Allowing women to play against men in the same sporting leagues has been a debate almost since the start of professional sporting leagues. The issue is whether there can be no competition between men and women due to men’s superior physical strength and about letting women compete into men’s leagues (not necessarily merging the two) as a solution to gender discrimination. As sports competitions are getting bigger, richer, and more televised and accessible, this debate is of crucial importance as it could transform the face of almost every sporting competition. Now, in the majority of sports there is a separation between sexes, but lately there has been a growing number of female athletes requested that they would be allowed to play in men’s leagues. There are a few examples of females being allowed in men’s leagues such as the example of Danica Patrick, a NASCAR driver, and Annika Sorenstam who played golf against men at the P.G.A. tournament in 2003, but there are only two Olympic sports which allow the two sexes compete head-to-head: equestrian and sailing.
In sports it is crucial that the best person wins no matter of his or her sex. We should let the women decide if they are prepared enough to participate in men’s events, and not take that decision for them by forcing them into set leagues. American skier Lindsey Vonn has won the women's World Cup four times. In November 2012, she asked to be allowed to compete in the men's event. The request was denied(1). If a female athlete can perform better than a male athlete in a certain discipline, she should be allowed to compete with, and beat, the male athlete. The examples of Danica Patrick, a “NASCAR driver who won the 2008 Indy Japan 300 and finished 3rd in the 2009 Indy 500” and Seena Hogan who holds multiple records in ultra cycling, which haven’t been beaten by any man or women to this day(2), show us how women can improve a competition in a significant way. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who wins, the very purpose of sports forces us to let them take the decision, as we cannot accurately suppose that women are worse than men at every single competition of every single sporting event as shown by the stated examples.
(1) The Associated Press, “Skier Lindsey Vonn can't race against men in WCup” November 3, 2012 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-400_162-57544795/skier-lindsey-vonn-cant-race-against-men-in-wcup/
(2) Esteban “9 Female Athletes Who Competed Against Men”, Total Pros Sports, October 28, 2011 http://www.totalprosports.com/2011/10/28/9-female-athletes-who-competed-against-men/
First and foremost, it is very important to realize that the desire to take part in men’s sporting competitions must be backed up by physical capabilities of women to be able to win against men. Unfortunately, if we look at statistics we realize how big the gap between the two sexes is: “Michael Phelps is a full 26 seconds ahead of the women's world record holder in a 400m medley, the best female is more than 10% behind the best male - 12 minutes in a marathon (and 20 for most of the top women at the moment), more than 1 second in a 100m race, more than 1 meter in the long jump.” (1) Thus, the states purpose of sports, that of “let the best person win” is already being achieved, as, sadly, in a wide majority of cases men, due to their physical attributes, do perform better.
Promoting performance is not the only purpose of sports; another should be promoting gender equality. This measure, due to the wide physical gap between the two sexes, would simply perpetuate ideas that women are not equal. It doesn’t matter that there will be a few examples of women who managed to succeed, as these will be overshadowed by the significant majority of female athletes who won’t. A world in which gender equality is promoted, but where not every competition is being won by the best athlete is more desirable than one in which discrimination is perpetuated but you make sure that “the best one wins”.
(1) Sports Scientists, April 15, 2010 http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/04/let-male-and-female-compete-together.html
Assuming we would have two equally muscular and equally fast male and female athletes, the current system clearly discriminates the female athlete by not allowing her to compete in the male league. It is against the very nature of sports to treat differently two athletes who have the same strength, speed, agility, dexterity, mental focus, determination, ambition based purely on their type of chromosomes.
