Women in the Locker Room

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Feminism in Sports: Part 2 of 2

Women in sports are regarded, all around, as inferior to their male counterparts. Female athletes cannot play as well as men, and female fans cannot know as much — at least that’s the view that I explored in last week’s column.

These perceptions have persisted since the invention of sport. As sports become more popular and more televised, women continue to be viewed as inferior athletes and fans.

When women are recognized, it is rarely for the skills they possess in their sport, but rather for their sexuality and looks. The May issue of Golf Digest portrays only the 11th woman since 1969 to stand alone on the cover of the magazine, according to a New York Times article by Karen Crouse.

Paulina Gretzky received that honor despite not playing golf professionally. Her claim to fame: She is engaged to Dustin Johnson, an eight-time winner of a Professional Golfing Association (PGA) event. So her fame comes from who she is tied to rather than her own merit.

She certainly is beautiful, but we should be celebrating the female golfers who have made large strides in their sport or won major titles, not just someone who attracted a great golfer as a mate. But the old adage again proves true: Sex sells.

Beautiful women have graced the pages of magazines for decades. Models and actresses plastered all over these magazines are meant to portray the ideal woman. Female athletes do not fall into the category of what the ideal woman is.

A female athlete is strong and capable, so she represents, instead, a societal view of what a man should be. Society views female athletes through their stereotype, and those are not sexy and thus do not sell magazines.

Male athletes, on the other hand, fulfill the stereotypes of the ideal man. They are the men boys want to become and girls dream of marrying. Female models and actors take the spotlight as the ideal woman.

Thus, it is through this idealization of what a woman should be that leads to the unpopularity of female athletics. Most women do not want to be those women, and most men do not want to marry them. That is the subconscious reason that women’s sports are not as popular.

In some ways, women are also to blame for this sexist nature of sport. It is not just men who do not watch women’s sports or would not buy a magazine without a beautiful woman on the cover. Many women pick up those magazines hoping it contains the secrets to society’s view of beauty and happiness.

If women started to buy the magazines with athletes on the front, then that is what would be on the cover. It is a matter of supply and demand. If we start to demand change in the perception of women in society, it will change.

Female athletes can be beautiful, but society needs to idealize a new type of beauty: one of strength and capability, rather than the societal norm.

Juliet Suess is a senior ECLS major. She can be reached at suess@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyJSuess.