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Jock Talk: Existence of Women’s Professional Sports is Sexist

Danica Patrick, an example of a woman in a coed professional sport. | Image by david_shankbone via Flickr

Julia Friedman ’11
Staff Writer

I’m not a complete sexist, even though most people assume me to be.  I support women’s rights.  I’m a fan of equality.  However what I am not a fan of is women’s professional sports, nor do I see their purpose or place in this society.  I’ll say it straight: I don’t think there should be women’s professional sports.

As a female and as an athlete, I don’t believe there should be sports teams and sports associations exclusively for women.  The fact that they do exist, is sexist in itself.

Being a professional athlete is a career.  No other occupation is separated by gender.  For example, I’m a writer, so I want to pursue a career in journalism.  There isn’t men’s journalism and women’s journalism, there is just journalism.  The person who is the better writer gets hired, regardless of gender.

No other occupation is separated by gender.

Some may argue that women need their own sports teams because they can not physically compete with men.  However, the creation of these women’s teams is supporting the notion of female inferiority, not promoting feminism.

Something for these skeptics to consider is that some women are capable of competing with men in professional sports.  For example, in 1980 Ann Meyers signed to the Indiana Pacers and in 1977 Lusia Harris was drafted to the New Orleans Jazz, both are NBA basketball teams.  Meyers and Harris were able to surpass expectations and defy notions about female physical inferiority, thus earning their place on the roster of a men’s professional basketball team.

In 1973, female tennis player Billie Jean King faced off against male player Bobby Riggs in match that is known today as “The Battle of the Sexes.”  In said match, King defeated opponent Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 winning three straight sets.

A present day example is Danika Patrick, the race car driver.  I personally have more respect for her than I do any other female athlete.  This is a woman who doesn’t use her gender as a handicap.  She succeeds in a sport where all of her competitors are male.

The other problem that I have with women’s professional sports is that they are abysmal to watch.  I myself am an avid basketball fan.  Women are clearly less gifted than men at this sport.  Stacy Pressman, an ESPN columnist said it best.  “I am bored out of my skull at women’s basketball games.  I refuse to be politically correct about this, but 40 minutes of underhanded layups is not entertaining.”

If you go to a women’s sporting event, the number of fans will be significantly lower than if you go to see men play that same sport.  This is true at the professional level and at the collegiate and high school level as well.

In order to attract more fans, women’s teams have to lower their ticket price.  The reason for this?  Because paying $1,250 for a court-side seat to see the Knicks is more bang for your buck than watching the Liberty for the same price.  That’s why it only costs $150 for the same seat.

It’s the same thing with television coverage.  Less than 10 percent of sports news time is spent covering women’s sports.  This is because women’s sports are not entertaining in the least.  Unless of course a brawl breaks out between the Detroit Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks.

People generally don’t care about women’s sports and the fact of the matter is, is that women’s sports leagues were created just to satisfy participants of a feminist movement.

If things were really equal, men and women would be competing against each other, not separately.

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  • J

    Justin RendeDec 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    This whole thread is a fail. All you feminists need to get back in your kitchens and start making those sandwiches. You all obviously have too much time on your hands to be commenting on this thread; that lost time could have been put to use on those sandwiches you owe society.
    Women can be just as good in sports as men, there is no need for seperate leagues. If they really pursued the sport, they could beat men at their own game. Stop making excuses for yourselves.
    That is all.

  • B

    Basketball fanNov 28, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    You are wrong- UCONN women’s had more of a crowd last season at their games than the mens team did. Check your facts.

  • T

    The Dude AbidesNov 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Your basic argument is a good one: equality of the genders. Women still make 70 cents to a dollar for men in the same work job. But check out the the percentages of women in law and medical school. Things are changing, big time. I am not sure I agree with your cloaked attack on female professional sports. In golf, women have played in men’s tournaments and not faired so well. There is no comparison in the abilities of women in football, basketball, baseball to allow for an integrated sport. Billy Jean did beat Bobby but didn’t win point against Jimmy Connors a few months later. Many of these women’s sports are being hurt drastically by a downturn recession. I am not sure it is a good time to put the knock on them.