This is extremely important as most of the time the women’s competition gets less attention from the public and sponsors, as seen in the cases of Women’s National Basketball Association and National Women’s Football Association. So, by forcing them to stay in those leagues, you are denying potentially successful athletes fame, pride and money. The Giro Rosa, one of the biggest women cycling competition, offers a prize money of 460 Euros, which is a mere thousandth of the Tour de France's 450,000 Euro top prize.(1)
(1) Barth Sarah “Why can’t we have a women’s Tour de France?”, Road.cc ,July 14, 2013 http://road.cc/content/news/87934-why-can’t-we-have-women’s-tour-de-france
On this level, we have two situations. On one hand, there are a lot of sports where women and men receive equal media coverage and monetary rewards starting from athletics, where at the world championships the gold medal winner is rewarded the same, no matter of sex(1) and ending with tennis, where for example at the US Open, one of the 4 biggest tennis tournaments of the year, both the male and female winners receive the same amount of money. On this level, we see that there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever. (2)The fact that women play fewer sets is by no means a form of discrimination as we can see that, at the end of the day, they get the same amount of money and equal, if not more, publicity than the male tennis players.
On the other hand, there are sports, like soccer, basketball or cycling where women simply don’t have the necessary physical requirements for example to shoot a goal from 40m away, thus making a female soccer match less thrilling than one played by males. Women will never have the possibility to win these competitions, thus there will be no monetary or media coverage advantages for them of competing in the same league as men. It is better for them to be the best at a smaller tournament than to be the last at a bigger one. For example, Caster Semenya who won gold in the women's 800 metres at the 2009 World Championships with a time of 1:55.45 in the final would not have even qualified for the men’s final, in which the worst time was 1:47.80.(3)
(1) Jamaica Observer, August 07, 2013 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Over-US-7m-in-prize-money-at-World-Champs
(2) US Open Official Site 2013, http://www.usopen.org/en_US/about/history/prizemoney.html
(3) Eric Vilain “Gender Testing for Athletes Remains a Tough Call”, New York Times, June 18, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/sports/olympics/the-line-between-male-and-female-athletes-how-to-decide.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
One of the best ways to have a healthy life, avoid obesity and learn crucial values like respect, teamwork and fair play is by practicing a sport. In order to incentivize women from around the world to get involved you need to give them role models; women who receive a lot of media coverage to whom they can look up to. Unfortunately, women’s sports don’t receive as much media coverage as men’s sports because they are considered to be less spectacular and thrilling. By allowing certain women, who have the necessary skills to compete against men to get this coverage you will give young girls the necessary motivation to start practicing sports, thus bringing a massive social benefit to the society. This happens already to successful women who are lucky enough to compete with men, as shown by Danica Patrick, so why should we stop here?(1)
(1) White Rea, “Patrick inspiration to young females” MSN Sports, February 23, 2013 http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/danica-patrick-inspires-young-fans-jimmie-johnson-jeff-gordon-carl-edwards-daughters-meet-star-022213
First of all, sports are one of the most popular and promoted activities for young girls around the world, they receive advice to practice sports from a wide variety of sources: parents, friends, school teachers, etc. There isn’t a lack of motivation on their part on this level, especially as there are a lot of female sporting competitions that get a lot of media coverage: volleyball, handball, swimming, ice skating, etc.
This measure will actually discourage teenage girls from practicing sports on a professional level. Due to the huge gap in physical strength most of the female athletes will only get defeated in these competitions with men. Seeing these so called “role models” getting beaten at, for example, every single soccer match reduces the chances of girls wanting to enrol in this type of activity as they will see the competition being too powerful, diminishing the possibilities of ever winning a competition. You need to show them that it is possible for them to win, and that’s why you need Serena Williams to win so many Grand Slam Tournaments, that’s why you need Alexandra do Nascimento to be named Best Female Handball Player of the Year and that’s why you need to separate the sexes in sporting competitions.(1)
(1) Wikipedia, 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IHF_World_Player_of_the_Year#Women
From the very beginning, it is important to understand that many sports are based on the physical attributes of the individuals. Whoever has the biggest muscles, whoever is fastest, whoever lifts a bigger weight, he is the one who will be declared champion. When we look at the statistics, they reveal the massive gap between the athletic capacities of the two sexes for example “The women's speed world records are all about 90 percent of the men's speed world records, in both short, middle and long distances.”(1). This only means, that although some women will win some sporting events, the vast majority of competition will still be won by men. As a result, more than ever, a message of female inferiority will be transmitted because in a direct competition between the sexes males will constantly win an element which was lacking in the past.
