Sports Culture: Gender variances

a guest blog article by Jim Gosciniak (student, world citizen)

Sports culture has been a male-dominated realm for much of the past as women were historically limited from assuming the roles that men played.  Thus the culture also entailed certain behavioral characteristics in athletes which reflect a complete rejection of any feminine qualities since to play a sport is seen as a common source for a young person to develop socially and psychologically into a man.  This is still the common perception of what the ideal athlete should display: the number of female athletes gives the culture presently a diversity in its individuals that rivals the traditional and still contemporary perceptions that sports are made by men and for men.  The changing in the culture now reflect more equality between males and females and “the number and variety of such structural changes increase as the institutions within which we live become more embracing and more intricately connected with one another” (Mills, 3).  The ways of the culture of sports is to degrade any thoughts or actions considered not masculine; therefore homosexuality is often attacked and used as a playful or harmful method of communicating.  That the culture now is including more women and homosexual individuals makes it essential that people reevaluate their perceptions of the normal sports athlete.

Biology plays a large role as to why males are in general more prone to athletics and develop into comparatively larger physiques.  When reviewing the early life of mankind it appeared that the gender roles were set based on the need for survival, for example males were the hunters while women tended to be less muscular and more nurturing than aggressive as males they had to be in order to come back with food.  The biological uniqueness from individual to individual however explains why some women are larger and have more muscle mass than some men as well.  As a result of biological traits there developed social traits which held with it the behaviors and thought processes that solidified the role of sports and displays of athleticism in the development of manhood.  There are still alive today cultural practices that involved the hunting and killing of an animal as an initiation for a young man to make the transition into manhood.  The biology of the human body renders an explanation for the discrepancy between men and women in terms of hormones; testosterone which is much higher in men than women is responsible for advanced muscle development and also a quicker predisposition for anger and aggression.  Estrogen which is in much higher levels in women is responsible for more dynamic emotions and feelings of interconnectedness.  Despite the biological facts women still are just as capable as men are at making it into the realm of sports though stereotypes about women in sports oftentimes degrade the accomplishments of female athletes since they are held up to a standard set my males in the historically male dominated category.

To not be strong and manly while participating in a sport is to not be completely a man according to the sports culture.  Homosexuality has long been a punching bag for male athletes to degrade;  “homophobia and misogyny were the key bonding agents among male athletes, serving to construct a masculine personality that disparaged anything considered “feminine” in women, in other men, or in oneself” (Messner, 49).  But is being masculine really a requirement to be successful at a sport?  Recently, several professional athletes have taken the plunge and admitted that they were homosexuals.  These men that made it to the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment all along were not the stereotypical heterosexual burly male but rather had a much more unique and complicated story than what is generally expected of them.  The sporting world places immense pressure on men to perform to their highest capability and it is expected that they neglect nothing in order to defeat their opponent: dominance and triumph are the keys to strive for and a lack of an inner drive to go out and take it is considered unmanly.  However the rise in the homosexual athlete, and the growth in women’s athletics, should be realized and interpreted closely as counterexamples to the traditional stereotypes that exclude and degrade women and put unnecessary pressure on men.


Messner, Michael A. “Sport and Gender Relations: Continuity, Contradiction, and Change.” Beacon Press. (1992). pp. 48-55.

Mills, C. Wright.  2000 (1959).  The Sociological Imagination: 40th Anniversary Edition.  Oxford University Press.


37 thoughts on “Sports Culture: Gender variances

  1. My daughter has played basketball since she was 8 years old and she is now 18. She has pure God given talent. She is very competetive and has played at a high level for the last 5 years because she has played at varying levels with guys which allowed her to perform at a higher level. She is just as fast or faster and stronger than alot of young men she has played basketball with. We never experienced any discrimination from guys except the trash talk they do on the court but my daughter as always been able to hold her own. We have experienced issues of sexuality from a female perspective and had those conversations when needed. It is generally said that most girls who play basketball are gay. Most are gay but the majority are not.

    1. Hey Kim
      It’s nice to hear your daughter hoop I think if I have one I want her to do so too. I have been a Hooper pretty much my whole life, and have actually liked playing with some women opposed to a few guys women have the intensity that some guys don’t have, and they actually out play them. I have a friend that was All Conference at Benedictine she might be one of the best females I have ever seen play, and I have a huge respect for her, and all women who play the sport. I do think they have a negative image as far as the Homosexuality goes, I do think the ones that are just have a butch look about themselves if that makes sense, but like you said I know a lot who just play ball because they like it who date men. I have always been attracted to women who play basketball which is funny because my wife is far from a hooper lol, maybe I wanted that “Love and Basketball” romance which happens to be one of my favorite movies.

