Gender Discrimination in Sports Term Paper

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This video released by IBN Live reveals the gender discrimination suffered by an Indian Athlete, named Santhi Soundarajan, who lost her silver medal in the female 800m race of Asian games in Doha because of her failure in a gender test. The host of the show very calmly ridiculed the athlete and bluntly joked about athlete's gender by laughing and saying that may be the management and staff members slipped out of her shorts. He also did candid questioning about Soundarajan's feminineness by making statements like "Does she have a uterus? I don't know." He also expressed his doubts about Soundarajan being a woman actually and he found it fascinating that she does not possess sexual attributes of a woman.

Lady reporter Jill Pike, questioned the fundamentals of the testing and also criticized news article for not revealing the full facts related to the test failure, disregarding the athlete's medical privacy rights. Conversations held amid the hosts of the show clearly depicted that the hosts didn't possessed in-depth knowledge about gender testing policy and also have been uninformed about the potential causes of test failure. Moreover, Uygur's approach towards the issue was very humiliating and unprofessional.

The Social Issue at the core of this analysis

The Social Issue is the gender discrimination of female athletes. There has been a rapid evolution in women's sport in the last 30 years. In addition, there has been a remarkable growth in the opportunities for the women athletes to compete on professional level. But unfortunately major sections of media are dedicated to men (The Women's Sports Foundation, 2004). Moreover, the inappropriate media attention towards female athletes is only limited to their feminism and sexual appeal instead of their sporty abilities (Fink and Kensicki, 2002). These inappropriate medias' representations add more to the stereotypes for women athletes by stressing on athlete's physical outlook along with sexual appeals which forms an ideal image of athlete having thin body, sexual appeal and attractive body (Duke and Greer 2008).

Review of Literature

Insufficient media coverage of female athletics

It is long observed by the sport's sociologists that there lacks a coverage of women's sports in conventional news media. It can be said that there is a lack of respective and appropriate coverage of women's sports in print media (Bishop, 2003; Pratt, et al., 2008; Vincent, 2004; Vincent and Crossman, 2008) along with mainstream television media (Daddario and Wigley, 2007; Messner, Duncan, and Willms, 2006. Despite of this fact, there has been a remarkable improvement in the abilities of athletes over the past century.It was highlighted in the review of world's track records in track and field by Lippi et al., (2008) that the rate of improvements in females was greater as compared to men in the same period of time. It is also suggested that the more turnover is expected in participation if the women are given enough opportunities and trainings.

Although there are efforts made to educate the mainstream media about stereotype coverage of women's athlete and their improved performances, there are some unswerving patterns which persist over time. Longitudinal studies carried out by Messner et al., (2006) showed that women's sport is not being given proper attention. And it is observed that in over a time span of 15 years, there is no expansion in media's coverage on women's sports. And if female athletes are given due coverage, they are more represented as a sex objects rather than skilled and capable athlete as compared to men. (Kian and Clavio, 2011). This inappropriate and negative exposure of female athletes by media subsidizes and maintains hegemonic masculinity in western culture (Vincent and Crossman, 2008).

In mainstream media, female athletes who fail to meet the expectations of an ideal athlete remain the subject of ridicule and also become the targets for racists and sexists in long run (Cooky et al., 2010). For females who are professional athletes of the highest order, the significance of functional muscularity within them is acceptable. But usually athletes are constrained about social perception of feminism which do not have link with muscularity (Boyle, 2005; Mosewich et al., 2009).Study on female athlete is consistent, it is noted that men have more desire to gain muscularity as compared to women. Muscularity is considered positive in a competition but only hindrance is a social setting (Steinfeldt et al., 2011; Krane't al, 2009). Media enacts these dominant cultural rituals and serves as a major cause of forming gender stereotypes and gender discrimination in sports (Steinfeldt, Carter, Benton, and Steinfeldt, 2011; Krane et al., 2004; McCeary and Saucier, 2009). One Study, held at NCAA Division I schools, on media guides (Buysse and Embser-Herbert, 2004) examined cover photos of media guides related to sport for the year 1990 as well as 1997. The pictures showed that women during that time were captured in poses which were less athletic but had more sex appeal.

When media exposes female athletes, it more usually emphasizes the attraction and physical looks of the athlete and is more likely show off them in sexual poses (Kamphoff et al., 2011). This has a negative influence on the women and girls, resulting in dissatisfaction in their minds about their own bodies (Grabe et al., 2008). It is identified through studies and researches that dissatisfaction may lead to eating disorders like bulimia or may also cause low esteem, depression and obesity (Hyde, and Lindberg, 2007; Paxton et al., 2006). Thus, body dissatisfactions have developed as a major aspect of female's physical as well as psychological health.

As mentioned above, there is more number of researches conducted in order to find the rate of women affected by the sexuality of athletes as compared to men (Aubrey and Taylor, 2009). Daniel and Wartena (2011) held a research about the male reactions to media images of women through studying responses to female athletes. Responses were taken about performance and sexuality. Outcome of the research came as a result that sexual poses of athletes provoked the focus on their physical attraction same as the pictures of models do. They also noted the negative response on women athletes as well as suggested that men should focus more on athletic skills of the athlete. This study provides us with the fundamentals of efforts aimed to challenge the media and its content. This study also reflects the negative influence of sexuality of female athletes on the viewer'smind.

Cunningham et al., (2004) also proposed that until and unless athletes are not presented in media with a proper and decent fashion, other girls would not be able to find the athletic ideals in them and will not come forward. Moreover, Giuliano et al., (2007) noted that women who had athletic role models in a younger age tend to come and participated more as compared to the women who did not have any athletic model in their childhood. If the number of athletes who participate and perform in world sports increases, the number of sport ideals would also increase for children to imitate. It is a sad fact suggested by Balaguer et al., (2012) that females are not considered as a role models in the orthodox culture as they are more represented as fashion models with glamour and thin body unlikely female athletes who should possess some muscularity.

On High level of sports competitions between female athletes, presuppositions of fair play have been given more priority then the implications of discrimination (Sullivan, 2011). According to the world anti-doping agency men athletes are allowed to have "therapeutic use exception" and use testosterone if they have some underlying medical condition. However this substance is prohibited for use in all other circumstances. Media doesn't necessarily cover this important issue however the fans and officials are concerned about women's playing field which has been taken over by pretentious individuals and also highly exposed in the media (Dreger, 2010).

Cooky et al., (2012) scrutinized the media-exposure about Caster Semenya who had her sex questioned after she won the IAAF 2009 world championship as a South African. The media of South Africa portrayed the gender verification process as a racist, human rights violation and product of western dominant notions of womanhood and beauty. U.S. media portrayed this process as a procedure of fair judgment, equality and also debated about the science behind gender testing. Dreger (2010) discussed about the outcome of media-circus which caused Semenya to seek isolation and also argued about the inadequate policies about athlete's privacy. Gooren (2011) formulated the physiological dissimilarities amid both men and women and also gave a case study for gender discrimination in sports and the significance of gender-verification process. He advised that unfair competition ought to be avoided as well as the measures taken by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have been the best to ensure quality in competitive sports. He did not only provide the case for gender testing but concluded that natural endowments will change among competitors. These limited findings of the study can be considered as a failure of exposure…[continue]


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