Since getting to school, I have attended numerous Michigan football games, a few men’s basketball games, and a women’s basketball game.
I really wanted to see how different the same arena would look when occupied by a women’s versus a men’s team, especially because I wrote my recent essay on the gender discrimination that we see in the sports world. Women athletes have faced discrimination all throughout the past and we definitely see the impacts of that today. The difference between the two basketball teams is a perfect example of the discussions we’ve had in class about the influence of gender roles on sports.
I have yet to see the stadium completely packed for a men’s basketball game, but it was extremely empty for the women’s game. The entire crowd was about the same size as the smallest men’s student section I have seen.
I have heard people say that women’s sports just “aren’t fun to watch”. I was half expecting this to be the case for the women’s basketball game. However, I was wrong. The women’s game was just as athletic and exciting as the men’s. They do just as much work. In the first five minutes of the game, a woman wearing a knee brace jumped and landed oddly on her bad leg and still managed to limp off the court though she was clearly in a lot of pain. Sometimes it seems that sports are seen as more competitive because there is a higher risk for injury to players. If this is the case, the men’s team was not any more athletic than the women’s. People were getting pushed and knocked around equally as much in both games.
The difference between the two comes down to a theme we’ve discussed in class: expectations. Men’s games are expected to be more exciting and they have the audience to generate the atmosphere. While I do have more fun at the men’s games than I did at the women’s game, that is really due to the mood generated by spectators. I love the cheering and chanting and shouting that accompanies men’s games.
Something that was interesting to me was how much more vocal the women’s team was than the men’s team. The opposing team, especially, did a lot of chanting and cheering, much like the student section does for men’s sports. If they hadn’t, though, there would have been very little noise in the arena besides that of the game going on. There was cheering from the pep band and the audience, but there weren’t enough spectators to make very much noise. In men’s games, especially exciting ones, the student section is sometimes almost deafening when the opponent has the ball.
In his book The Playing Fields of Eton, Professor Mika points out that there are no women’s sports that are considered ‘revenue sports’ for universities- that is, there are no women’s sports that make enough money for the school to profit from them.
In class, we’ve talked about the barriers that prevent women from being involved in competitive sport. One of the biggest influences that has been prevalent in the past (and even present day) is the roles in society. People don’t expect women to be able to achieve excellence in athletics. They assume that female athletes are simply inferior to male athletes. The following video briefly shows an interesting perspective on this.
Notice how one of the women acknowledges that some of the men on the practice squad instantly think they’re better players because they are guys. One of the guys, along the same vein, states that expecting to go easy on the women players will only lead to embarrassment.
Professor Mika, in his book, acknowledges that a component of meaningful competition is whether people show up to watch. It’s sort of sad to think about the women players working just as hard as the men and having so much less support. They are representing our school and student body just as much. No one is against supporting the women’s team, but there is the expectation of women’s sports being inferior to men’s. This class really opened my eyes to this and encouraged me to check out the women’s basketball game. Now that I see that it was silly to think that women’s games were any less exciting, I will definitely be checking out more of the women’s sporting events on campus.