Women in "men's" sports

(46 Posts)

I was watching golf when my mum was here over the weekend (don't usually bother with sport). And I was thinking, surely the very top women golfers are better than a fair chunk of the men who were in that competition? There are so many sports where I just can't see how sheer size and strength matter all that much, and what really counts is skill, training and support. Even football, I suspect if it was as common for girls to play, and the same support was in place for talented young women as it is for talented young men, mixed teams would be completely viable.

I run, and though I am happy if I'm not last, there are usually a few women in the top 10, and even slowcoach me beats some men sometimes.

So, I think that for most sports, there really isn't much to stop women competing against men. I think that in most sports, women would step up the additional challenge and the gaps currently between women and men would narrow.

But on the other hand, ultimately, men are bigger and stronger and faster, so it would remain likely that the very top spot/s would always go to a man. So women can only ever be winners if they compete against each other. Then again, if you're only ever competing against other women, you're not ultimately really the best anyway, are you?

I'm rambling a bit, but what it boils down to is that it seems to me that a lot of the male/female divide in sport is down to tradition, to accessibility and to down and out chauvinism, not actual ability.

Any thoughts?

kickassangel Mon 25-Feb-13 01:26:57

You should read The Frailty Myth.

There is a lot if effort put into making sure that women aren't given the same chances as the men in sport. Wouldn't be fair to the men if women got the same funding, coaching etc angry

sashh Mon 25-Feb-13 05:52:01

Women's football used to get the same size crowds as men, until the FA banned them.

I think a lot of sports would be more interesting f they were mixed, not just men and women. In the paralympics there was a swimming relay where the points allocated to different individuals had to add up to a certain number, I though you could add in an able bodied swimmer easily enough.

And a mixed relay team (men and women) would be easy in swimming and track.

BigGiantCowWithAKnockKnockTail Mon 25-Feb-13 05:57:48

This is why I love eventing and show jumping. Equestrian events are the only ones I know where men and women compete equally, both alongside and against one another.

kickassangel Mon 25-Feb-13 06:58:00

And although the strongest men are stronger than women, and the weakest women ten to be weaker than men, there's a vast number % that overlaps and could compete together. Only at the very highest levels (and there's evidence that this would even out with equal opportunity) is there a discrepancy. There's no reason why Sunday league football or village cricket teams can't be mixed.

Trytrytyagain Mon 25-Feb-13 07:56:33

Cricket can be mixed.

I coach cricket and our teams are mixed, and I've played against women and girls in adult cricket.

There just aren't enough girls and women playing it, the ECB are all for it.


namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 08:53:03

I swim competitively. There are more women than men in our club. I am regularly beaten in training by women, and girls. Outside of the extreme ends of the bell-curve, performance comes down to how hard you train. Certainly at my club and regional level, even a physical sport like swimming could have mixed events.

The big problem seems to be getting more women/girls involved in sport, and increasing the media coverage. I don't know which comes first though.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 25-Feb-13 09:47:00

It comes down to training, dedication up to a point. DD does karate and is 20 months older than ds1, in technique she is so much better but if they were to actually fight not so sure that she would have it as easy. DD does idolise Chloe Bruce although even this one does model as well as fight.

Glad to hear it's not just me then. Sigh, yet another barrier to break down, where men are the default and women are "other".

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 10:04:28

Exactly how are these barriers preventing you from enjoying your running, Annie?

FastidiaBlueberry Mon 25-Feb-13 10:44:12

Completely agree with the OP.

All sports were once male. The clue is in the name - sport, which used to just mean leisure, fun. Women weren't supposed to have any leisure, they were supposed to working in the house, doing the babies etc. There were a few exceptions - aristocratic women were allowed to have diversion - but on the whole, sport was the preserve of men.

Men deliberately excluded women from sport and they still do: walk into any gym and you'll sense immediately that it is a male space, women are tolerated resentfully. All the equipment is made for an average male, if you're smaller than the average woman you can't use some of it safely. As Annie says, men are default and we are other.

It's only been a few decades since women have been grudgingly allowed into sport. We've got centuries to catch up on.

