I read a short opinion piece today that listed a number reasons why women’s sports are not as successful as men’s sports. I am unable to find that article, but this very similar article lists the points:
- Men form the core of sports fans and they are not watching women’s sports.
- Women also do not watch.
- When young, women do not receive enough support and encouragement from friends and family.
- There is little media coverage.
- Culture discourages women from entering sports.
The one point that is severely missed here is the most obvious: On the whole, men are better at sports. And people want to watch the best of the best.
I raised this point in an all-female environment and the most prominent counter-argument was that men and women cannot be fairly compared. But of course they can. I can compare any group to any other group if my point is to see which performs better at sports. Ten year olds versus twelve year olds at baseball? The older kids are going to be better on average – they’re bigger, stronger, and faster.
If a woman is able to perform at the level required to play at the professional level of the NHL, MLB, NFL, or NBA, then of course she is going to be signed in a minute. Those leagues are about the sports for the fan, but for the owners, it’s all just a business. If a woman can hit .300, run, throw, and catch, she is going to be playing for an MLB team sooner than later. That’s going to bring in a whole lot of cash.
We’ve seen women break or attempt to break into big time male-dominated sports. Danica Patrick has had a successful career as a driver (though, for the record, neither she nor any of her male colleagues are athletes). Michelle Wie certainly wasn’t stopped from attempting to move from women’s golf to men’s. She got into one men’s tournament and failed to qualify for the PGA tour, but our culture, her past encouragement, a lack of viewers, media coverage, etc, had nothing to do with her inability to compete. The fact is, she is at a competitive disadvantage to men. This is all the more true for sports like football and hockey.
The barrier here is in physical ability, on the whole. We see individual women sometimes succeed because some women can be better than most men at sports – but most men are still better than most women. And more importantly, the top male athletes are better than the top female athletes. Even if we could get rid of all the things that make women less likely to go into sports than men, men are still going to be the top performers because speed, agility, strength, and size are all greatly increased by higher testosterone levels.
I just wish we could all be a little honest. Men, on the whole, are better at sports than women, on the whole. We have these systems that rely on the ability to perform to a certain level – most runs, most points, most goals. And the best male athletes are going to be able to reach these levels better than the best female athletes. This is a big reason why women’s sports flounder. Is this so wrong? I really have no desire to watch a basketball league where it is big news that one of its players managed to actually dunk. (This really was big news for the WNBA a year or two ago.) So we can’t just give a blanket blame to society and culture and biases and discrimination, even if all those things might play a role. Sports are about top performance. If a woman can compete with the best men, great. But she’s the exception, not the rule.