Friday, August 6, 2010

Male Acceptance in Female Dominated Sports

Meagan Laurie


Gender Popular Culture

August 5, 2010

Just the other day, I went shopping for my friend’s son named Pablo. He was being given a gymnastic themed party and that’s where the challenge began. I went to several sporting goods stores and I found it very hard to find gymnastic items for boys the same age or around the age of Pablo. There was a large variety of gymnastic items for the girls but when it came to boys there seemed to be a boycott against boys and gymnastics. This dismal amount of items for boys in gymnastics makes it evident that a sport like gymnastics isn’t accepted in the sports world especially when it comes to men participating in a sport dominated by females. Therefore, I find it easy to argue that gymnastics, against many other sports, is not necessarily acceptable for men because of its lack of masculinity and because of marketing strategies of sporting goods, it sends the message that gymnastics is for women and not for men.

The message that is being sent to men interested in the sport gymnastics through advertisement is that it is a sport mainly for women and that it is not something that men participate in. When boys want to participate in sports this strategy inhibits young boys from growing interest in the sport and they participate in more socially acceptable sports such as football and baseball, or more simply, sports dominated by the male demographic. This leaves little room for those who want to be gymnasts and it almost makes the few males who want to participate in this sport think about how it may make others think about their sexuality. To support this claim author Michael Messner argues that, “All boys love baseball. If they don't they're not real boys. There are millions of males who at an early age are rejected by, become alienated or lose interest in organized sports. Yet all boys are, to a greater or lesser extent, judged according to their ability, or lack of ability, in competitive sports from, or lose interest in organized sports. Yet all boys are, to a greater or lesser extent, judged according to their ability, or lack of ability, in competitive sports” (122). By participating in sports other than what men like to call ‘All-American sports’, young boys face a lot judgment because of their choice of a sport not acceptable to many men.

Advertising items pertaining to gymnastics as a female dominated sport distracts many young boys from ever choosing to participate in that sport. Stated before, the sport weighs heavy on their sexuality in participation of gymnastics. According to Jackson Katz, “at any given time, the class structure and gender order produce numerous masculinities stratified by socioeconomic class, racial and ethnic difference, and sexual orientation” (350). Advertising business use this method of thinking to control what our young boys choose to participate in to create a world of masculine and sometimes overly masculine men in the future. This strategy tends to work because if you look at the many products associated with gymnastics, you would mostly see young, white, skinny girls and rarely muscular white men. This further excludes those of other races from participating in gymnastics. Therefore, advertising agencies control who they want to participate in each sport and if one, mainly males, chooses outside of that realm then they face judgment on many different levels including sexuality.



12 comments:

  1. Meagan-
    Your argument here is a good one and you chose an interesting direction for your hypothetical shopping project, "Pablo."
    The main issue I found was that your argument was one that is predicated on numerical evidence. Therefore, I searched on amazon.com for both "men's" and "women's" gymnastics. Expecting to see a sharp difference in the number of products on this site, I instead found:
    1,945 for "men's gymnastics"
    2,823 for "women's gymnastics"
    Therefore, the argument predicated on numbers here isn't working. Perhaps if you narrowed your thesis, and instead specifically looked for affordable items, such as (pick one) apparel, books, dvd/videos, etc, you'd have seen a different way to argue your point.
    While it's certainly not considered a masculine sport by normative definitions, gymnastics for men emphasizes many more of the "masculine" ideals of muscularity, strength, speed, endurance, etc (unlike figure skating or ballet where the routines/performances are rather the same based on gender) than you may be realizing here. Therefore, the argument may be about how the sport is inaccurately categorized by normative gender expectations, and instead, one that actually fits both the norms of femininity and masculinity.
    :o)
    Jessie

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