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Gender War: Male vs. Female Competition in Sports

Gender War: Male vs. Female Competition in Sports

Throughout the past century we’ve watched various professional sports leagues allow the inclusion of females in competition, one by one. Many women have broken down barriers with their athletic talent and dedication, competing and excelling in male-dominated sports.

In 1931, 17-year old Jackie Mitchell was seen for more than her gender or the publicity she created. Her hard work and focus as a pitcher paid off in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, taking place April 2/1931. New York Yankee Babe Ruth said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen if they let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.” Despite this comment, pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts, Mitchell struck out the legendary Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, back to back.

The famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match began after a cocky Bobby Riggs, known for belittling women’s tennis, challenged Billie Jean King on multiple occasions. King finally accepted the challenge and an offer for a winner takes all $100,000. King took the match very seriously and later acknowledged, “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match. It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self-esteem.” King won, walking away with the money and the respect of many on that day in ’73.

A couple years later in 1975, Jackie Tonawanda took the New York State Athletic Commission to court over the refusal to allow women’s participation in boxing. The court later decided, “This court will not hold that women should be precluded from a profession exploiting whatever skills they may have in the sport of boxing merely because they are women.” Not long after, Tonawanda fought kickboxer Larry Rodania. The event took place at Madison Square Garden, and resulted in her knocking him out in the second round. Although Tonawanda initially was seeking out equality in boxing, she was quoted saying, “I don’t approve of women ever fighting guys.” Tonawanda said however, “They’re good and improving steadily by the year,” about women boxers of the time.

Seana Hogan has made her name as one of Ultra Cycling’s greatest competitors, male or female. Hogan has not only won multiple transcontinental races, but has set numerous world records since the 90’s. Hogan is known for her sheer will-power and persistence paired with her sense of humour. She continues to display her skill and drive today, in her fifties, aiming to prove that gender and age mean little. Seana has said of her age, “When I think I am too old, I am inspired by women like Dara Torres and Diana Nyad. I realize that I can do whatever I put my mind to do.

There are a handful of women who have played in individual events in PGA golf, including Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie. It wasn’t until May, 2011 that a female golfer earned a playing card on the tour. Isabelle Beisiegal, a Quebec native, made history with this feat.

As years pass females have made their way into many male dominated sports. Although many onlookers debate on whether it is “fair” to have male-versus-female competition, it is important to realize sports are about who has the skills and ability.

“In sports it is crucial that the best person wins.  The sexual differences are simply irrelevant.  If a female athlete can perform better than a male athlete, this female athlete should be allowed to compete with, and beat, the male athlete.  If she cannot beat a certain male athlete, so be it.  If the competition was fair, she should be able to face the fact that he was more talented.  It is really as simple as that.” – Tambarrin and Tannsjo, Genetic Technology and Sport

What could the competition of male and female in games and matches mean for these sports? Or does it make a difference? Are these just athletes competing against athletes?