Women athletes have been shattering expectations for over a century. Still, society insists on perpetuating the same tired, sexist misconceptions.
Misconceptions like these are still a big deal, despite the countless determined female athletes that disregard and disprove them. That’s because myths about women in sport shape the environments in which girls and women grow up and strive for excellence.
The consequences of stereotypes and sexism towards female athletes include higher drop-out rates, fewer athletic opportunities for women and girls, and stark gender inequality in many sports.
Outdated assumptions are related to the pay gap in sports and the underrepresentation of women in corporate sponsorships, media, and influential positions in the sports industry.
To set the record straight for good, these sexism in sports facts can expose the truth about women in sports.
Whenever we take a microscope to false, sexist beliefs, the truth comes out and further disrupts the systemic cycle of discrimination against sportswomen.
“Women don’t care about sports.” “Women don’t play or follow sports like men do.”
The best retort to notions like these is simply taking a look around. Don’t people realize how many women and girls participate in athletics? Haven’t they noticed women watch and attend sporting events as both diehard and casual fans? The fan bases for the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NASCAR are nearly 50% female.
Sports not only facilitate physical exercise but also enrich girls’ and women’s lives on a deeper level. Girls in sports learn fundamental emotional, relationship, and leadership skills that lead to improvements at school, at work, and in their communities. Participating in sports also greatly improves women’s and girls’ emotional and physical health.
Yes, it’s true that girls are about twice as likely to drop out of sports by age 14, but the “why” should be obvious when we get to myth number 2.
“Sports opportunities for women are already equal to men’s opportunities.” “It’s been illegal to discriminate against women in sports forever now, so there’s no disadvantage anymore.”
Legislation like Title IX changed the sports world in a big way regarding gender equality, but these laws didn’t completely eliminate the gender gap:
“Women’s sports aren’t as impressive to watch, so they don’t attract the same kind of fandom.” “Women’s sports don’t bring in the same attendance, ratings, or merchandise sales.”
That’s not quite true. 84% of sports fans and 66% of the general public are interested in women’s sports.
Even when women perform objectively better than the men in their sport, bringing more viewers and revenue than men, they still earn less.
As evidenced by the disproportionately low salaries that organizations often pay to female athletes compared to male athletes, a huge problem is a lack of sports media coverage of women, promotional and marketing investments, and sponsorships that would make women’s sports more lucrative.
“Motherhood changes women’s bodies and priorities too much to sustain successful sports careers.”
Like any other career, becoming a mother doesn’t stop women from doing what they love, and chasing their dreams doesn’t stop women from being great mothers.
Many world-class female athletes have maintained successful careers while creating families. In addition, women have competed at elite levels while pregnant, and some have actually competed better after giving birth than before pregnancy.
Suppose you were to ask these women about the challenges they face as athletes who are also mothers. They’d likely point to inadequate maternity policies from athletic organizations and sponsors.
Governing bodies’ and sponsors’ reluctance to offer reasonable maternity benefits seems to stem from the uncertainty that athlete moms will get back into their game or perform at the same level as before.
The main issue, a lack of support for mothers from the sports industry, seems to stem from the stereotype itself.
The loudest rebuttal to myths that uphold sexism towards female athletes is the abundance of achievements by powerful women athletes and industry go-getters.
It’s important that women who rule the sports world continue to do their thing and speak their minds. The media needs to start paying attention and improving their coverage of women, so society sees women athletes as equally capable.
As women passionate about sports, we can support female athletes in our own lives and in the public eye.
Find ways to lift up girls and young women through sports in your daily life, or choose a charity or advocacy to donate to. Be a supportive fan of women in sports by watching and attending women’s sporting events, buying merchandise, and hyping them up online.
Show the sports industry that women are worth investing in and that we won’t settle for anything less than equal.
Has anyone said something to you about female athletes that is completely false? How did you respond? Have you faced discrimination against women athletes? Share your story with us on Instagram @goalfive.
Be great at what you do, keep them guessing, and in the meantime, help us campaign for equal play in sports.
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