Women in certain sports are often seen as being non-feminine

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There are various qualities associated with gender. These qualities are socially constructed and dependent on cultural standards, leading to gender-based stereotypes of what is masculine and feminine (Mennesson, 2000). 

Some sports are seen as more masculine than others, for example, football (soccer), rugby, cricket, basketball and combative arts are all considered “masculine” sports; while netball, tennis, and swimming often seen as “feminine” sports. This can affect women’s motivation to participate in certain sports at all, have an impact on their performance, how coaches treat them and how officials and spectators perceive them.

In combat sports it’s quite common for a dojo not having any female practitioner, and those who have, tend to exclude them from the regular group activities, or even have them practice separately within the dojo. These attitudes reinforce the stereotypes that martial arts are masculine activities, making female practitioners choosing this way of self-development face discomfort.

It was reported (Krane et al., 2004) that the expected body type for females is lean, while males are expected to have large muscles, and both genders are culturally pushed to pick sports accordingly; man that require strength and speed, while women that require agility and creativity. Accordingly, female athletes who do not necessarily conform to the feminine ideals in a stereotypically feminine sport, face a lot of challenges in their careers as they seek to balance their athletic qualities and the expected feminine look associated with the sports activities they engage in. While women choosing a stereotypically masculine sport, often suffer from inadequate training due to the coaches being unprepared to manage multi-gender group dynamics.

Numerous studies have reported that women in sports face significant challenges because they are expected to maintain their femininity while performing well in their respective sports, which brings conflict between the physical needs of the sport and the emotional needs of the athlete.  


References

Krane, V., Choi, P. Y. L., Baird, S. M., Aimar, C. M., & Kauer, K. J. (2004). Living the paradox: Female athletes negotiate femininity and muscularity. Sex Roles, 50, 315-329.

Mennesson, C. (2000). ‘Hard’ women and ‘soft’ women: The social construction of identities among female boxers. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 35(1), 21-33.

About the author

M. Leblanc

Trainer, martial artist (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), avid self-improver