Exercise & Health

Gender Inequality In Sport


Gender Inequality in sport has been a major factor in sports history since the 19th Century, and still remains a much discussed topic in the 21st Century. Women’s participation in sport has come a very long way and continues to grow throughout the world. Since the early 19th Century males were given the more dominant role in sport, in which women were seen as being less superior and were given other jobs to do, forming stereotypes.

One of the major factors which contributed to the dominance of males in sport is the physiological make up of a male. On average Males have more testosterone in the body, which creates more muscle mass and they have larger bones and joints helping to cope with the stressors of exercise. Women tend to have wider hips for childbirth, which is why in the early 19th century these stereotypes may have been formed and males dominated sport.

Background of Gender Inequality in Sport

In 1896, Baron Pierre De Coubertin of the modern Olympics stated ‘No matter how toughened a sportswomen may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks’.

This provided a basis for stereotypes to be formed, and in turn causing discrimination to women in sport in the 19th century. Research has since been carried out over the last 100 years which has shown that women benefit from exercise as it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, help with weight management, make bones and joints healthy and many more. (Women, Gender, Equality and Sport, Women 2000 and beyond, 2007)

In the 1950’s and 1960’s feminists tried to further preach equal rights, as they believed gender inequality is down to men dominating institutions.

Many radical feminists argue that the whole organisation of sport would have to be dismantled and rebuilt to prevent all inequalities within sport. For example there are views by these feminists that people typically exploit women as cheerleaders or housewives, and by completely rebuilding the structure of sport as an organisation would balance gender inequality. (Sociology of Sport & Social theory, Earl Smith 2010).