This is defining sport in men’s terms not women’s. It says sports are men’s sports and relegates women’s to a secondary status at the same time having men constantly winning against women will show that this definition needs to be challenged. This is extremely important and it will come in direct contradiction to our efforts as a society to promote gender equality and to diminish stereotypes. We shouldn’t try to turn sports into a “Competition of the sexes”.
(1) Meyer Robinson “We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They're Not”, The Atlantic, Aug 9 2012 http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/we-thought-female-athletes-were-catching-up-to-men-but-theyre-not/260927/
If we were to look at the two possible outcomes we would see that allowing both males and females to compete against each other would actively decrease discrimination. This happens as, in this situation, we perceive the two sexes as being equal, able to compete against each other, both beginning the race from the same starting line, whereas the alternative would be to draw an imaginary barrier between the two sexes claiming that they are so far apart that competition between them would be futile. Those women who come on top on several occasions, such as Danica Patrick who has won NASCAR competitions (1) will show that all those stereotypes are wrong and that they should have been long forgotten. Of course there will be a lot of women who won’t be able to win anything, but the entire spotlight and all the media coverage will be on the ones who will, so they’ll be getting the lion’s share of media attention. As a result, successful stories of women defeating men in their leagues will come as a megaphone for promoting gender equality in society.
(1) Esteban “9 Female Athletes Who Competed Against Men”, Total Pros Sports, October 28, 2011 http://www.totalprosports.com/2011/10/28/9-female-athletes-who-competed-against-men/
Unfortunately, in the Status Quo there are a lot of women sporting leagues which are completely overshadowed by men’s, such as cycling, basketball or soccer. What is needed in order for them to grow is a lot of talented, gifted women athletes which will create the “thrill” needed to attract media coverage, which in turn attract sponsors. In time, as more and more young female athletes are drawn into these sports, slowly but surely they will grow and narrow the financial and coverage gap between them and men’s leagues. But if women are allowed to compete in men’s leagues the very best females in that sport, who are the bedrock for future development, will likely quit the women’s leagues for the men’s. Women already seem inclined to do this, American skier Lindsey Vonn has won the women's World Cup four times asked to be allowed to compete in the men's event.(1) As a result, the women’s leagues will be stripped of their best competitors. Left on its own the level of competition will rise and will surely catch up with the men’s leagues as far as money and media coverage is concerned. This is being proven by tennis, handball and athletics where there is as much money and fame for the female winners as there is for the male ones.
(1) The Associated Press, “Skier Lindsey Vonn can't race against men in WCup” November 3, 2012 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-400_162-57544795/skier-lindsey-vonn-cant-race-against-men-in-wcup/
On this point, it is relevant which of the two plans gives more incentive to young girls to enroll into sports thusly creating a wider pool of talent, which is necessary for women sport to grow. Firstly, as men’s leagues are more televised, women who compete in those will get more fame and attention so inspire girls from all around the world compared to playing into an ignored, untelevised, ill-funded league. Secondly, as there will be female winners even in the male leagues, this will act as a further incentive for teenage girls to start practicing sports as there would be much more media attention for Serena Williams for example if she won the men’s US Open than for winning the women’s tournament.
Moreover, by having talented women competing in competitions which get a lot of media attention you would actually incentivize people to start watching women’s leagues as well, as that is where those very talented female athletes came from. They will act as proof to the fact that women’s leagues can be thrilling, thus increasing interest and media coverage. In time, due to the increase in the league’s wealth and TV coverage, some females who started to compete in men’s leagues may even come back.
In today’s society, we have reached a point where a significant majority of the population is extremely sensitive towards domestic violence of any form, but particularly coming from a man directed towards a woman. Unfortunately, a wide variety of extremely popular sports are to a certain degree very violent such as: boxing, kickboxing, rugby, MMA or American football. Certain matches between a male and a female, no matter the winner will, cause a huge amount of visual discontent among viewers as no one wants to see a man knocking unconscious a woman with an uppercut. This would send a terrible message about violence against women and would be extremely unpopular and subject to large numbers of complaints. Subjecting women to such violence in these sports, even if the women in question puts up a good fight, will as a result of the sensitivity of many towards this kind of violence decrease the popularity and thrill of these otherwise extremely exciting sports.