  • M

    MelanieOct 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    What would actually be cool is if, acknowledging that there is a physiological difference between men and women that tend to make men bigger, taller, faster, and/or stronger, and therefore better at most massively popular sports… Wouldn’t it be fun and neat, cool and entertaining if teams had to be half male and half female? That would really make for an extra fascinating dynamic which I would enjoy watching! The only place I think this would not work is in high physical contact sports like football. Female offensive players having to go up against male defensive players is a scary thought.

    Really, it would be like the concept of mixed-doubles in tennis and other racquet sports, expanded into other sports. It could even work in individual sports like cross country running. Currently the scoring system is however the top five runners do (their respective finishing places in a race, all added together; lowest score wins; i.e. 15 is a perfect score – 1+2+3+4+5=15). The same thing could be done where five of each sex counts in scoring (but instead, a perfect score would be 30).

    I think this would be a great way to have men and women play sports together, fairly, in equal numbers!

    • C

      ChrisOct 27, 2010 at 9:16 pm

      I somewhat agree that this would work in some sports. While this would work well in more “individual” team events, such as track, swimming, etc., more team oriented sports would not. Imagine a basketball team with two or three out of the five players on the court only being out there because of their gender- not because they are the best players available. The strategy of the game would change from a “mano e mano” style of play to a strategy where opposing coaches may actually gameplan to expose their opponents weakest links and create mismatches. The same concept would apply in many team sports, such as volleyball, soccer, hockey, etc. This would create an even bigger problem.

  • L

    LOVEOct 25, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Yeah JULIA! great article. really stirs the mind. its an interesting idea that men and women could play together on the same teams

  • C

    ChrisOct 24, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I completely agree with this article. I study phycology in school and here’s some food for thought- based on the way the male/ female brain develops, females naturally have much better verbal skills. However, you do not see two separate sets of occupations that requires those skills. Men and women must both compete for the same jobs, even though there is a handicap. I don’t understand how some people will argue that there should be a division in athletics (where men have a natural edge) to given women a chance, but not a division in other jobs that require superior verbal skills (where women have a natural edge) to give men a better chance. Sexism at work.

    • M

      MelanieOct 26, 2010 at 10:48 pm

      It is because the edge men tend to have in most physical pursuits is very, very obvious and very easy to define. The edge women tend to have in verbal ability is very subtle, very hard to define, and not nearly as great or clear to observers.

  • G

    GOct 24, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    YEAH JULIA!!! you spark that controversy!

  • M

    MelanieOct 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I appreciate the writer, Miss Friedman’s, opinions, and she makes some valid points. However, I could not disagree more. At least twice, she refers to ‘female physical inferiority’. I think her definition of this concept is inaccurate. Just because men genetically tend to be bigger, faster, and stronger than women does not mean that women are physically inferior to men. There are many physical things that women tend to do better than men such as smaller motor movements and things that involve more fine muscle control. As well, women tend to be more elegant and graceful in their movements than men. Further, men and women tend to have a different distribution of strength relative to each other. For instance, women’s strength tends to be more balanced throughout their bodies, whereas men tend to have a higher percentage than women do of strength in their upper bodies. As well, women are equipped with the ability to carry and deliver offspring, which men cannot do. I could list many more things that sound like male physical inferiority to females, but I need to stop somewhere. My point is that the tendency of men to be bigger, faster, and stronger than women doesn’t mean that women are physically inferior: it just means that men and women are different.

