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Brief History of Men and Women in Sports

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1.0 A Brief History of Men and Women in Sports

The history of sports extends back to ancient times as exemplified in Ancient Greece. Such a long history within different cultural and historical settings provides a great deal of knowledge surrounding the nature of sports and social changes which have occurred since its emergence beyond 1000BC (Coakley et al., 2012, p. 57). Participation in Ancient Olympic Games was limited to male athletes, as women were prohibited from competing or spectating. Women were under the patriarchal authorities of men and were perceived as inferior and weak subordinates bound by restrictive gender roles and were regarded as the property of their husbands (Coakley et al. 2012, p. 60 and Wohlfart, 2009, para 2).

In honour of the original Olympics the first modern Olympics Games was held in Athens in 1896 (Wilson, 2009, para. 9) which offered 10 sports in which 245 men competed (Teetzel, 2011, p. 389). It was founded by Pierre de Coubertin, who shared a patriarchal attitude opposing women's participation in the games as their inclusion would be; impractical, uninteresting and incorrect (Top End Sports, 2012, para. 5). The role of women if any in the Olympics was to provide "female applause" for the efforts of men (Wilson, 2009, para. 9). Women have competed in every subsequent Olympics following the incorporation of only 11 women across lawn tennis and golf in the Paris Games in 1900, but even now still struggle to compete as equals.

Eligibility has been a prominent issue as the Olympic Charter and rulebooks of International Federations stipulates the 'differential treatment of women' and therefore unequitable opportunities for female athletes. The absence of women from entire Olympic disciplines since the early 1900's has not offered equivalent opportunities for men and women to compete. Women were excluded from track and field competition prior to 1928 when the first 800m event took place (Wilson, 2009, para. 16). Many female competitors had not properly prepared for the event resulting in the collapse of several participants at the end. Olympic organizers deemed the race to be too strenuous for women and barred any event for women over 200m from being contested at any Olympics until its re-emergence in 1960 (Lovett, 1997, para. 2). Of the 302 sporting events held at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, 165 were for men, 127 for women and 10 for both men and women. The International Olympics Committee has obviously taken steps towards closing the gap between male and female contested events since 1900, most recently with the debut of three women's boxing events on the 2012 London Olympic program (Australian Olympic Committee, 2012, para. 6). Nevertheless modifications are still required to achieve an equitable balance of programme events.

2.0 The Gender Ideology

Gender ideology varies from culture to culture and is defined as a belief system that signifies differences between men and women in terms of their characteristics and behaviour. In most societies where men have been privileged through status, power or authority, gender ideology is based on a model which identifies people as one of two sex categories; male or female (Coakley et al., 2012, p. 262). People in the male category are expected to uphold different expectations when it comes to feelings, thoughts and actions in comparison to women. These expectations outline what is considered masculine or feminine within society and are the basis of defining and identifying gender. As explained by Migliaccio (2009, para. 6) a male must reframe from behaviours that would associate them with a woman, and thus a common first lesson is to not be like a girl. As a result many men avoid behaviours which could be considered feminine such as partaking in artistic pursuits like ballet classes, reciting shake spear or scrap-booking. According to Coakley et al. (2012, p. 259) most men support the idea of gender equality but few are actually willing to give up their power to achieve it. As masculine characteristics are typically consistent with positions of power and influence, men have more to lose collectively if they do not adhere to gender expectations. This is why men strictly police their gender boundaries and sanction those who move outside the boundaries (Coakley et al., 2012, p. 263).

However not everyone accepts or conforms to social norms based on a two category gender classification model. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, intersexuals and queers are typically defined as deviant and according to the model there is no social space or recognition for those who are not heterosexual males or females (Wada et al., 2011, p. 2). Nonetheless, Gzedit argues that there is a growing tolerance and acceptance of this small minority in Western democracies (2011, para. 4). Society is very slowly deciding that they should not be ostracized for their sexual orientation. The legalizing of gay marriage in various states in America implies that prejudice based laws will eventually vanish granting full equality and acceptance of gays and alike.

The traditional gender ideology as explained by Wada et al., regards men as the primary or sole income earner or support in a household, while women are deemed responsible for domestic upkeep (2011, p. 2). This is an old conservative view and as a conceptual topic is false, but it still prevails within society as it is so deeply rooted in our social worlds.

3.0 Gender Biases within the Media

The media (including newspapers, magazines, books and catalogues) and electronic media (radio, television, mobile phones and the internet) are a part of culture and society (Coakley et al., 2012, p. 380). According to UNESCO (2012, p. 4) the media is a social actor, a transmitter of culture with the ability to give impetus to social advancement. "The mass media have become

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