      1. I would like to add I also think that women can mentally do anything men can. When I was younger I didnt play football but watched as my brothers did. One of my favorite memories was of the game they played against a neighboring town, Collinsville. Number 8 was hands down Collinsville’s best player performing all types of feats. My brother and his friends gave number 8 his props, but was in shock once he took off his helmet and was a young woman

    2. Wow, that’s really great! She’s a brave little girl. I give her props. Even if male sports are dominate, girls should always keep doing what they’re good at. They should be more competitive with the boys to improve and get better.

  2. Great post it’s very funny that this was posted in the wake of women getting into one of the most nastiest sporting events that man has created modern day I would say, which is MMA more so the main platform The UFC. It has been a topic of discussion in the past year many saying that women have no place in this gruesome sport where the object is to knock your opponent out or win by submission, and that’s win by all means of course with in the content of the rules. It has gained a lot of popularity with professional boxing losing it’s luster since the greats of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano, and etc. the world needed a sport where people just knocked the pulp out of each other. I personally think that women can do anything a man can do, and they should be allowed the opportunity to do so, but on the other hand I would say that I love women so much I think some things they are too pretty and delicate to do such as MMA. If they want in on the sport let them in…… it really doesn’t matter if we do women have been knocking down doors for over a hundred years they will continue to do the same.

    1. I agree! The only reason women have been barred from certain sports so long is due to gender roles. The typical gender role for women is to be home maker and a family oriented woman. Participating in sports, much less knocking people out fits nowhere into a woman’s gender role. Making a living does not even fit into the definition of what a woman should do according to gender roles. Now women are making a living by participating in jobs that were once only meant for men, such as playing sports professionally. Times have changed and women have now become a huge part of sports. How ever I have to disagree about women being to “pretty or delicate” to participate in some sports. Yes MMA is very different from soccer but I have been playing soccer on a co-ed team since I was in the 8th grade. The level I play at involved me playing against boys that were 18-20 years old. I was able to get right out I there with them, knocking them over and beating them on the field multiple times, Physically, and by skill. I am far from delicate. I’ve faced boys much older and stronger than me and beat them. I’ve even come across a few that were afraid of me and they were very high level players. I feel that women being “to pretty and delicate” is just another stereo type.

  3. I found this article very interesting and true at the same time. I totally agree with you regarding the fact that sports are mostly for men, even though they have started to change allowing women to participate in their own sport bracket. I think a way to solve this would be to have homosexual individuals and women who want to participate in events gather and create their own version of the league they are interested in participating in. Sometimes in our lives we find adversity but we must find a way to overcome it. Of course this sounds easier to do than it actually is, but it would be a great place to begin.

  4. I completely agree that the majority of sports are almost entirely male-dominated, there is no doubt about that. As I was reading through this article I saw numerous times that in order to be successful in sports, an athlete must conform to be more masculine. I have a problem with that statement; that being the way the author uses the term masculine. Our culture has the notion that to work out and be physically fit embodies the definition of masculine (muscular and tough), however these are two separate terms. To be masculine is to be male and possess male characteristics, like higher testosterone and a predisposition towards aggression. The ability to be physically fit is free to all who are willing to put in the work and being fit is undoubtedly required in sports. As a culture, we need to view athletes for their physically ability, not a measure of their gender role concordance.

  5. I believe that women, men, and homosexuals should have the same opportunities in terms of sports. The only thing that I think is important is an equal physical standard for every athlete across the board. If we discriminate against athletes for their physical abilities, we cannot call ourselves a free nation. An equal standard with which to look at athletes would eliminate much of the discrimination. For example, a male athlete would not act condescending to a female athlete if he knew she could perform equally as well as he could. Homosexuals should not be discriminated against, because they are no different, physically. Homosexuality is a personality trait, it has nothing to do with performance. Professional sports are just a game, and shouldn’t anyone be allowed to play the game if they are able to perform as well as everyone else? The answer is yes. Sports should not be depicted as a rite of passage into manhood, because they are just games.

