The story of Caster Semenya is quick to inspire debate about the view of female athletes in the sports industry. From the majority of blog posts incorporating this article, I have gathered that most writers have summarized her story with this thought: Why are people quick to question what makes Caster so dominating, acting as if she is not capable of being that good on her own? The world is almost expecting some secret advantage behind her repeated successes. Some of the same ideas have been mirrored in Lavaque-Manty’s “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities.” He explores gender roles and the inequality of such, particularly in the field of sports.
In regards to the commentary on these readings, I believe that the focus on women has been far too strong. In fact, it’s not just women who attempt to excel in areas that perhaps past, and unfortunately still current, societal views have been quick to question. Men also have disabilities too, and furthermore only examining the plight of one gender is doing the exact opposite of the intention of the articles, continuing the inequality.
It has long been believed and understood that men must put forth and exemplify a manly appearance and personality. Along with this stigma comes the expectation of athleticism, often heterosexuality, and breadwinning ability later on down the line. The masculine bubble doesn’t seem to encompass much else, especially as men’s interests may cross over into previously assigned female territory.
Throughout the entirety of my upbringing, my parents were more than open to me exploring my own interests. Even at an age where I was too young to even know how I wanted to spend my time and what extracurricular, if any, I wanted to partake in, they made sure I tried a little bit of everything. I took art classes, played a variety of sports including soccer, basketball, volleyball, and others, and took dance classes. Very quickly I fell in love with dance and decided to stick with it; my parents were nothing short of supportive of my decision.
That support doesn’t necessarily happen for all kids as they’re growing up. I quickly dove into the dance world and became a very serious competition dancer in more than six genres for more than twelve years. During my time in this world, I was exposed to a lot of dancers from all over the country, from different backgrounds, and while the majority of these dancers were girls there were always boys too. One of my best friends on my own team was a guy—he was incredible. A true talent, he was always awarded first place for each dance he competed. However, he didn’t necessarily get to enjoy those victories like many other dancers would.
As with women in sports, lots of people are quick to question why males participate in female dominated areas, particularly with the performing arts, an area that doesn’t necessarily fit the manly stigma. Along with a perhaps girly activity unfortunately can come shame. Male dancers are often incessantly teased for being “like a girl.” Their sexuality is often questioned as if it serves as an absolute explanation for why any guy would rather spend their time dancing instead of playing an aggressive game of basketball.
While in the dance world the quality of a male’s performance and technical ability is never questioned due to gender, his pursuit of success may prove ineffective from a lack of respect from a multitude of Americans. No matter how much success and praise a man may be awarded inside of the dance world, the outside world can be much more complex—that praise possibly invalidated by unsupportive parents, harassment, and assumptions of homosexuality, despite whatever his true sexual orientation might be.
In a study completed, participants were asked to complete the following sentence: “I think more boys would study dance if…”With instructions to complete the blanks using given choices 85% selected “..if boys weren’t teased and harassed as much about dancing;” 72% selected “if parents were more supportive and encouraging;” 68% chose “if boys knew more male friends who danced;” and more choices along those lines.
On top of this unfortunate reality, findings suggest that most males in the dance world experience an environment with few male peers, receive insufficient amounts of support from parents and male family members in particular, have their sexual orientation questioned repeatedly, live in a social environment of teasing, and often times are victims of physical and verbal harassment based solely on their participation in dance.
Female athletes are hardly the only ones of the receiving end of little respect, validation, and acceptance. It can also be disabling to be a man, particularly in the genre of performing arts. As a whole, our society should begin to focus on changing societal gender norms as a whole, and perhaps not just changing them but eradicating them entirely. No longer should sports be considered a male dominated entity just as dance and theatre should not only be associated with female figures. Stigmas should be dissolved; no more dainty ladies or manly men. Women and men should be able to do as they please, without the fear of being disrespected or even harassed. LaVaque-Manty’s chapter certainly is only the tipping point of the gender role issue. There are certainly more victims than just women in our society.