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Gender in Sports: A Case Study

The Local Issue

At Harker, girls’ sports receive less attention than boys’. There are fewer female sports coaches, and even fewer coaches of other genders. The gender binary is apparent in the separation of sports teams, and very few know if Harker accepts transgender athletes.

Clearly, though many at Harker are accepting towards people of all genders, the nature of Harker’s athletics program indicates an implicit acceptance of gender discrimination, the gender binary, and lack awareness of transgender students.

Please take this survey before beginning this page to share your experiences and opinions with gender in sports at your school!

Photo via Mark Kocina, the Harker School


 

 

Gender Equality in Sports Viewership

What’s the issue?

The Statistics

72.5% of students surveyed say boys’ sports teams garner more spectators. 0% say the girls do.

22% of students surveyed weren’t sure, and 5% said boys’ and girls’ team get the same amount of viewers.

 

Ask the Students

Female Harker student-athletes on how many people attend their games:

“At most two, unless it’s senior night … basically no one.” -Alayna, grade 12, varsity girls’ lacrosse player

“Maybe ten.” -Kendall, grade 12, former JV girls’ lacrosse player

 

Harker student-athletes on the difference in attention between boys’ and girls’ sports:

“There’s this … glorification of the male athlete. I don’t think that happens nearly as much in Harker as it does in other schools, but I definitely think that’s prevalent in society.” -Jordan, grade 12, varsity boys’ basketball and JV boys’ golf player

 

Why is it important?

In professional sports, female athletes receive far less airtime and media attention than males, demonstrating inequity between genders in sports.1 Many young girls quit sports because they have less resources and attention.2 Try to mitigate this inequality for your friends and classmates.

 

What can you do about it?

“It would be nice to get the school to think equally about women’s and men’s teams … we’re all important so it would be good to have everyone go to everything.” -Alayna, grade 12, varsity girls’ lacrosse player

Support your female and nonbinary friends and classmates at girls’ sports games and events. This spring, check out girls’ lacrosse, girls’ softball, track and field, and swimming.

Transgender Athletes

What’s the issue?

The Statistics

2.9% of students surveyed know what Harker’s policy on transgender athletes is.

76.5% of students do not know what the policy is, and 20.6% aren’t sure, suggesting that 97.1% of students surveyed are unaware of Harker’s policy on transgender athletes.

Ask the Students

“I have no idea.” – Jordan, grade 12, varsity boys’ basketball and JV boys’ golf player

“I do not know … I think they should decide, choose whatever team they want to be on – whatever team they feel more comfortable being on. It should be their choice.” – Luke, grade 8, boys’ basketball and baseball player

From the Athletic Director

Dan Molin, the Upper School Athletic Director, clarified that our school does not have a written policy but that the school follows the California state athletics guidelines, which allow athletes to play on the team of their choosing.

 

Why is it important?

All of our students should feel welcome playing sports, and students should be aware of our school’s policies.

 

What can you do about it?

Share your thoughts and encourage all of your classmates, including transgender and nonbinary students, that they’re welcome in Harker athletics. Everyone from every school, please share your thoughts about this project and gender in sports!

 

 

The Gender Binary in Sports

What’s the issue?

The gender binary is the division of gender into two distinct categories: masculine and feminine.3

58.1% of Harker athletes surveyed report that their sports coach is male. 32.3% report that their sports coach is female, and 9.7% report that they aren’t sure of the coach’s gender. 0% of Harker athletes surveyed report having a nonbinary coach.

Ask the Students

Harker athletes on the gender of their sports coaches:

“They are male … Male … Male” -Luke, grade 8, boys’ basketball and baseball player

 

Harker athletes are asked if they have ever had a female coach or a nonbinary coach:

“Nope. Not in Harker … I think that not many women strive to be a coach, actually.” – Luke, grade 8, boys’ basketball and baseball player

 

Why is it important?

At Harker, female coaches are underrepresented, and nonbinary coaches or other coaches not falling under the gender binary are extremely underrepresented.

In United States history, female coaches are paid less and female athletes receive fewer resources. Nonbinary coaches and athletes are almost never mentioned in these studies.4  In addition, when students do not see their genders represented by their coaches, they are more likely to quit sports.

 

What can you do about it?

Contact athletics coaches to request more diversity.

 

Do you notice any of the above issues at your school?

All of them
Most of them
Some of them
None of them

survey maker


 

The Project

Interviews

I reached out to four Harker student-athletes to ask questions about their thoughts and experiences with gender in Harker sports. I interviewed three grade 12 students and one grade 8 student. All were athletes or former athletes at Harker.

The interviews were intended not only to collect information, but also to encourage conversation within a community that is affected by gender in sports.

Survey

I circulated this survey via email and social media to Harker students, both athletes and non-athletes. The survey was intended not only to collect data, but to raise issues that many students have never before contemplated.

Website

I am in the process of circulating the upper portion of this website as a guide for Harker students. The website is intended to raise awareness about issues of gender in sports and advise Harker students about what they can do to remedy some of the problems.

Results

The circulation of the survey, as well as the interviews, have already started raising questions and action.

During the interview, I was able to start a conversation with a male Harker athlete about the names he used for professional sports organizations, as per the interview transcript below.

In addition, all of the athletes I interviewed asked for information on what Harker’s transgender athlete policy is, indicating that the interview raised curiosity in these athletes.

As I circulated the survey, I received several inquiries based on the content of the survey. For example, the following conversation occurred.

I have also received similar feedback and inquiries based upon the content of the webpage.


 

Sources

1. Good, Andrew. “When It Comes to Women in Sports, TV News Tunes out.” USCNews, U of Southern California, 5 June 2015, news.usc.edu/82382/when-it-comes-to-women-in-sports-tv-news-tunes-out/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

2. Women’s Sports Foundation, editor. “Do You Know the Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports?” Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports: Women’s Sports Foundation, 9 Sept. 2016, www.womenssportsfoundation.org/support-us/do-you-know-the-factors-influencing-girls-participation-in-sports/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

3. Love, Adam, and Kimberly Kelly. “Equity or Essentialism? U.S. Courts and the Legitimation of Girls’ Teams in High School Sport.” Gender and Society, vol. 25, no. 2, Apr. 2011, pp. 227-49. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23044137. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

4. Senne, Joshua A. “Examination of Gender Equity and Female Participation in Sport.” The Sport Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 26 Feb. 2016, pp. 1-8, thesportjournal.org/article/examination-of-gender-equity-and-female-participation-in-sport/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

5. Whisenant, Warren A. “Sustaining Male Dominance in Interscholastic Athletics: A Case of Homologous Reproduction…or Not?” Sex Roles, vol. 58, nos. 11-12, 1 June 2008, pp. 768-75. ProQuest Research Library, doi:10.1007/s11199-008-9397-3. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

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