The initial thoughts are that there are

The question on whether women are limited in the sporting
world has arose and I would like to find more out about this. Are women limited
and if so can there ever be anything that will help provide both sexes with
gender equality regarding sport? My initial thoughts are that there are many
barriers for women in the sporting world however, I have chosen to research the
reasons for those possible limitations and if there is anything in place to
overcome the barriers women may be tackling in sport. Throughout this essay I
will be finding evidence that implies whether or not a woman’s physiology
affects her sporting ability; I will explore the effects of pregnancy whilst
training that is needed to consistently perform to a high standard but also the
effects pregnancy has on a women’s body meanwhile and after, the maximum
capability women can realistically achieve will also be studied. The media
coverage is significantly different for male and female athletes and the type
of stories published; I will be looking into the reasons why, but also why male
sport appears to have a higher coverage rate. Could this be down to the
popularity of male sport that may also be reflected on the pay that each sex
receives, when conducting research, I will be looking into findings that may
support my hypothesis but can also provide contradictory sources, this will
demonstrate the breaking down of barriers for women in sport. It is also very
interesting to find out about how the mental state of athletes for both men and
women can affect their performance that makes them have good and bad days
(affects quality of performance), I will not be solely focusing on a woman’s
performance in sport but also find several research studies into a man’s
capability in the sporting world. Feminist groups from the past have had great
influence on the way women are treated nowadays, from no women competing in the
first Olympics to every country being represented by a women and women being
allowed to take part in every single sport at the 2012 Olympic games. I am
hoping to uncover a broad range of studies providing me with research that
answers my many questions regarding a woman’s limitations the sporting world


‘Physiology is the branch of biology that deals with the
normal functions of living organisms and their parts’.  Men and women have physical differences which
would mean their sporting performances would not be equal. ‘Sexual dimorphism’
is the scientific term for physical differences between males and females of
the same species. When researching the question rose, does the physiology of a
women affect her sporting ability and is this a reason behind women’s sport
being not as popular as men’s?

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The physiology of a women means that she has reduced O2
capacity compared to a man. During exercise the lungs bring oxygen to the body,
to provide energy and remove carbon dioxide. The metabolic responses to
exercise is also greater in men than women. It is known if you have a higher
metabolic rate you can lose weight much more easily and gain more muscle. On
average women’s metabolic rate is lower and therefore it is harder to increase
the size of a women’s muscles. Contradictory studies have shown that women
experienced similar relative strength when put on the same training programme
as a man. This would automatically limit a woman on her ability to throw as far
as a male athlete for example. However in at study, Pate et al. (1985)
determined that men and women that are capable of similar performances in a
15-mile race and concluded that they do not differ in body composition,
cardiorespiratory response or metabolic response. This conclusion limits the
argument that physiological differences affect a woman’s performance in sport.


Pregnancy is a big factor which can affect a women’s
performance during professional sports. Having time out will mean they are
unable to train and it was once deemed unsafe to exercise whilst you are
pregnant. There are many benefits but also risks involved in exercising during
pregnancy which athletes would have been wary of. The inability to constantly
train for the 9 months during pregnancy would have had a big impact in a
women’s stamina; for example, Serena Williams, the American tennis player found
out she was pregnant just days before the French open, a major grand slam
tournament started which she was expected to win. However, she managed to win
that tournament in January and many questioned how pregnant women could
accomplish such a success. This suggests that pregnancy doesn’t affect some
women’s sporting ability. Other examples like Kerry Walsh Jennings who won her
third gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012 whilst five weeks pregnant.
Even though these are a couple examples of success stories whilst pregnant
there are negative impacts that pregnancy may have on a woman. The amount of
pressure that an athlete has to withhold by maintaining a title whether it’s a
gold medallist in swimming or a title from a major grand slam event. The runner
Sarah Brown made headlines when she announced she was returning to competitive
sport and wanted to make the US Olympic team less than four months after giving
birth. She received a lot of negative publicity after making it public that she
was training throughout pregnancy and got back into the sport just one week
after giving birth. She said that people were calling her ‘crazy’ and said what
she was doing was ‘unhealthy’. Brown never made the Olympic team so why did
pregnancy have this big of an impact, or it could have been the criticism of
others that impacted on her state of mind.


