POSITION PAPER 1 “Examine the link between socialisation, gender and sport.”
Socialisation is a life long process whereby the individual learns the appropriate roles and norms of behaviour within a particular society. From birth, children are socialised into sex-linked roles; in many instances males are expected to behave in a ‘masculine’ way and are encouraged to be involved in activities, such as sport, that are traditionally regarded as male. Women however are usually expected to behave in a ‘feminine’ manner; a vast contrast to the encouragement of males to be strong, powerful, forceful and aggressive. This is reflected in women’s participation in sport, and more importantly, their coverage in the print media, which is minimal in comparison to their male counterparts.
Sport holds a significant place in our society. However women’s sport coverage suffers due to the positioning in newspapers, with their sporting stories often placed at the bottom of pages or at the inner, most inaccessible pages of the sports section. Women are often described in ways that stress weakness, passivity and insignificance, and in ways that deflect attention from their athleticism. The use of the words “As others floundered…” (Herald Sun, 5/3/2001, pg 41) in a newspaper article about Karrie Webb’s recent win, is evidence of how this particular media source portrayed her win as a lack of competition rather than her own sporting talent.
The media’s “linking of the skill of key sports with maleness and the constant exposure of the public to this process, has the effect of inferiorising femaleness and female activities. By implication, it seems that women cannot do certain skilful things that the media value highly.” (Williams, Louise. ‘Silent Armies Storm the Last Male Bastion’. The Weekend Australia, February 16-17, 1985). Such examples include “…powerful tackles…impressive slam dunk…’ (The Age, 24/2/2001) which are viewed as predominately male skills, and an attribute women cannot compete with.
Notions of femininity influence views about how girls should be. This can create conflict for girls who participate in sports that require ‘unfeminine behaviour’ and produce ‘unfeminine bodyshapes’. Women are depicted in the media in ways that reinforce the prevailing community attitudes and stereotypes about them. They are not viewed as strong, heroic figures to be idolised on the basis of their talent and sporting achievements. Rather in many cases, women’s coverage is on the basis of ‘sporting fashion’. A classic example of this being the extensive coverage of women’s fashion in the Australian Open tennis tournament recently held in Melbourne; Anna Kournicova becoming a symbol for women’s tennis due to her glamour, and not necessarily her sporting achievements.
We are re-socialised throughout our lives by society, with an emphasis placed on the gender roles of men and women and their place within society. Within the sporting world we are socialised to view women as being subordinate to men. Women’s sport does not create the enthusiasm and have the extensive public support that men do, which is evident by the minimal coverage of women’s sport in the print media in comparison to the extensive coverage of the male dominated sporting scene.