| 03.21.2018

Sporting a gender divide


Differences between men and women still continue in sports

Lacrosse has a reputation of being a violent, physical sport that requires the stamina and aggression of an action hero. At the end of “Mean Girls,” Regina George finally channels her rage into lacrosse and triumphantly bashes people with her stick as she charges down the field. 

Aleya Ericson

Aleya Ericson

While “Mean Girls” made the prospect of a grueling sport look thrilling to play, in reality, women’s lacrosse operates under a much more stringent set of guidelines than men’s lacrosse. A significant gender divide still exists in the world of sports, a divide exemplified by the different sets of rules between men and women’s lacrosse.

Women’s lacrosse prohibits full physical contact between opposing players, while men’s lacrosse allows body checking and contact. This may seem like a small difference, but it fundamentally changes the way the game is played. While men’s field lacrosse is often a physical battle of brawn, women’s lacrosse is forced to become a battle of strategy — due to the prohibition of full physical contact.

The difference between rules reinforces stereotypes that are long overdue for a funeral. Women can take hits just as well as men and should not be subjected to rules reinforcing the idea of a women’s weakness.

The gender divide in all sports can be traced back to traditional gender roles and values. Traditionally, men play sports to establish their masculinity while women concern themselves with their appearance and clothing. The National Football League compared to the Lingerie Football League is only one example of how the same sport, played by different genders, reflects different gender ideas.

Gender roles even carry over into intramural sports at the University of Idaho. For co-ed UI intramural sports, women are given a scoring advantage over men in some sports. For instance, when a woman scores a goal in UI intramural co-ed soccer, it’s worth two points. If a man scores, it’s only one.

Butch Fealy, director of UI Intramural Sports, said women demanded this rule. He said women felt that without the rule, they would never get passed the ball or have equal opportunities to participate in intramural teams.

It’s sad that an inherently sexist rule is needed to combat sexism.

The misconception that all men have more experience in athletics compared to women often results in men taking charge of co-ed teams under the misguided belief that they have more to contribute than the women on their teams. Competitive spirit is one thing, but a grown man hoarding the soccer ball from his capable teammates is almost childlike.

Now, painting men with a broad brush of sexism is harsh. After all, most men don’t join intramural sports with the express goal of stomping on a female soccer player’s competitive dreams.

That being said, someone watching a co-ed intramural game can see the gender divides.

It’s hard to argue against the need for a special point scoring system for women when there are still gender biases on the playing field.

While intramurals offer an exciting way to bond with other students, beyond bragging rights, there is no tangible outcome for winning.

If the ability to say “I won” trumps including female team members to the point that a special rule is needed, something needs to change.

Intramural sports are offered to give students a chance to bond and get some exercise. It’s up to students to make sure bonding actually occurs.

The change should instead come from students and the culture of sports to begin with. Men can help by allowing female team members chances to score and contribute in intramural games.

Women can contribute by taking charge of intramural teams and not accepting the actions of uncooperative teammates. Together, cooperation between genders can remove the need for sexist gender-specific rules.

Aleya Ericson can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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