While looking through my school’s unfinished yearbook, I noticed an aspect about my school that I had not thought to take heed of before. My school offers an equal number of sports selections for sexes in soccer, basketball, tennis, marching band cross country, swim & dive, track and golf. The disparity begins when male baseball has softball as its feminine counterpart, and to make the amount of male and female sports equal, my school added female volleyball and lacrosse vs male wrestling and football.
Although there is an equal number of sports for both men and women, none of the sports allow both sexes to play a sport together.
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When I thought about the reasons for this being, the answer to me became simple: men are naturally found to be stronger than women. It would not make biological sense for a man to play among women in a sport due to the clear advantage he has. A man playing a contact sport against a woman with these clear, evolutionary differences can give way to ethical issues in the fact that he could potentially cause great harm to the woman. This thought came to me rather quickly, which spoke volumes to me about our society. We are taught that women are slower, weaker and smaller than men and differences between the sexes are due to a plethora of differing biological aspects, most notably, estrogen and testosterone.
While both men and women possess some level of both sex hormones, the dominant hormone of women is estrogen and men’s primary hormone is testosterone. The chemical structure of testosterone and estrogen only shows subtle differences that cause very substantial differences between the sexes. Testosterone affects nearly every cell in the male body by improving muscle mass, bone density, the heart, brain and blood vessels. Estrogen, made from the circulating testosterone in the body by an enzyme called aromatase, has been primarily found to stimulate the development of female sex characteristics and reproductive systems. In terms of the physical sense, estrogen causes smaller bones, a broader pelvis, narrower shoulders, and increased fat storage around hips and thighs. Therefore, biologically, women are smaller and more susceptible to sports-related injuries that could increase if they are participating in a sport with men.
However, if the context is not in a contact sport such as football, wrestling or hockey, then this argument should theoretically become irrelevant. Sports is about performance and skill, and while men have some physical advantages over women, women have been proven to possess qualities such as stamina and pain tolerance at a superior level. The greater amounts of body fat in female bodies has proven beneficial in swim & dive, as it reduces drag in the water and yields greater buoyancy. In some cases in endurance sports such as track, women’s greater amounts of estrogen seem to play a role in enabling some women to outperform men. In Boston’s 2003 Marathon the mean running time for the top 207 runners showed women’s times to be nearly faster than men at a mean time of 2:36:55 versus a mean time of 2:41:33. Thus with these examples and more, each sex has shown to possess different qualities and attributes which can offset and compensate for any shortcomings that their biological traits may cause.
Despite these scientific findings, women are widely believed to be physically inferior to men, making it conventionally acceptable to keep sports the way they are and keep men and women separate. However, ‘separate does not mean equal,’ in the fact that the two sexes technically do not play under equal conditions. For example, in FIFA, female soccer players are encouraged to play on turf while the men are allowed to play on grass. Some of soccer’s biggest stars have protested about the playing conditions on faux grass which can cause rug burns, tripping on uneven surfaces, and other various serious injuries and despite these reasons and more, women have had to endure the conditions while men have consistently used natural grass.
Another example which has gained notoriety over the years is the unequal pay wages. Due to the fact that female versions of male-dominated sports have never reached their male counterparts in terms of popularity, female athletes have been paid a significantly lesser salary. In 2012, NBA star Kevin Garnett $21 million a year, excluding endorsements. Tamika Catchings of the WNBA earns $105,000 a season, according to David Woods in USA Today which is more than $300,000 less than the N.B.A.’s league minimum wage. Not to mention, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo earns over 15 times the amount of money Alex Morgan does in a year.
While variations exist among both sexes, the integration of sports remains a controversial subject to discuss. Until scientists can determine whether sex segregation actually reflects biological differences between the sexes in terms of athletic ability, and does not appear as a form of discrimination under a flawed belief that keeps females as inherently athletically inferior to males, it may be some time before society learns to accept men and women as complete equals in the physical sense.
To read more about the unequal sexes pay wages in sports click here !
Click here to learn about estrogen’s effect on the female body, and here to learn about testosterone’s effect on the male body.
Editor: Maria ‘Stefi’ Ticsa