EstherRancid Mon 25-Feb-13 10:49:56

perhaps we could email sports reporters and ask them why we have 'xxx sport' and 'ladies sport'?

you never hear eg 'Arsenal Men's team' but it's always 'Arsenal LADIES'

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 11:18:50

Fastidia, if you are having problems with your gym, try the Klick Fitness chain (if you are in the UK).


There are lots of women at my local club. They also have a big over-50's contingent, so it isn't just aimed at steriod-powered meatheads. The fixed-weight machines are also fully adjustable for limb length. I don't think the big gym chains can afford to ignore the women's market - there is too much money to be made. (I don't work for Klick, just to be clear).

namechangeguy - there are no barriers stopping me from enjoying running. Apart from an injured ankle. Why would you think there are? My point was only that the top women in most sport hold their own against all but a very few men.

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 14:06:00

Annie, because you said '.... yet another barrier to break down'. I guess I misunderstood.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 25-Feb-13 14:23:17


This women's football team played against men's teams. In eight games they won three, lost two and drew three.

Then women got banned from playing by the FA. Which simply must be coincidental.

namechangeguy yup, you misunderstood. I meant another barrier to be broken down before women are seen as human.

How, in a world with legislation against gender discrimination, is it legal for the FA to ban a team based on their gender? [boggles]

Trytrytyagain Mon 25-Feb-13 17:18:12

They were banned in 1921.

But they carried on playing until 1965.

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 18:14:38

'How, in a world with legislation against gender discrimination, is it legal for the FA to ban a team based on their gender? [boggles]'

I believe it occurred in 1922. Did they have legislation against discrimination then?

Nowadays, there is the Women's Premier League in the UK, so I don't think it happens now. I know that Liverpool and Everton have women's teams in the league. There is also Major League Soccer in the USA, and around Europe. There are also international teams for Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Jordan, Palestine and Bahrain, where you might not necessarily expect the game to be flourishing.

Are you deliberately missing the point, namechangeguy? This thread is about mixed gender sport, where people compete based on ability rather than genitalia. Not about which oh-so-"progressive" countries let the little women have their own runner-up leagues.

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 22:23:58

So why did you 'boggle' about an event that occurred 91 years ago? I was trying to illustrate that there has been progress in the intervening 9 decades, that's all.

I originally contributed a point about swimming and mixed training/competing. You then moved it on to an event that occurred a very long time ago.

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 22:25:45

And those 'little women', as you so positively describe them, have competed in Olympics and World Cups. Something the vast majority of us will never have the ability to do.

kim147 Mon 25-Feb-13 22:25:59

I do wonder why sports such as darts and snooker aren't mixed - strength isn't an issue in such sports. I know there are female snooker and darts players but I've never seen them competing with men.

I'm sure there are other sports where "strength" isn't an issue.
As for gyms, my council gym seems to have an even mix of males and females. Except for the free weights end.

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 22:48:23

I don't know why snooker and darts don't compete, kim. I know that Allison Fisher was women's world champion at snooker, but rather than go into the men's sport she hooked off to the USA and cleaned up in the very lucrative women's pool circuit. Maybe she could have been a trailblazer.

Of current top sports starts, I can think of two women who have attempted to cross into men's competitions. Lindsey Vonn was looking to compete in men's downhill skiing, until she had a bad crash. Skiing is incredibly physical, so I'd love to see her try one day. She is a phenomenal skier. Sarah Taylor, the England cricketer, is possibly going to play for Sussex this summer, so as a wicket-keeper where reactions and athleticism are paramount, it will be interesting to see how she competes.

QueenofDreams Mon 25-Feb-13 22:55:10

I can only think of one sport that is dominated by women. And funnily enough people say that it's not as exciting watching men play it! Even then, it's strictly amateur and there is no money in it despite the women who play training seriously and working really hard. Having said that I'd worry about what would happen to the sport if big money got involved, and so do many other players. A lot of players prefer to keep it amateur and controlled by the skaters rather than let big business take over. But that's a bit of a derail, sorry grin

AbigailAdams Mon 25-Feb-13 23:08:03

Why are you twisting Annie's words NCG? Are you being deliberately obtuse? You can't possibly be arguing that women have the same advantages as men in football because they have an odd league here and there and get to compete in the Olympics. Yes that might seem very privileged to us, who are unlikely to compete in the Olympics, but it isn't comparing like with like. Men have a much much much bigger slice of the football cake. And it seems to me that women nowadays are still behind where they were before being banned anyway, in that they aren't allowed to compete with or against men as they were before.

