Academic journal article Nebula

A Question of Identity and Equality in Sports: Men's Participation in Men's Rhythmic Gymnastics

Academic journal article Nebula

A Question of Identity and Equality in Sports: Men's Participation in Men's Rhythmic Gymnastics

Article excerpt

Introduction: sport as "a male preserve"

A plethora of international dialogue focuses on women's access into all traditionally male dominated sports, women's under-representation in competitive sports and in sport governing bodies, the limited coverage of women's sports in the mass media, in addition to debates on gender segregation, women's agency in sports, gender equity policies, masculinities and femininities, difference versus diversity, the engendered body, gendered physicality, corporeality, gender identity, the masculinization or femininization of women athletes in the mass media, and so forth. (Theberge, 1985; Guttmann , 1991; Duncan , Messner, Williams, Jensen, 1994; Hall, 1996; McNay, 2000; Hargreaves, 2000; Kirk, 2002; Scraton and Flintoff, 2004; Dworkin and Messner, 2004; Clarke, 2002; Evans and Penney, 2002; Heywood and Dworkin, 2003; Kimmel, 2004; Creedon, 2006; Hills, 2006; Kamberidou and Patsantaras 2007)

Gender research in sports has been extensively developed, women-centred and not without cause. Needless to say, restrictions and social stereotypes have been placed on women's sport participation throughout the history of western society. Competitive sports have always had androcentric references--social and cultural constructions of masculinity and 'masculism'--that initially excluded women's participation. The medical and social discourses of the 19th and early 20th centuries on female physicality and identity (Sandow, 1898; Webster, 1930; Pfister 1990; Guttmann, 1991) established stereotypes concerning performance and capabilities. (Kirk, 2002; Hills, 2006; Kamberidou, 2007) For example, in the 19th century sport activity was considered detrimental for women's physical and mental health, including her social role as wife and mother. Women who engaged in athletic activity were warned that it caused psychological disturbances, the growth of facial hair, displaced uteruses, and so forth. Even during the 1930s female athleticism was condemned and sportswomen were intimidated by fears of losing social approval. (Guttmann, 1991; Kirk, 2002; Hall, 2004; Hills, 2006) Women's involvement in competitive sports, in the beginning of the 20th century, was restricted to a handful of female-appropriate sports, as is considered RG today. Many sports, such as bodybuilding, football and ice hockey were perceived as 'inappropriate' or too 'manly' for women. It was not until 1992 that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to include women's ice hockey in the Olympic program.

Undeniably we've come a long way since the 1952 Helsinki Games, where women represented only 10 percent of the Olympic athletes. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing women represented approximately 43 percent of the total athlete delegation, up from 41 percent in the Athens 2004 Olympics. However, the "glass escalator" (Williams 1992) is not yet gender inclusive, namely women are not promoted up the hierarchy and are still under-represented in all sport governing bodies, in executive bodies of national and international sport organizations and institutions, such as the IOC. In 1981, following the initiative of IOC President Samaranch, two women were elected to the IOC. Since 1981, only a total of 21 women have served as IOC members and today there are only 14 women who represent 14.1% of the total of 113 IOC members. (1)

On the other hand, one need point out that gender issues in sports do not only concern women, as men also have a gender (Kimmel, 2004) and are subject to gender stereotyping, distinctive social expectations, social inequalities and exclusions. (2) The patriarchal and gendered practices of modern sport, namely the impact of gendered social structures and gendered social behavior, have shaped not only women's lives but men's lives as well. The discourse on gender in sport and sport identity will have to eventually move away from the restrictive focus on girls and women, especially in light of recent examples such as the rising participation of men in the competitive sport of RG throughout the world who are demanding official recognition. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.