Women and men have never been allowed to compete against one another at a higher level. They have always been separated into two divisions of competition. Women and men’s basketball, women and men’s tennis, baseball and softball, and women and men’s gymnastics to name a few organized sports that are divided by gender. Why has there never been an instance where women and men have competed against each other? Whether it be one-on-one or on teams, there have been rare occasions where this has taken place. Even then, it was for bragging rights. Most recently Serena Williams competed against Roger Federer. But, why is this not the norm rather than the rarity? “Why?” is the question that I will be working to answer. When I came across this topic I realized that this is something that I feel very passionate about. As a very athletic young lady, I feel as if it is degrading that women are not allowed to compete against men because of the claims of physical advantages and disadvantages. Women have always been underestimated when it comes to sports. Everything females do have to be modified or changed to something simpler than what men do. Consider the fact that a women’s basketballs are smaller than a men’s, however, softballs are much larger than baseballs. I am not certain what the equalizing factor was when hand sizes vary from person to person, not just male to female.
To answer the question, Yes. Women should be allowed to compete against men. For years men have been the ones to say that women are not physically capable of being competitors. They’ve always been the ones to say that it’s too dangerous and sports are about physicality. Men have always been the ones to say “no”. This can be traced back to the days when women had to stay home and do the cooking and the cleaning for the men while they went out to fight for our country or earn for the family. In many areas, gender equality has been improving gradually. But this is not the case in sport, where women continue to be banned for being insufficiently feminine to be permitted to compete.
Sports are not all about physicality. Some sports highlight physical aspects while others highlight skills. Take tennis for example. Players who are stronger and more physically inclined hold an advantage in some areas of the game, but players who are more talented skill-wise are better overall. Roger Federer, for example, isn’t the most physical tennis player, but he is arguably the most skilled player out there. Also, anyone who has ever watched Serena Williams play tennis cannot deny her sheer skill that has awarded her 23 Grand Slam titles (although her muscles definitely help). Her skills are what has earned her the no. 1 spot on the Universal Tennis Ranking.
While men and women may differ in physical makeup or stature, they do not differ in their skills capacity. This is why former tennis star John McEnroe faced backlash when dismissing Williams’s title as the sport’s greatest tennis player and, instead, clarifying her as the sport’s best female player. In professional sports – where the importance of skills outweighs the importance of physicality – everyone should compete equally.
Historically, women have been required to undergo humiliating sex testing procedures in order to compete in a sport. More recently, such bias testing has been suspended owing to the lack of consensus about which traits make someone male or female. This issue reached public consciousness through the case of Caster Semenya, the 2008 800m world champion who was banned from competition for two years on the grounds of appearing masculine and having high levels of testosterone. In 2012, there were cases where women underwent surgical alterations in order to meet the requirements to compete in the women’s events at the Olympic Games, even though they had always identified as women and externally appeared to be women.
Women are not the only group who receive a poor deal in sports. While weight classes in some sports allow smaller athletes a chance at success, there is no such consideration for other traits, such as height. This means that shorter athletes have to face greater challenges to even have the slightest of chances in events such as high jump, volleyball, and basketball. Other athletes are lucky enough to have physical traits that provide an advantage but are not restricted as a result. For example, they have a greater aerobic capacity or greater amounts of fast-twitch muscle fibers which allow for contracting quickly, but the disadvantage remains that the athlete gets tired faster. However, it is not considered unfair for other athletes to compete against them, as it would be if they weighed more or they were male rather than female.
Women and men should be allowed to compete against each other. Physicality and safety should not play a part in the reason they are not allowed to compete. There is no such thing as a safe sport. Sports will risk the safety of the players regardless. Changes are being made in the world and women will continue to push for equality. Allowing men and women to compete against each other is one way they are fighting to gain respect and be considered equals among men.
Adult co-ed teams have also worked to break barriers. By implementing strict roles on how to conduct the came, has allowed women to enter the same arena as the men. Adult volleyball leagues have created rules that force female involvement on the team. Solutions can be found. It is up to everyone to be more openminded about women competing with men.