Advocating for Athletes

Women’s sports should receive the same acknowledgment and support as men’s sports

Deek, Staff Writer

With March Madness and the Winter Paralympics in full swing, millions of viewers are tuning in to watch their favorite winter sports. From the daring moves done by snowboarders to the basketball shots taken by NBA players, it seems there is something for almost everyone to watch.

While men and women are receiving the same acclaim on an Olympic level, the unfortunate truth is that there is a much larger gender disparity in professional sports. According to a survey carried out by the Morning Consult in 2021, 77% of sports fans enjoy watching men’s professional sports, while only 42% enjoy watching women’s professional sports.

But what is it that creates such a large bias between men’s sports and women’s sports in the professional world? What differentiates between either gender when both are in fact playing the same sport?

Professor Cheryl Cooky from Purdue University claims, as stated in an article from The Atlantic, that our perception of sports can also depend on how the media portrays it. Men’s coverage typically has better commentary and higher quality production as compared to women’s due to more funding being put towards them, and highlights from games often feature better-quality angles for men’s sports.

Furthermore, the differences in physical athleticism between men and women could be a factor in which sports are more popular for which gender. Commentary from the article from The Atlantic further states that women’s team sports that are identical to men’s team sports- such as basketball and soccer- won’t be as popular as sports that are generally considered to be more graceful, such as figure skating and gymnastics.

When comparing the team sports of basketball and soccer with the performative sports of gymnastics and figure skating, the latter trumps the former in terms of popularity. Instead of athletic uniforms that are similar to what men wear, women in gymnastics and figure skating don sparkling, colorful costumes and precise makeup.

But what does this say about society’s general stereotype for women’s sports? When it comes down to the crux of the gender differences, do people generally connect women with the “prettier” sports as opposed to the ball sports that their male counterparts receive more attention for?

According to Taniya Spolia from The Gazette, women only receive 4% of sports coverage despite comprising 40% of athletes overall. This extreme underestimation of women’s capabilities is matched by the low budget their sports receive. An NPR article written by Jaclyn Diaz claims that the NCAA spends anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 more on male Division 1 athletes than they do for female Division 1 athletes.

This lack of fair budgeting has led to clear disparities between the treatment of male and female athletes at major events, such as March Madness. According to an NBC Sports article from 2021, women were given pre-packaged meals as food while men were given access to buffets. Furthermore, men had access to full weight rooms while women were only given dumbbells and yoga mats.

It’s time that our society as a whole begins appreciating the determination and endurance of our world’s female athletes. Their hours of training without stopping and performing to their maximum potential should no longer go unnoticed and overshadowed by the performance of their male counterparts.

Regardless of confining women to the more “graceful” sports, they should receive the coverage that their hard work merits without any bias. One’s intellectual and physical capacity does not define who they are, nor does it define their performance.

From a school level to the national and international stage, it is imperative that women are given the support they deserve. Instead of limiting them, their strengths deserve to be respected and received equal to those of men.

There are many ways that our own communities can and should bring attention to female athletics. Whether it is through spreading awareness on social media or attending women’s sports events in schools and local settings, we can give them the voice and coverage they deserve.

In the end, the strength and perseverance of female athletes should be better acknowledged in society. As said by Australian writer G.D. Anderson, “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”