  6. This is a touchy subject. Women in the front lines of war. I speak from experience on deployment to Sangan District Afghanistan. Deployment is ugly, take your privileges of living such as; running water, food choice variety, no bathrooms, oh I forgot to mention danger is always present. This living conditions are harsh and is expected for Marines that deployed to F.O.P.s (Forward Operating Post). Deployment is 7 months to 1 year straight stuck inside a sandbox. No connection to the outside world. Now put women into the mix. We all have needs right? To deny it is to deny our nature as humans. Say your life is in danger for every day of a 7 month duration. You start to find the need of desires. It could be mutual and consent but imagine the morale it brings down among all the military members stuck out there. It begins complication and drama when the main priority should be survival, not pleasures. I just think not having women on the front lines avoids complications as men out there fighting the war. There is no law out there, no guidance counselor, no rape victim representatives get paid enough to deploy. Before we put women out on the front lines, we need to first prepare for what worst case scenario could happen when lives are in danger. More precautions cost more money. Have you seen our war budget recently? We are broke! If it works, don’t fix it.

  7. Women’s sports are interesting to me. If a woman trains and works out just as hard as a man, she will not be as strong as the man. The female body is literally working against them. This means that women have to train twice as hard to get on the same level as the man. There are a lot more struggles as a female athlete, everything is rooting against you. Because of this, women who make it big time in the world of sports are always ridiculously determined and have worked very hard to get where they are.
    Sports used to be very violent. The only reason men played was to show how tough they are. Men have been biologically designed to compete for everything. Sports were more of a way for men to get the competition out of their system. Women had no need to compete back then. But now things are different. We are all competing against each other, It is not all about our biology anymore.

  8. I agree with JoeP, I the most respect female professional athletes. My personal trainer had a few clients. I would hate going to his gym for a public workout because almost everyone in there was so far below me in terms of dedication and determination except one person: his daughter. She won state in track several times and had plenty of offers in school to choose from. I know male track stars who had the same success but didnt work nearly as hard

  9. I am not a Sexist, just ask my girlfriend. She laughs and says to me that sometimes I act like the girl in the relationship when I want to cuddle more. Just trying to defend myself, but I think personally that there should be more sports for women to immerse themselves in. Even sports that are co-ed. Though there has to be a boundary. Example there needs to be sports where woman can only play against woman and vice versa. For sports like wrestling and football those need to be between the same sex. I feel wrestling is a good example because I’m not saying that a girl can’t pin a man, but what I am saying is how uncomfortable that feels; grouping and trying to pin a woman competitively. Sports are meant to be competitive, not sexual, which sadly creates a boundary that Sports need. Though, I’m all for women’s football and what not.

  10. My sophomore year of high school, I made a bet with another swimmer that I could qualify for State. So, I overhauled my diet and ate more protein, carbs, and cut out any sort of junk food. I went to my first practice of the day at 5:30 am and then had dry land and weights after school before going to another swim session. I wouldn’t get home until nearly seven. After all that for nearly six months, I missed qualifying by less than a second. My friend made it to State. All he did was refuel after his one practice with a protein shake. I had beaten him in every race from the time we were five years old up to that year. Men and women are built very differently.

  11. I agree with this author, men are biologically stronger than most women. Some women however could even play on an all male sports team and compete with males. Just like this controversial topic comes up in the military I think if a particular woman can pass the same physical tests as a man then she should be able to exactly what he’s doing. Granted, the odds of a woman athlete being able to keep up with a male athlete are very slim, especially if we’re talking professional sports. All of this said, the homophobic and sexism in sports is still very real and I believe there’s no place for such intolerance that transpires.

  12. I would have to agree that men are biologically composed to perform more heavy labor entailed jobs and positions. I believe that people take this fact too far, and don’t give women credit for their own compositions. A woman can workout and obtain a six pack just as a male could. She can get big muscles and lift heavy objects. I don’t believe that we should discriminate women in sports or degrade those who show women-like qualities. Men and women both are able to make money, have good jobs, and succeed. I don’t believe the sports world should be any different, and I personally enjoy watching Women’s hockey and other diverse sports.

  13. Biologically males are more dominant than females when it comes to sports. Not only can males play multiple sports but male athletes play at a more advanced level. I’m not saying I haven’t met a good female baller, I actually did. My brothers ex girlfriend was a point guard at NIU, at her level she was really good. When I was in high school a kid on our team beat her. She was 5 years older then him and she played at a college level while we played at a high school level.

  14. I think that men play at more of an aggressive style in sports in fact for lacrosse guys is just like hockey hitting and the over all physicality of the sport. Girls lacrosse however is no contact at all and if you do any you get penalized for it. I believe that because of our culture the better you are at a certain sport if you are a girl you a more likely to be gay.