    I don’t think there is any validity to the argument that women’s sports are boring to watch. People tend to like watching men play sports better because they tend to be bigger, faster, and stronger, so people are drawn to that since the sports that have developed into being the ‘big’ sports in society are mostly sports that cater to men’s strengths more than women’s strengths. However, women’s sports as a whole is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, so just because people prefer watching men’s sports in general does not mean women’s sports are boring. In fact, in the NBA, then men are now so big, tall, strong, and fast, that it’s like having ten giants out on the court at once. They make the court look small and I assert that the sport was more entertaining when the focus was on basketball rather than the gigantic men themselves. That’s why so many people prefer men’s college basketball to pro basketball: there’s much more “purity of sport” left. In the same way, I must say that the WNBA is much more entertaining than the NBA when it comes to the purity of the sport of basketball.

    As for men and women competing against each other, that would be a very unfair answer for women. As stated before, the sports that have mass popularity and in which people can be at the professional level are sports that are geared more towards men’s strengths than women’s strengths. Since there are genetic physiological differences between men and women that tend to make men bigger, taller, faster, and stronger (as well as having greater internal capacity too such as a bigger heart and lungs), there obviously needs to be different leagues for men and women. Everybody falls on a Bell Curve in their abilities, so it goes without saying that there will be the occasional woman who has gifts that, for a woman, are at the extreme high end of the Bell Curve for women, which will put her in the ability areas of many very good men (such as Billie Jean King), but that is rare and would keep the vast majority of women out of sports. Furthermore, as advances have been made in the science of sports, performances have exploded across the board. Most men who played in the NBA in the 1970s could not compete against men in the NBA today. In the same way, although a couple women made it in the NBA 30+ years ago, they would not have a chance today. Even in tennis, athletes such as the Williams sisters have been compared in many ways to male tennis players. However, if they were to actually play against their male counterparts, they would not have a chance.

    As for auto racing, although a big part of why it is a male-dominated sport is due to the cultural aspects and the fact that men tend to be much more interested in cars and related things than women, there is yet another reason why men tend to dominate. Just as a big reason why men tend to be genetically bigger, faster, and stronger than women is due to their higher levels of testosterone, this hormone is also connected to aggression. It has been shown than high levels of testosterone and aggressive and even sometimes violent behavior are closely-related. Being a very aggressive person is one of the most necessary traits in order to be a successful auto racer. Being that men usually have a far greater amount of testosterone than women, they also tend to be better auto racers. This is also a physical (however internal) difference between men and women, however does not mean that women are ‘hormonally inferior’.

    My whole point is to say that the existence of female sports is not highlighting ‘female physical inferiority’. I do not think there is such a thing. I think that men and women are simply different physically, with different areas of strength and weakness (i.e. if synchronized swimming were a ‘big-time moneymaker’-type sport, it would be dominated by women (as it already is), as it happens to be a sport that plays more to the strengths of women. Something similar could be said for the sport of rhythmic gymnastics. Female professional sports is definitely not sexist, as male professional sports is also not sexist. The reason why there doesn’t need to be ‘male’ and ‘female’ journalism (or most any category like that), is simply because the differences between men and women don’t come into play when it comes to how good a journalist is at his or her work. In physical endeavors, though, the physical differences between men and women are very great, so they need to be acknowledged, and they are acknowledged by the fact that we have separate men’s and women’s sports.

  • D

    Devon GoldsmithOct 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    If you want to say that men and women don’t have occupation separations? Then explain why women aren’t allowed in combat and why some women even though they have passed some of the military’s most elite training they are not allowed to hold the same occupations as that of a man in special forces or as a Navy SEALs?

    Being a professional athlete becomes and occupations after you graduate from college. So even then in High School etc its all amateur. Plus there are men out there like you that constantly put the whole idea of womens sports down without seeing what it out there. Have you watched sports other than womens basketball…I bet you didnt even know it exists…then again if you did, your mind would be closed to the fact that there are other sports. What are going to do one day when you have a daughter if you have kids and she dreams and aspires to be a pro-basketball player, or tennis player, or football player?

