User:GHorto91/Women in Football
Should women be able to participate in contact sports? How about when it starts challenging the male domain? These are the questions some people ask when they see female athletes playing different codes of football. Is it really acceptable behaviour for women to be competing in a male dominant sport? This article will investigate the different opinions relating to such a common topic in modern sport.
Female participation in sport has always been a delicate area in society which has caused much debate and conflict over time. With society being more accepting of women’s participation in sport, it has made way for them to enter traditionally male oriented sports. Recently, women have begun competing, refereeing, coaching, managing and training in all codes of football making it more popular among the female population. Rugby union, rugby league and AFL as well as American football are all primarily male dominated and with recent pursuits by female athletes into these sports, many people are finding these actions to be unhealthy, unfeminine and untraditional. A current example is the Lingerie Football League in America where females are competing in ‘lingerie’ as a uniform. This provides a completely new perspective on women participating in male dominated sports and possibly even questions the success females have already made in the sporting world.
This article will study a variety of sources and opinions in relation to women’s participation in sport focusing specifically on the different codes of football. It will explore the advantages and disadvantages of such sports being promoted to the female population and how particular images and perspectives could be changed to provide a more accepting society. The impacts of sexism, discrimination and stereotyping in sport and how it influences on business, politics and sport in today’s modern sporting world will provide the basis of this article.
History of Women's Participation in Australian Sport
Australia is internationally known for their sporting success in both female and male events. These days, many do not know of the often-difficult circumstances for women that assisted in their rise to the levels they participate in now. According to the Australian Sports Commission the nineteenth century involved the British forming and encouraging ‘an official masculine culture whose social etiquette supposedly restricted women to parlour games' . This era had women frowned upon as they attempted to challenge the male domain of sport. ‘Females were explicitly discouraged from participation in any type of vigorous activity that would diminish their femininity, and were relegated to spectator and supporter roles’ . Society dictated the entire competition requiring women to wear ‘corsets, and heavy, long skirts which hindered any efforts to participate actively’ . This move was common in these times and evident of the actions of society against women.
The twentieth century brought about much improvement in women’s participation in sport. With swimming becoming popular in schools and amateur golf becoming available to women, the line between women and men’s participation was to be tested. Although these options were a huge success for women, society still placed restrictions on their activities through only allowing ‘associate’ golf memberships and having ‘heavy and impractical’ female swimming costumes   . Around this time, sports like rugby league and Australian football began to allow female participation but also at a restricted rate, only allowing this on a Sunday  .
Finally, after World War 1 society began to view women in a different way and became more accepting to their participation in physical activity . Tennis, golf, lawn bowls, diving and cricket were some of the most popular sports for women. As time went on more events and competitions were being introduced to the female population, although it wasn’t until the 1980s that they received any type of financial backing through the opening of the Australian Institute of Sport .
Today, it is obvious of the difference between female and male participation in sport. The rate of good publicity of women in sport is significantly lower than men, as well as the amount of finance available. The history women’s participation in sport has been mainly attributed to the sexism, sex-role socialisation and the stereotyping of the genders . The challenges towards these attitudes are constantly improving the circumstances for women’s sport in Australia.
Women's Participation in Different Codes of Football
With the very first women’s Rugby League match played in 1921, female participation is now considered an option in this sport  . With the support from the AWRL (Australian Women’s Rugby League), women now have the prime opportunity to participate through playing, refereeing, coaching and managing at high levels. The sport’s female participants reached international level in 1995 and by 2000 the first Women’s Rugby League World Cup was held .
Australian Football has been a strong supporter of women’s participation in all areas and continues to promote this sport as best they can. After World War 1 a couple of exhibition matches were organised, although it wasn’t until 1981 that competition seriously began . The last 10 years have seen huge increases in female participation of all ages. 2010 brought just over 73 000 female footballers, a 60% increase over that year, while 2011 has now seen an entire week/round dedicated to their participation .
