Gender can be seen as purely biological, or within a cultural context. These days, gender is seen as a range of identifications concerning being female or male. However, traditionally, strictly male and female categories have been used in sports. Concerning gender in sports, it is a tricky issue. Sometimes, there is a differentiation in sports organizations based on gender for almost no reason at all, and other instances it seems obvious why there would be a separation of the sexes due to physical differences. My main contention is that sports that demand a heavy physical component should be divided by gender due to purely physical capabilities, while sports that demand only a low physical component can be played by all genders. I believe this due to the fact that if women were in such sports as boxing, basketball, and football with men, the dynamic of the game would change too much for it to be played well.
Though girls and women are increasingly being included in a variety of sports, there seems to be a threshold as to which sports can be coed and at which level of play. For instance, according to a 2010 study by the The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, “The data that they collected and examined showed that, on average, men outperform women by a 10 percent gap” (Sanders, Alice). This percent difference is huge, actually. This means the best women athletes in the world would not be able to qualify for men’s Olympic sports, let alone get into top places of the competitions.
This 10 percent gap becomes even more prominent when speed and strength are heavily involved. Take weight lifting for example. Even if women take steroids, they cannot seriously compete with the top 100 male weight lifters of the world. Take for instance the Olympic world records for most weight lifted. Lasha Talakhadze, a man, lifted a total of 473 kilograms at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics (current world record), while a woman named Zhou Lulu (the current record holder in the Olympics for women) lifted a total of 333 kilograms. That is an astounding difference of over 100 kilograms in comparison between the strongest man and woman in weight lifting.
Besides a comparison in strength, speed is also a major reason there is a differentiation between genders in sports. The world record for men in the 100-meter dash is 9.58 seconds, which is held by Usain Bolt. On the other hand, the world record for women is 10.49 seconds, completed by Florence Griffith-Joyner. This does not put the women’s record even within the 100 runs in history (Avila, Michael). This demonstrates that while women can be quite fast, they cannot professionally compete in contests of speed when men are in the equation.
Feminism has advanced the civil rights of women worldwide, and its efforts are highly commendable. However, we cannot ignore the differences in speed and strength between professional male and female athletes. Even some female athletes have acknowledged this disparity. Serena Williams, recognized as the greatest female tennis player of all time, said that, “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. The men are a lot faster, they serve harder, they hit harder. … It’s a completely different game” (Abad-Santos, Alex). If the best female tennis player in the world can honestly talk about this issue, then we should be able to as well.
Gender equality is positive in almost all spheres of activity. However, in sports that involve the heavy use of strength and speed, seeking gender equality would not be scientifically appropriate. It has been shown through records that the top male athletes are stronger and faster than the top female athletes by a significant margin—enough for them to not be able to compete with the top 100 male athletes in any given sport that focuses on strength and/or speed. In light of this, the inclusion of girls and women in sports has a certain threshold that cannot be physically crossed.
Sanders, Alice, “Is Gender Segregation in Sports Necessary? – How We Get To Next.” How We Get To Next, How We Get To Next, 14 July 2016, howwegettonext.com/is-gender-segregation-in-sports-necessary-dc188150f242.
Avila, Michael. “Who Are the World’s Fastest Man and Woman?” LiveScience, Purch, 10 June 2010, www.livescience.com/32640-who-are-the-worlds-fastest-man-and-woman.html.
Abad-Santos, Alex. “John McEnroe vs. Serena Williams, Explained.” Vox, Vox, 27 June 2017, www.vox.com/culture/2017/6/27/15879520/john-mcenroe-serena-williams-greatest-controversy.