  15. Sexism in a very real issue in the world and particularly in the world of athletics. Men and women can both work out, gain muscle, be competitive, and more. The difference is that society sees this all to be a masculine thing. Only for men. However, for women this makes them seem masculine and therefore they must be gay because women are supposed to be weak and small and gentle, right? Where as men with these qualities expected for women are seen as feminine and therefore they must be gay. Both genders hold all these qualities and capabilities. Neither of them should be brought down for this because it is human nature to possess them. It is societies fault for telling them they must be one or the other.

  16. I agree with you Rocko Damra, males are biologically more dominant than females when it comes to sports, but that doesn’t mean that a woman can’t work twice as hard as a male to become great at heart. I personally know a female athlete that I believe that works twice as hard as anyone else to be the best basketball player she can be and that is my sister. I personally believe that if males and female sports were integrated, it would make sports and entertainment even more interesting. I strongly dislike when people say that males are better than females at everything and in any sport because it is totally not true. Look at Serena Williams and the history she has made in the sport of tennis, I don’t believe any male can achieve the accolades that she has for the consecutive years that she has.

  17. For those who say that women wouldn’t last in a sport where there is contact similar to male sports such as hockey and football, Women are just as tough as men are and here is why. They say women don’t have sports where there is a lot of contact being made every play, but they have a lingerie football league where they are wearing less equipment than the males do. So they absorb more contact when being tackled or what not. Just because they are not as big as males, doesn’t mean they can’t do the things that males do.

  18. Sports is honestly not all about who is more physically fit for a certain sport. Woman are actually starting to come out their shell more and more which this has been going on for some years now. You see all these guy sports on TV but never rarely see a game when the woman are playing. Media spots it more on the man than the woman all because it is ideal for a man to play a true sport and a woman to do something like cheerlead. Yet most people do not know it is a woman professional rugby league as well as a Lingerie Football League which Chicago has a team. It is more of a mental thing for a woman to be strong and it is not hard at all for a woman to beat a man in any sport now a days. Can not just look at each other because of sex.

  19. I always that it was sexist if I girl couldn’t play on a guys team when it came to sports. I personally don’t play sports, but I had many friends who did. One friend I have is pretty strong and plays soccer very well. She wanted to play on the guys team, but she wasn’t allowed to. Most people don’t know that some girls can play just as well as guys do. The reason they don’t know is because they never give the girls a shot to show what they’ve got. I feel a girl has just a right to play with the guys and be a part of the team if they have what it takes.

  20. Great Article, although the majority of sports are male dominated, I have no doubt that woman are still capable of making it into the higher realm of sports. I feel being masculine isn’t really a requirement to be successful in a sport,despite the biology of the human body, I personally believe woman can do anything a man can do such as playing sports professionally, I feel that woman athletes should not be viewed and measured by their gender but by their athleticism and physical ability.

  21. I agree with this article. Physically, women can not play at the physical mentality that men do at sports. I don’t mean to sound like I’m offending women. If women played how men played sports, injuries would occur left and right. Men have dominated sports, but women are capable to taking sports to new heights.

  22. I agree with this article. Even though male sports are dominated, I also believe that women can take the ceiling even higher in today’s world. Physical appearance shouldn’t matter because if you want to be successful, you don’t need strength, you just need to be good at the sport. That is what is changing in today’s sports world.

  23. I agree with this article in that girls can do anything guys can do. I also think that sports are considered a male thing because a lot of people watch male soccer but not female soccer. I also think that a lot of people know more male sport celebrities compared to female sport celebrities. Even now there are programs for women to be scientist and the programs pay for everthing because we need more female scientist. The world is changing and I think it would be better if both genders were equal.

  24. The author brought up the early life of mankind and biological traits and I thought it was interesting because it explained to me where these common misconceptions about men and women come from. I think that while males biologically are more dominant, it is not an excuse to say that women are not capable of the same athletic performances. Personally, I was once praised in high school for being the only girl to participate in a playful softball game in which only boys attended. For the most part, I felt accepted as equal to them, but I could still tell they were playing lighter on me, even though I played softball and they didn’t. I think competition is about hard work, making women a huge part if athleticism that continues to grow.

  25. I think that as the country moves forward, so does the role of women in sports. I think that women are treated equally in the sport world now, it is the people that do not play sports and are just viewers that create the bad view on women. I know women that are incredible athletes, and we treat them as we would treat anybody else playing the sport. Also, homosexuality is being accepted in sports too. Michael Sam was the first openly gay man to play in the NFL. So I think that everyone is accepted in the world of sports.