  • L

    lilOct 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it’s unfortunate that some people actually voice theirs.
    If you think ligically about the situation, you will understand that it makes complete sense for the sexes to be separate with regard to sports. Men are bigger, stronger, and faster than women. period. It’s not a level playing field.
    Yes, you tried to back up your argument with instances with which women competed with men, and in one instance, dominated one, but those are EXCEPTIONS to what is a fact.
    I play professional women’s tackle football, if I, or any of my teammates, had the opportunity to play/scrimmage against men, i can promise you that we wouldn’t take the offer. I couldn’t imagine getting sacked by a linbacker/defensive end who is the male equivalent to my adversaries…not gonna happen.
    with regard to sport, it makes all the sense in the world that they are separated by sex.
    and as far as women’s sport lacking the same popularity as men’s…SO WHAT?
    If people don’t want to tune into basketball played in it’s purest form, then so be it…women athletes shouldn’t stop playing a sport because people don’t want to watch it, you play for the love of the game first and foremost. There are sports in the Olympics that don’t even get televised, but you don’t hear about them being eliminated from the Games.
    You are a female, yes. Maybe even sexist.
    But it’s obvious that you’re not an athlete.

  • L

    Lekar JenkinsOct 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Then why don’t you watch womens football? I think you’re simply just watching the wrong sport.

  • M

    MelOct 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Okay, i know you’re in high school and all….but let me just clarify a few things. As someone who has worked in both the WNBA and NCAA men’s and women’s basketball your points are not worth making. Its not a “gender handicap” to have a women’s league. Women and Men are biologically and physically different and play 2 completely different games when it comes to athletics in general. Women’s is a bit more about the basics and finess and men’s a lot of the time is about sheer power. Also the women’s games tend to be a bit more team-based versus men being singled out for their dunking or 3-point capabilities. AND the women don’t lower their prices because they need more fans. A lot of college games use the same pricing for men’s basketball as womens and furthermore, the prices are lower in professional because they can be, because women (unfairly) get paid less. It has to do with revenue and profit/loss margins, not “dying for fans.” Women’s Leagues were not createdd to satify some gender equality thing, they were created because they have a real purpose. Dont use your opinions as fact in your articles…try doing some big girl research.

    • P

      Person 1Oct 25, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      This is an opinion piece. Just saying.

  • A

    Ann GaffiganOct 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm


    Some very interesting points you bring up here! Would you email me? I’d like to talk about having you as a guest on our radio show when we discuss this issue in a couple weeks.

    Thank you!

    Ann Gaffigan

    • M

      Mary Elizabeth FulcoOct 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      Your opinion is one that is certainly shared by many people in our society; but I disagree with your arguments. You wrote, “I don’t believe there should be sports teams and sports associations exclusively for women.” You extended this comment to all women’s sports, including high school, college, and professional levels. One of many problems with doing away with women sports is that you would be denying women the benefits and opportunities linked with competing.

      You are right in saying that men are stronger and faster than women. It is a biological fact. However, this biological fact should not be used to justify barring women from sports. Sports offer so many benefits to which women should be exposed. Where else will women learn to be disciplined, live a healthy lifestyle, engage in teamwork, and experience the joys of intense competition? If a woman makes a male team, that is good; but the chances of her playing or being a star player is slim to none due to the biological differences. However, that does not mean that women should be denied a chance to shine. Women deserve to be leaders, and experience defeats and wins.

      Your argument is unsettling even more because it could be extended to even deny handicapped people the chance to compete as well; and this is also wrong. The Special Olympics are no where near as competitive as the Winter or Summer Olympics, but it does allow people with disabilities an EQUAL chance to experience the joys of competition and athletics. Equality is achieved through the separations. The separations allow both sexes and ALL ability levels the chance to compete at their highest possible levels, and as a result internalize life lessons that otherwise would not be learned.

      Again, I acknowledge that your opinion is shared by many, but I respoectfully disagree.