Recent years have seen the introduction of female players participating in the game of American football with lingerie as their uniform. The new league states that “The Lingerie Football League has become the Ultimate Fan-Driven Live Sports Phenomenon - Blending Action, Impact and Beauty"  . This trend for women to participate in traditionally male dominated sports while wearing lingerie has spread worldwide and begins competition in Canada, Australia and Europe  . With the US drawing more attendance and viewing of this sport than some other traditionally male sporting competitions, the plan is to expand these leagues to compete internationally to allow for further participation of women .
The Affects on Business, Politics and Sport
Sport has slowly become a commodity in our society and therefore has changed the way we view competitors and organisations. With trends changing tremendously, society’s opinions are being influenced, not only by their experiences but by the media and sponsorship as well. The recent phenomenon for women entering traditionally male dominated sports has caused many opportunities for athletes as well as businesses. It has also influenced political endeavours and changed the sporting world. In particular, recent development in women’s football as evolved an entirely new era of attitudes, business moves and opportunities.
Over the past century, the increased participation of women in sport has allowed for a whole new perspective on business. With sponsorship, media rights, sporting products and merchandise becoming a huge industry in our society, women have created an entirely new range. Women playing football now require different uniforms, more protection and some different sponsorship. The affect this has on business comes from the lack of financial availability to female athletes in modern times. This restriction means sponsorship is more important to fund participation and to cover sporting facilities and equipment. Additionally, the media has made a lot of money over women’s sport. The participation of women has caused a trigger to all channels of media in both a positive and negative way. In instances like female’s entering a football team, the media often abuses their skill and achievements to establish stereotypical opinions that influence all readers and viewers. Although this is creating awareness of the sports, it is also creating a poor image of women in sport and, still, people have their negative attitudes towards this commitment. A recent prime example is the Lingerie Football League in America, where women are playing a similar game to the men but wearing a classic female uniform; lingerie. A Yahoo article explains that "It (lingerie) adds femininity to the game and just highlights that even hot athletic chicks can hit as hard and run as fast as some of the guys” . Although, we’d like to think that people are going to watch the skill of the game, due to business opportunities of ticket sales, media rights and merchandise, as well as mainstream media portrayals, it is more than likely that the lingerie uniform is influencing such high levels of income  .
The idea of women entering into sporting competitions has always come with constant debate. Whether it is due to stereotypical concerns, health concerns or the level of skill, women have always come off second best to men and have caused much political agony. These days men are gaining more payment and recognition than women on and off the field. The highest paid rugby league player at the moment is gaining up to $800 thousand . On top of this, the highest paid AFL player is earning over $1 million  , while in the U.S, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, men receive $133 million more in college athletic scholarships then women . Politics in sport arise from such proof as this while women all over the world are continuously trying to break the barrier. With the creation of governing bodies the Australian Women’s Rugby League and Women’s Football Australia, women are now represented as an official body working towards the achievements of their male counterparts. The introduction of lingerie football into Australia is another classic example where politics is going to cause friction in the female sporting world. The new competition is a whole new product in Australian sport and therefore brings about a number of unseen opinions including the health benefits of women, the images of women in lingerie and the financial stability of the game.
Women have changed the world of sport in many aspects. Rules, equipment and uniforms have all been modified to suit the different needs of women to men. With women now entering male dominated sports, major changes for sporting organisations are now influencing men to adapt to these new recruitments.
Opinions have changed tremendously over centuries in relation to women’s participation in sport. It hasn’t been until the last few decades that governing bodies have begun to influence the attitudes of society towards accepting the latest trends. Through examples of the Australian Women’s Rugby League and Women’s Football Australia, women entering different codes of football are being accepted, to the extent of the introduction of Lingerie league. On the other hand, the media play a huge role in the portrayal of women participating in particular sports and therefore are encouraging the opposite. With the lack of positive mainstream media and the stereotypical images of women playing football, it is unfortunately going to be a lifetime debate between the sexes.
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- Hunter. S, 2011, ‘Lingerie Football League Plans to Expand to Canada, Australia and Europe’, viewed on October 30th 2011, http://www.kentreporter.com/entertainment/125180118.html
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- Our Bodies Ourselves, 2011, ‘Our Bodies in Motion’, Who’s on the Wheaties Box?: The Politics of Sports, viewed on October 30th 2011, http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/excerpt.asp?id=7
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