The concept of men and women competing against each other is really interesting because as you say there would probably be a whole middle ground where men and women are competitive against each other. In my sport we have time trials where women and men compete along side in different categories but in the same race. It is always interesting (and good) to see how many women beat men, especially over the longer distances. The longer the distance, the more even the competition anyway as stamina rather than strength comes into play.

There is a lot of misogyny in snooker and darts that's why they don't compete together. Women have to be deemed "worthy". Their inferiority maybe catching or summat. (That was sarcastic for ncg's benefit, just in case he "misunderstands" again).

MakeHayNotStraw Mon 25-Feb-13 23:18:31

My sister played in the boys' county cricket team for her age group. She had to have permission from the ECB, but she played with them for years. Now, though, they are much bigger and stronger and although she is much more skillful than most of them (top county wicket taker at any age group, male or female, two years running, now in England Academy) there are physical differences that do make a difference whether she likes it or not.

My point (apart from pride) is that however much we want to believe that mixed sports are possible and in many cases they should be mixed, women and men are physically different (which should be celebrated, not ignored).

Mind you, I played rugby - I'm not sure mixed rugby teams would be all that sensible...

AbigailAdams Mon 25-Feb-13 23:26:49

Nobody is ignoring the differences MakeHay. We are saying that there is a lot of middle ground where men and women could compete together. There is no reason for example that football and cricket leagues couldn't include women's teams, especially in amateur sport. Yes women's teams probably wouldn't be in the top leagues but does that matter if there aren't monetary or other advantages? In professional sport, obviously money comes into it.

However, in a number of sports there are mixed options too. Tennis, badminton, Paralympic/amateur rowing. There is no reason why team sports couldn't be mixed, or at least have that option.

namechangeguy Mon 25-Feb-13 23:26:56

I am not twisting words. I am mostly in agreement with the OP. Let's leave it at that, hey?

Having read a couple of blogs, it seems that the history of snooker saw the game mainly played in men-only clubs and bars, so it's a cultural barrier there rather than one of ability. I think women are allowed to compete in men's professional events, and vice versa.

I did read that men's and women's times in the marathon are converging. Maybe the relative lightness of a woman should mean that they can get much closer to men over longer distances. However, as far as I know there is about 12 minutes between the men's and women's world records, which at that level is about 2 1/2 miles distance. All the top men come from a small region in Africa though, whereas the women are from pretty much everywhere, which is odd.

And just so we are clear, I have no problem with competing with men or women. I have been beaten too many times by both to care about anything other than personal bests at my age.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 25-Feb-13 23:31:24

My link earlier showed that the woman's football team outperformed the men's teams.

So, taking snooker, horse-riding etc out of this - there is evidence that women beat men even at more physical sports.

Obviously the press reported that the men 'let' the women win.

kickassangel Tue 26-Feb-13 11:51:20

But where women manage to overcome the lower funding and coaching opportunities, and start to match the men, they then have some pretty hefty bigotry to overcome. Look at Paula Radcliffe. There isn't a woman in the world who could be her pacemaker, so she had to have men. Then she had her fastest time stripped because having a male pacemaker was cheating. The men use male pacemakers, but she wasn't allowed to. I think her best time was only five minutes less than the men's world record, with only a couple of men who had faster times than her.

Then she had her best time disqualified. Not because she didn't run it, but because she ran alongside a man.

kickassangel Tue 26-Feb-13 11:56:09

And sponsorship is hugely important to success, but companies don't provide as much sponsorship for women as they do men. Where they do offer money, it often comes with 'and pose on top of your car in a bikini if you want our money' type clauses. Unsurprisingly, women often tell the sponsors to jog on and find a different way to further their sport, such as heading to the US to play pool, rather than trying to make a living from sport and being a trailblazer at the same time. Why should thyr have to fight to overcome prejudice instead of focussing on developing their skills? Men don't have to and women shouldn't have to either.

