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11 - Gender, Sports, & Deviance

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Sociology 2259
Pamela Glatt

Gender, Sports, and Deviance Biological Differences or Deviance? • The institution of sports represent a society that is incredibly divided in terms of gender • World of sports is predicated on the idea of biology • Sex-segregated sports require governing “bodies” clearly and accurately • Why? So that males and females are placed into distinct categories of sports • Separation of the sexes via physical education classes • Prior to puberty, there are minimal physiological differences between girls and boys • Among children, girls tend to be taller and stronger than most boys their age • At all stages of development, females as a group tend to be more flexible and have better balance than boys • So why do sports become engendered from such an early age? ◦ The socially constructed idea of what it means to be a boy playing sports ad what it means to be a girl playing sports ◦ Based on he idea that biology separates girls and boys and there are normative idea on what it means to be a male or female playing sports ◦ About the body that you have and there are different expectation depending on whether you are male or female Construction of Deviance • Even within the sexes, there is an increased focus on biology ◦ Ex. Males' sports sometimes divide participants by height or weight • Why? To overcome obvious differences in abilities that arise from physical parameters • Similar to dividing sports participation in general between the sexes...dividing within the sexes is embedded with social value ◦ Ex. The heavy weight boxing champion has greater status than the lightweight “The Muscle Gap” • Idea that men are seen as being stronger and therefore should be in their own group • Rationalizes and institutionalized idea of normality if deviance in sport—Ex. Easier rules for girls because it is assumed they can't handle the same amount of physicality • Women, in terms of sports, are always seen as less capable • Sports in our society maintain the status quo where the men are seen as the norm • Sports are structured along a gender/sex divide—men against women, women against women • This is typically justified by the “muscle gap” • Often results in “easier” rules for women's sports • Similar to the world outside of sports...the source for female subordination is located in the female body • Phenomenal female athletes often dismissed as anomalies --> seen of something atypical • Phenomenal male athletes seen as dominating the sport • The realm of professional sports further supports this gendered divide --> especially the Olympics Constructing Deviance or Fair Play? • Sports governing bodies (ex. International Olympic Committee (IOC), InternationalAssociation of Athletic Federation (IAAF)) use sex-testing procedures to verify professional athletes • Wouldn't want to disrupt “fair play”... • The notion of “fair play” maintains that every player is in their “normal” category • This allocated a lot of power to sports in governing bodies: ◦ What the bodies should look like ◦ What standards those bodies must conform to Vaginas Over Here, Penises Over There! • Scientific and medical procedures used to test participant's sex • Types of sex-testing markers: ◦ Chromosomes ◦ Internal reproductive organs ◦ External genitalia ◦ Secondary sex characteristics • Doesn't recognize the complexity of biological sex determination • 1/2000 people in our society are intersexed • 1/200 births have some sort of sex anomaly Transgender and TranssexualAthletes • People who don't fit neatly into the “male” or “female” categories further challenge sports binary classification • Often have to choose a “side” to compete in professional sports—no category in between them • Since 2003, IOC Medical Commission: “any person who has undergone sex reassignment surgery before puberty should be accepted in sport under the new assigned sex” • If underwent surgery after puberty, only eligible to compete under the following conditions: ◦ Surgical anatomical changes complete (inside/out) ◦ Legal recognition of assigned sex ◦ Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sports competitions Gendered Dress Code? • Socially constructed appropriate dress code for male and female athletes • Female athletes usually tend to wear more “feminine” outfits or are scantily-dressed • Whereas men competing in the same sports have less revealing outfits ◦ Ex. Volleyball, figure-skating, field hockey, cheer-leading, tennis, golf, etc. • The gendered dress codes for sports speaks to the mount of respect and seriousness accorded to those playing the sport ◦ What are we focusing on? The outfit or the sport? • Gendered dress codes for sports are based on cultural ideas about “normal” and “deviant” femininity and masculinity • Sports commands strict dress codes that verify ones “proper” gender at first glance • Gender performance is an integral part of sports competition—the idea is that even in the world of sports you must DO your gender • Gender acts as a master status particularly in sports • Sports participation is filtered through the lens of gender • The body embodies the rules and constraints of society and is used to justify gender categorization The Gendered Language of Sports • What are the connotations behind statements such as: ◦ “You throw like a girl!” ◦ “You play like a guy!” • Sexual orientation often gets conflated with gender and sports ability • Gendered nature of team names • Sports rules wreak of gender • In female sports leagues, the term “women” is always indicated ◦ Ex. WNBA, LPGA • For men, they are assumed to be the norm, the universal standard ◦ Ex. NBA • “The Lingerie football league has become the ultimate fan-driven, live sports phenomenon— blending action, impact and beauty!” Role of the Media • The media popularizes sports • The media plays different roles in facilitating men and women's athletic careers • The media is essential to women's athletics careers—in a sense, they almost have to sell themselves ◦ Being a skilled athlete isn't always enough for female athletes • This isn't so much the case for men—their skills are generally the focus, they don't have to sell themselves as much as women do ◦ Ex. Tiger Woods still makes a lot of money and is popular without all the media endorsements ◦ Ex. Where would Ana Kournikova be without all her media popularity Gendered Sports • Masculine: ◦ Ice Hockey ◦ Football ◦ Basketball ◦ Boxing ◦ Speed Skating ◦ Wresting • Feminine: ◦ Figure Skating ◦ Gymnastics ◦ Synchronized Swimming ◦ Field Hockey ◦ Dance • Males athletes often earn more money on average than female athletes • Is this because of a lack of skills or lack of penis? • *Blurred boundaries for many sports (Ex. Golf, tennis, and soccer) Masculi
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