Firstly, passionate viewers of these violent sports are not watching them only for seeing blood and broken noses, but for the technical abilities and the strategic tactics in these sports. As a result, they tend to focus more on the speed and precision of one’s uppercut than rather on the effects it has on the opponent’s body, thus they will be able to ignore the violence towards women, as they currently do towards men.
Secondly, if indeed there is a part of the population who watches violent sports but is averse to watching if there is violence involving women, then they should feel nothing but excitement when a woman will win a boxing match for example against a man, overcoming this irrational stereotype.
This is because a lot of this hatred against violence against women even in a competitive situation is based on the idea that the woman is both powerless in front of the man and not willing to fight him; essentially a view that women should be subservient. Obviously, neither of these points stands when talking about professional sporting competitions.
Despite the fact that gender equality in sports often comes as an argument for applying this motion, it is rather the other way round. If indeed it is so important to let women compete in men’s leagues, on what ground do we ban men from competing in women’s leagues? If we look at it from the point of equality, it would be only normal that if women are equal to men, men are equal to women, and if females can move from one league to another, so should males. Either option we choose, there are negative consequences that follow.
On one hand, if men are not allowed to migrate from one league to another, this whole plan will have a boomerang effect as it won’t resolve gender discrimination, it will only switch the discriminated gender. There is no basis on which males should be denied this advantage.
On the other hand, if we do allow them to compete in women’s leagues, there won’t be male and female leagues, there will be two male leagues, as unfortunately, just as women won’t win many medals in the men’s leagues so men are much more likely to win in the women’s. As a result, female leagues would be destroyed if men are allowed to compete in them.
Therefore, due to the consequences brought by any of the options, this proposal is undoubtedly damaging for sports.
On this level, it is obvious that letting men compete in women’s leagues is a dreadful thing to do. On the other hand, there is absolutely no discrimination towards men on this level so there is no reason to open up women’s leagues to men. The levels on which women are discriminated are the money they receive and the air time they get. Allowing them to migrate from one league to another is by no means an advantage in itself, but rather the means through which they can receive as many benefits as men do. Men already get those advantages so both sexes are treated equally on the point which is the root of discrimination.
There should still be this differentiation, as indeed a competition between men and women can be very biased in a lot of cases, but what is important is to let those women who can face men head-to-head to so.
(1) The Associated Press, “Skier Lindsey Vonn can't race against men in WCup”, 3 November 2012 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-400_162-57544795/skier-lindsey-vonn-cant-race-against-men-in-wcup/
(2) Esteban “9 Female Athletes Who Competed Against Men”, Total Pros Sports, 28 October 2011 http://www.totalprosports.com/2011/10/28/9-female-athletes-who-competed-against-men/
(3) Sports Scientists, ‘The abolition of gender categories in sport: a sound argument? 15 April 2010 http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/04/let-male-and-female-compete-together.html
(4) Barth Sarah “Why can’t we have a women’s Tour de France?”, Road.cc , 14 July 2013, http://road.cc/content/news/87934-why-can’t-we-have-women’s-tour-de-france
(5) Jamaica Observer, ‘Over US$7m in prize money at World Champs’, 7 August 2013 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Over-US-7m-in-prize-money-at-World-Champs
(6) US Open Official Site, ‘Prize Money’, 2013, http://www.usopen.org/en_US/about/history/prizemoney.html
(7) Eric Vilain ”Gender Testing for Athletes Remains a Tough Call”, New York Times, 18 June 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/sports/olympics/the-line-between-male-and-female-athletes-how-to-decide.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
(8) Wikipedia, 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IHF_World_Player_of_the_Year#Women
(9) White Rea, “Patrick inspiration to young females” MSN Sports, 23 February
(10) Meyer Robinson “We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They're Not”, The Atlantic, 9 August 2012 http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/we-thought-female-athletes-were-catching-up-to-men-but-theyre-not/260927/