Over the same period, admission advantages for minorities fell (51% in ’76 to 20% in 1999)

3. A shift toward the situation already present in men's sports


D.  Effects on Men’s Sports

1.  In 1992, Brown University tried to cut 2 women’s varsity sports and 2 men’s varsity sports

2.  Members of one of the women’s sports (gymnastics) sued under Title IX and ultimately, Brown was forced to reinstate the women’s teams

3.  This ruling (which took five years in the courts) came despite the fact that Brown offered more women’s varsity teams than all but one other University in the country

4.  There was no such option for the men’s sports

5.  Football, in particular, presents problems for equalizing participation numbers


E.  Funding

Has funding equity been attained?

1.  Between 1992 and 1996 average Division IA spending on women’s teams increased from $263,000 to $640,000

2.  Between 1992 and 1996 average Division IA spending on men’s teams increased from $1 million to $2.4 million

3.  Increase for women 253%, increase for men 232%

4.  Funding “gap” increased from almost $800,000 to almost 1.8 million


IV.  Gender, Sports, and the Media

A.  Gender and Sports Viewership

1.  Boys and college-age men:

    Basketball, football, ice hockey, baseball, soccer, boxing, karate, extreme sports, pro wrestling, (and sportscenter)

    Confrontation, combative coordination

2.  College-age women:

    Gymnastics, skiing, diving, figure skating

    Avoids overt aggressiveness, individual, stylish & attractive

(Messner et al., 2000; Sargent et al., 1998)


B.  What Gets Covered?

1.  Print Media (newspapers, newsletters)

    NCAA News:  Text and text space greater than 2:1 coverage of men’s sports over women’s, Pictures, ~2:1 pictures of male athletes over female athletes (Shifflett & Revelle, 1994)

    New York Times Sports demonstrated significantly greater gender bias than USA Today Sports, however in general newspapers illustrate less bias than electronic media

2.  Television

    ESPN & CNN Sports – significantly greater coverage of men’s sports and male athletes, even at ‘peak’ times for women’s sporting events

    ESPN SportsCenter demonstrated significantly greater gender bias than CNN Sports Tonight (Eastman and Billings, 2000)


C.  How are women’s sports covered?

1.  Women’s sports and women athletes are treated differently by media

2.  1992 Olympics:  Females given greater coverage in individual sports, but focus on personalities greater than on athletic abilities (Higgs and Weiller, 1994)

3.  1996 Olympics:  Female athletes in “masculine” sports described using male-to-female comparisons and comments unrelated to performance; female athletes in “feminine” sports described more in terms of performance and female stereotypes (Jones et al., 1999)


V.  Sports and Gender Identity

A.  Sports reinforces gender-specific roles, beginning at a young age

1.  T-ball (kindergarden) (Landers and Fine, 1996)

   Girls treated more harshly and ridiculed by boys and coaches

   Female coaches performed more organizational duties, male coaches did more coaching

   Reinforcement of gender stereotypes antagonistic to female participation in sports

2.  Participation in “masculine” sports creates gender identity conflict for females, likewise participation in “feminine” sports creates gender identity conflict for males

3.  Physical training (especially weight training) thought to lead to a un-woman-like physique

4.  Female athletes score higher on masculine dimensions of gender-role identity compared to nonathletes (Giuliano et al., 2000)

5.  Figure skating once was a male-dominated sport, however it is now considered a “feminine” sport due to emphasis on body presentation, appearance, & grace.  Efforts to masculinize the image of male skaters have polarized gender roles in the sport (Adams, 1998)

6.  Billy Elliott


B.  Gender-role Identity in Girls Affects Sports Participation

1.  Girls who play with boys (with or without other girls) and who play with “masculine” toys and games (those aimed at boys) are more likely to participate in collegiate sports

2.  “Tomboys” are more likely to play collegiate sports

3.  Among athletes, those participating in “masculine” sports are more likely to have engaged in particularly boy-like play during childhood (Guiliano et al., 2000)