In 2015 the International Olympic Committee gathered sixteen
participants to explore research and recommendations for athletes that are
during pregnancy and after childbirth. Their overall conclusion was that sport
was deemed safe for women whilst pregnant. The end effect may be safe, however
there is still the change in hormone level, high blood pressure and sickness
that can affect a women s performance. Morning sickness usually occurs in early
pregnancy and normally clears up around 16-20 weeks. Dependant on the women
they may experience either nausea (the feeling of sickness without throwing up)
or vomiting, the hormone changes are likely to be the cause of this. High blood
pressure can be a common side effect to being pregnant. High blood pressure can
place extra stress on your heart and kidneys and can increases your risk of
heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. The following complications can also
be a result of having a too high blood pressure; foetal growth restriction,
preterm delivery and a caesarean delivery. Whilst doing exercise your heart has
to pump more blood to provide oxygen to all the muscles around the body as the
heart is having to pump more blood this will increase the flow of blood
therefore increasing blood pressure, a woman who is pregnant who already has a
high blood pressure is very risky and even though studies have proven it not to
make a difference this may play up in a women’s mind affecting her athletic
performance. This biological reason is one way that limits women in the
sporting world, their maternal nature would automatically want to ensure her
offspring is safe at all times and naturally wouldn’t want to stimulate
anything that would put the baby at risk. This second nature would affect the
regularity of training sessions and the intensity of sport, this suggests the
female athlete wouldn’t be training as much as a male athlete for this same
event which would result in a weaker performance.


So, if the biological aspects like the physiology of a women
is the reason men and women are not equal in the sporting world then how come
sports where there is not much physical action the two genders are still
treated differently? Snooker is an example of the not so physically challenging
sports; Steve Davis a six-time world champion doesn’t think ‘a woman will ever
compete in the latter stages of the World Championship’. Top women’s player
Reanne Evans has stated that financial aspects are stopping women from becoming
top snooker players where the men’s game “has the backing behind them that they
can afford to have a part time job, and just practise and work at the snooker,
whereas there is no money in the women’s game what so ever”. Evans did however
win the ladies world title in 2006 when she has 7 ½ months pregnant. She will
take part in the World Snooker’s Q School in an attempt to become a
professional. The barriers for women in snooker are falling down. The World
Professional Billiards and Snooker association have declared there are no
barriers for women. In China and Eastern Europe, the women’s game is increasing
and are no restrictions due to snooker being a non-strength sport. This is just
one-way women are becoming equalised in sport even if it is not physical there
are still advances for women in the sporting world.






The media coverage women in sport receive is significantly
less than male coverage.  When Birmingham
university carried out research they found out that six out of our national
newspapers produced fewer stories about women’s sport one year after the 2012
Olympics; the stories about men outnumbered women’s sports by 20 to 1 in March
2013 in six national titles (the Sun, Mirror, Times, Telegraph, Mail and
Express). 39 articles were related to women’s sport out of a total of 876 which
spread across 3 weeks in February/ March 2012. So how can these two numbers be
so far apart, shouldn’t it be the sport we are interested in not whether a man
or woman has taken part and what are the reasons for this?


Previous studies have portrayed women in demeaning ways.
Commentators were racially diverse but many of them were men not women, this
sex segregation was still apparent in 2009. A study took place in 2009 and the
aim of the study was to compare the ‘quantity and quality of TV news and
highlight showers coverage of women versus men’s athletic events. There
findings were that women were underreported with in the six weeks they
conducted the research. Men’s sport received 96.3% of air time, women’s sports
1.6% and gender-neutral topics 2.1%. These figures should be reversed and
gender-neutral topics should be discussed the majority of time in order for men
and women to be completely equal in sporting media. This topic area lacks
evidence that barriers are falling down.


The articles about women are not always about their sport
but can also include their personal lives. Some may say that female tennis
player Sharapova is more famous on court than off court after she was banned
from taking part in major grand slam tournaments for two years due to her
taking meldonium. Research has also shown that when the media comments on her
sporting success, her appearance is also discussed. Marion Jones is an example
of under reporting, an athlete that was lined up for winning five gold medals
in 2000. Marion Jones isn’t the thinnest and doesn’t follow the stereotypical
image of a woman, she is strong and muscular; This appearance is viewed as
unfeminine. There was a large build up before the Sydney Olympic games in 2000
and the most photographed athlete was not Marion Jones who was predicted to be
incredibly successful but Amy Acuff, she is 6ft2, blonde, part-time model and a
high jumper. Amy Acuff didn’t claim that she was going to win any gold medals
but instead wanted to focus on promoting a swimsuit attention, her reason was
“Because people get a lot of attention for that” Acuff recognising herself that
to be a successful athlete being talked about you don’t necessary have to be
good at the sport, just be popular in male eyes. This 9is a prime example that
media looks for if they look good and not their sporting achievement.