  26. For the most part I agree and understand what is being explained. There are many standards for the men in athletics. They have to act and play a certain way or else they are seen as weak. And for women they are seen and not strong enough or not psychologically prepared like men are for competition. This is not always true things can be switched around and men can lack the skills a women has for a certain aspect of sports. But if we look outside just the sports realm we can see that there are other barriers that keep the gender standards. One, men are seen as making more money, and we all know how much money athletes make. This is not saying the female athletes don’t make as much but in the sports that only men compete in, the income is much greater. Another one is that people say “watching women play wouldn’t be as entertaining.” We can’t really prove this because there have never been any women leagues for baseball, football, or hockey broadcasted on prime time networks. Lastly, the obvious is that women are just not built the same way as men. Sure there are women bigger and stronger than men but the average athlete today has increased in size and that means they are even bigger than those females that we see as more muscular and equal to most men. Until there is equally as much women as there is men on sports networks we will never know what truly holds these standards.

  27. Since I was little I have always had a passion for sports mostly soccer. I always wanted to play when I was in elementary. My dad would always tell me go ahead, but my mom would always disagree and would never give me a chance. Until I got to high school that is when I decided to go against my mom. She wasn’t very happy because she would always say that sports are meant for guys because they are stronger at it and they play rough. I would always argue with her and tell her that it is not just a guys sport it is for women too. When I tried out I loved it! It was the best experience ever. I learned and improved so much. After a couple of years of playing my mom finally changed her way of thinking and decided to give me a chance and see me play. A sport is not only a sport where you chase after a ball and score. A sport shows you how to be tough and the coaches help you interact with people and help you improve. To me they showed me how to set goals and push myself to achieve them.

  28. Female athletes are becoming more of role models nowadays than ever before. There are so many female athletes now that are huge inspirations in their sports and have made a great impact in sports history. There are even female coaches and referees in men’s sports now making a move into the sports industry and I think it is great to have women be involved in sports in their own leagues or with the men. Females in sports are always played off as a manly person especially in high school, a lot of guys see them as a dude or a “bro” when they are athletic and participate in sports. I think that is very stereotypical and I know for a fact that there is a ton of girls who are amazing athletes who are just as girly as the ones who don’t play sports. It’s good to see that females are starting to make a bigger impact in the sports world.

  29. Both males and females have both testosterone and estrogen. I understand that the amounts are different, but we still have both. I feel like female sports teams have been ridiculed because the women are constantly being compared to male athletes even when they have their own thing going! Just because a woman is sporty doesn’t mean that she needs to be compared to a man playing the same sport. On a different note, when it comes to homosexuals, I don’t understand how sexual preference correlates to athletic performance, I just don’t get it. It might be because I’ve never really had a problem with that kind of stuff, but if they are considered to be weaker just based on sexual orientation, then that is just not right. Wouldn’t wanting a man make a man more of a man? That may sound weird but I think it’s true!

  30. I’d agree that the the sporting realm of the world is generally male dominated. I agree that the biology of the way we were made, and that men were biologically made more athletically sound then most females. I believe that the gap between men and women in the sporting world can progressively close with the new development of sports for both men and women can participate in. I also agree that some sports that are more masculine can discriminate more against those whom are apart of the gay community then other sports. I feel that what should determine whether someone no matter if they are a man or a women can play a certain sport, but be determined by their own ability of playing the sport.

  31. Sports are to enjoy them, to exercise our body and to have an active life, sports are not a battle is dexos, since the vast majority are designed for men and for women regardless of their sexual orientation, anyone who is able to Practicing any sport can be either woman or man. It is obvious that usually men have much more strength than we women, has more resistance and more performance but this does not mean that there should be a barrier between the sexes. We should not be prejudiced by anyone considering their sexual or gender condition.

    1. I am an avid fan of soccer and I see that the Men’s sports always is the more dominant and popular than the female counterparts. I have watched some games of women’s soccer and when I look at the stadium they play in, the number seats is considerably less than that of a regular stadium and furthermore, the actual number of people who watch them play is probably in the 100’s compared to thousand’s in Men’s soccer. This is most likely because of society and how popular sports are to Men compared to Women so there is a greater market for the Men’s competition in sports rather than the Women’s. However, in the Olympics it is different and many people do come out to watch the Women’s competition.

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