QueenofDreams Tue 26-Feb-13 12:00:43

Good point Kickassangel. Look at my sport, Roller Derby. Every single bit of publicity that a news story or magazine runs about it focuses on making it sexy and titillating. It doesn't focus on the athleticism or drive of the skaters, it basically says 'Cor women on skates bashing into each other' and then bangs on about lesbians for a bit. As if the women who play derby do it to provide a titillating show for men. Which is not even close to why women choose to play the sport at all.

QueenofDreams Tue 26-Feb-13 12:01:48

In fact there's a lot of leagues that now refuse to let magazines do a story on them because without fail the story gets presented in that way and the skaters end up angry and disappointed.

kickassangel Tue 26-Feb-13 21:34:16

Wow. And isn't it odd how a sport that is quite dangerous and violent (compared to running etc) is still seen as a fringe sport, but there are quite high numbers involved.

QueenofDreams Wed 27-Feb-13 17:00:09

It's the fastest growing sport in the world. It's just exploded globally in the last 12 years or so from one team to thousands, with new teams being formed constantly. Yet it is a fringe sport, and many people don't take it seriously at all. My brother's comment when I said I'd signed up for my local league was 'so you're a butchdyke now?' hmm

namechangeguy Mon 04-Mar-13 10:00:25

Lauren Silberman has had trials for a professional NFL contract;


NFL is not my cup of tea, but there is nothing to stop women playing the game professionally with/against men, if they are good enough.

slug Thu 07-Mar-13 15:14:26

Oooh!! Roller Derby! If I was younger and less injury prone I'd love to give that a try.

In my younger days I played a quite obscure sport. (I'm not going to say which one because that would be massively outing.) Because it was so obscure we were forced to play in mixed teams as there simply weren't enough players to have gendered teams. It wasn't until I got to Rep level that I played in an all women's team and even then we would train with the men. The women's teams would win just as many training games as the men we were playing against. They certainly wouldn't give us any quarter, we were intensively competitive, but these were the guys we frequently played with in our club teams. We knew all their weaknesses and knew how to exploit them. wink

If you are ever in Oz or NZ go down to the local secondary school on a Saturday morning. There you will see netball being played by all, women's leagues, men's leagues and mixed leagues.

TeiTetua Thu 07-Mar-13 15:26:37

What, boys playing netball? How bizarre.

[[http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/a1701679-to-think-I-should-be-allowed-to-play-in-the-mens-team#37677942 A thread about a Mumsnetter who "isn't allowed" to play badminton with the men because they might find it humiliating. hmm

MechanicalTheatre Thu 07-Mar-13 15:42:45

Nicole Cooke quit cycling precisely because of the gender inequality in the sport. Look on her wikipedia page. She won EVERYTHING. Yet no-one knows her. There is no longer a Tour de France for women.

After the excitement of the Olympics (it was amazing to see so many women on TV being praised for their achievements and not their looks) we have gone right downhill again.

There's an interview with Cooke here - she's very articulate and very pissed off about what's happening in her sport.

Nicole Cooke I Had To Say Exactly As It Is

zwischenzug Sat 09-Mar-13 19:52:06

where men are the default and women are "other".

When people go to watch elite sport they want exactly that, the best of the best. For most sports that is men, for physiological reasons.

Top women footballers (as an example) aren't household names for the same reason league 2 footballers aren't household names - they aren't the best at the sport so only people with a special interest watch them.

zwischenzug - there are plenty of sports where women have the potential to be just as good as the men, to be the best of the best which people want to watch But there are prevented from competing on the same level as men by active discrimination. I would bet you a considerable amount of money that if women footballers got the same level of support and training, there would be women who were capable of making the top teams. Not an all-women's team, although the example given up-thread has shown that historically, even they could compete on an equal footing to men, but women in the top teams. The women have the ability. But they are not allowed to compete with men for purely sexist reasons.

slug Mon 11-Mar-13 10:13:15

Once you take tests of speed and strength out what is "good" in many sports is purely subjective and based, largely, on what men do.

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