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Women, gender discrimination and sports

Published: 
Sunday, June 25, 2017

Is there gender discriminition in sports in Trinidad and Tobago or this is more reflective with the the more more development countries around the world that see sport as part of their culture?

According Messner (1998) the “women’s movement into sport represents a genuine quest by women for equality, control of their own bodies, and self-definition, and as such it represents a challenge to the ideological basis of male domination,” (198).

According to Birrell and Theberge (1994), the structure of sport and physical activities in society is informed by:

•Sport being a patriarchal institution which privileges males

•A sexist ideology and stereotypes which disadvantaging females in sports

The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1896, did not believe that women biologically had the capacity to deal with the demands of sports (UN Women 2000 and Beyond).

In the US, Title IX 1972, requires that women be provided an equitable opportunity to participate in sport; that female athletes receive athletic scholarships proportional to their participation; and that female athletes receive equal treatment, for example in the provision of equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and practice times, coaching, practice and competitive facilities, access to tutoring, publicity and promotions, and recruitment of student athletes. Title IX has also increased the salaries of coaches for women’s teams.

In 1994 the Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport was adopted and signed by 280 delegates from 82 countries including Trinidad and Tobago to promote gender equality in sport in society through greater participation of women as athletes, officials and administrators.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter, adopted in 2004, states that one of the roles of the Committee is to “encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.”

In 2013, Lydia Nsekera of Burundi created history by becoming the first ever woman to be elected to FIFA’s Executive Committee. Locally, also in 2013, Annette Knott became the first female Secretary General of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee.

In 2014, Becky Hammon became the first full-time, salaried female coach in NBA history and 2016, Debbie Hockey became the first woman president of the New Zealand board in its 122-year history.

Today, despite these advances, there is still a gender discrimination that still limits sporting opportunities for women. Despite Title IX’s successes, the playing field is far from level.

Although women in division I colleges are 53 per cent of the student body, they receive only 41 per cent of the opportunities to play sports, and 36 percent of overall athletic operating budgets, (Carpenter and Acosta 2006). Women footballers and cricketers are still battling for salary increases while there still under representation of women at key positions in most major sporting organisations locally, regionally and internationally.

Given the historical structure of sport, the “optimistic predictions that women’s movement into sport signals an imminent demise of inequalities between the sexes are premature,” (Messner 1988; 198). Institutional frameworks have been instituted to facilitate gender equality in sport but the changes have not been widespread and have not challenged the patriarchal normalisation of sport. Therefore, a serious dent to gender discrimination in sports must be addressed by implementing and monitoring gender equality policies and practices.

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