When researching I have found many examples of drug sandals
including a rank of top 5. Surprisingly I found that Michelle Smith, a swimmer
from Ireland who took home three gold medals and one bronze medal. Smith
tampered with urine samples and received a four-year ban. Michelle Smith was
not striped of her medals but became less popular. Lance Armstrong was rated
number 2 on the ranking, Armstrong was stripped of titles in 2012 and given a
lifelong ban. There are many arguments that Michelle Smith should never have
been banned for 4 years because she never failed a dope test. Smith was not
allowed to carry the Olympic torch in 2012, even though her medals were not
stripped her reputation was affected for life. I have come to a conclusion that
the punishment for both men and women is balanced and in many cases the
punishment seems justified for the crime committed and there does not appear to
be any sexism involved I the punishment the rules have been set out and no
matter whether you are male or female the consequences are very similar (a ban
from the sport where he crime has been committed). This is an example of
equality in the sporting world neither men nor women received specialised
treatment due to their sex.


The media portrays this in a very different way and almost
exaggerates the drug scandal committed by the women. The law may be defiant but
the public perception is much harder to have an impact on. Men are slammed for
enhancement drugs in sport through the media however the articles about this
kind of behaviour is very little compared the articles about their sporting
success. There is also the problem that women have always been seen to behave
in a better, more acceptable manner they are therefore always under the
watchful eye of the public whether it’s to do with an athlete changing in
appearance (weight problems) or whether it’s a drug scandal, the coverage is
more about their personal lives rather than the sport they do. Sport
Illustrated has only placed 5% of women athletes on the cover of their
magazine, this is more for their looks rather than there sporting prowess
because they look ‘socially acceptable’. A case study that took place in 1998
looked at the media over 34 years and the findings highlighted how women are
stereotyped and implies what women should look like and how their image would
be accepted in society. The types of sports women receive media coverage on are
sports ‘that emphasize grace and aesthetic appeal’ these include badminton, tennis,
swimming and diving that don’t involve physical contact. This issue is a
concern when athletes have to change their appearance for the public and can be
deemed unsafe to do and are constantly conscious of what the viewer feels about
their appearance and can sometime take drastic measures (surgery) to change
what they look like for the pleasure of others.


There is a lot less sexist remarks regarding women in sport
than there was 20 years ago however the coverage of women’s sport seems to be declining,
which would we prefer? There is a lot of evidence showing that women are now
more respected in the sporting world as the number of women commentators have
gone up and are involved more in sporting discussions. Women’s athletic skill
has improved by large amounts and there are more young girls and women taking
part in sport than ever before.








The reason why women may have faced struggles in sport may
be down to sexism from the past outside the sporting arena. During the late
1800s and early 1900s many campaign groups that wanted equal rights for women
started up including the suffragettes they were fighting for women to have the
right to vote. At the time men were seen as the dominant sex and were only
allowed to vote. Millicent Fawcett was a member of the suffragettes and argued
that women had to pay taxes just like men, they should have the same rights.
The views from the past could be imbedded into society which could be part of
the reason women are partially restricted today as well as in some sports. The
first modern Olympics took place in 1896 where 241 men and 0 women took part.
The following Olympics 4 years later in Paris was when women were allowed to
enter events. However, the 997 athletes that entered only 22 of them were
women; They only took part in golf and tennis. Although this is a big step
forward women actually being allowed to enter the Olympics the ratio of men and
women is very shocking. The numbers from recent Olympics show us that there has
been advances in the number of women taking part; In the 2004 Olympics in
Athens, Greece there were 4,329 women and 6,296 even though the number of men
is significantly more there is still a larger percentage (40.7%) of women than
there were back in the early 20th century (2.2%).


As the modern Olympics became older more and more events
were opened to women, this shows that society was breaking down the barriers
that were limiting women in the first place. This was a very slow gradual
process; In the 1904 Olympics archery was open to women’s participation, from
this Olympics more events were available for women to take art in. Even though
this was gradual it has been very successful, as of 2012 every country that
takes part in the Olympics has at least one woman represent their country, as
well as women taking part in every event. The sports that are normally
dominated by men like football wasn’t available for women’s participation until
1996. At the 2000 Olympics weightlifting, modern pentathlon, taekwondo and
triathlon joined the list of sports women could participate in; Physiological
difference may have had a large impact on people’s views on what women can and
can’t do regarding sport, the idea set from the past that women should stay
home and always seen as the weaker sex both mentally and physically.
Sportswriter Paul Gallico,1936 said “It is a lady’s business to look beautiful
and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it.” This may
reflect the views of men from the 1930s which may be the origins to why women’s
sport is not as appealing to watch because women playing sport has moved away
from the norm.


 Some may argue that
some sports like tennis and golf where women have always been able to take part
in do not show sexism what so ever but their pay may reflect otherwise. The pay
for winning a major grand slam tennis tournament (Wimbledon) has not always
been equal for men and women. In 1968 the pay for women was £750 compared to a
man would have won £2000, this means women were only paid 37.5% of money men
were earning. This inequality continued for 39 years (2007) when both sexes
were paid £700,000. This figure has continued to rise equally for men and women
and they both could have earnt 2,200,000 in the most recent Wimbledon
tournament, this is an excellent progression regarding equality in pay. 83% of
sports have equal pay for men and women however football remains the largest
pay this may be because football has always been seen as a male dominated
sport, women were only allowed to participate in major football tournaments in
1969 where the women’s FA was formed. The FA banned women’s football from its
club grounds, the view that football wasn’t a women’s game disappeared at the
end of the 1960s. However, when conducting research, I found out that in the 19th
century several clubs believed that male behaviour at football matches would be
improved if they were accompanied by women so in April 1885, Preston North End
announced women would be allowed free entry to all home games; 2,000 women
turned up to the first game, this had to be discontinued due to popularity.
This suggest that women have enjoyed watching football for very early on so why
wasn’t there a large number of women actually taking part and playing football?
Was this lack of opportunity or the idea that football was too masculine for a
woman to play? This links in with gender roles being imbedded into society and
that women shouldn’t be involved in ‘rough’ sports. We know that the gender
roles are slowly disappearing and the majority of society doesn’t share the
same views that they did in the 19th century. Vast numbers of women
are breaking gender roles all over the world not just in sport but the
occupations that would ever have been done by a man in the past are now
flooding with large numbers of women and more males being a ‘stay at home
husband’ traditionally the role adopted by a women due to the opinion that
women were seen as softer and more maternal. Studies in psychology of the role
of the father has shown that it is possible to form the same attachment a woman
would form from the baby being in the womb. Men are also beginning to express
their emotions much more, much like women typically would. As these gender
roles are becoming less black and white, in the future the sport you take part
in will defiantly not be defined by gender due to us already seeing the
breakdown of a typical man/ woman.



Women are
not the only group in society that has been affected in the sporting world,
ethnic groups have been largely discriminated in the past. In comparison to the
discrimination that black people faced in the 20th century women
appear to have it relatively easy. Throughout history there have been major
breakthroughs, for example in 1936 during Hitler’s reign in Germany, when he
believed the Aryan race was superior, Jesse Owens won four gold medals during
the Berlin Olympic games and has been credited for single handily crushing
Hitler’s myth about the Aryan race. In 1992 Deratu Tulu was the first Ethiopian
woman to win a gold medal, which she won in the 10,000m track event at the
Barcelona Olympic games. Probably the most famous black African to come onto
the sporting scene and break records is Usain Bolt who holds the record for the
100m, now retired Usain Bolt acted as an amazing role model for many young boys
and girls that aspire to be successful athletes, and the colour of his skin
will not change this opinion many hold, that he is one of the greatest athletes
of all time. The same thoughts have arisen for Jessica Ennis Hill who set the
mark of what girls can be capable of doing. These two athletes alone have broken
down the barriers for both the racial and female groups and has opened up more
opportunities so the youngest generation can get involved without being
discriminated. So not just women are breaking down barriers and certain groups
of men also found they were discriminated in sport; Society is changing for the
better and provides some form of equality for nearly all classes and social
groups in the sporting world.