Women and sports

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.

2010: FTSOS in review, January to March

Yes, this is one of those lists. And there are going to be four parts. Deal.

January:
There was some good stories from this month, but I can only focus on a couple. One of my favorites was the discovery that pushed tetrapod evolution back 18 million years. This was a quantitative change – not a qualitative one. That means that the discovery did nothing to change the relations scientists have constructed for species at and around that time (397 million years ago); it only increased the time frame in which we recognize tetrapods to have lived.

This was also the month when I was attacked by a bunch of caricature feminists. The whole issue arose over my position that a picture of two fat women on CNN was an objectification of fat people (because it accompanied an article about fat women). The caricature feminists took this to mean that I hate women, don’t think they should have any rights, and as I recently saw in an unrelated thread on an unrelated blog 11 months after the fact, that apparently I’m also racist.

And then there was the first threat of the Maloney Mess. It is not clear how the maker of that threat knows Maloney, but she apparently knows him well enough to be aware of the profession of his wife. (Everyone now knows she’s a lawyer since she amateurishly issued a cease-and-desist request, but that happened only recently.)

February:
The big hubbub during this month was the suspension of FTSOS. The reason had to do with Andreas Moritz and Christopher Maloney. I hardly need to go into great detail at this point, but briefly: I made a post criticizing Moritz nearly a year earlier. I later made a post criticizing Maloney. The two got in contact with each other as a direct result. Moritz emailed WordPress with information provided to him by Maloney. The claim was that Maloney was a doctor (not true) and I said he was not a doctor (true). Since there was a threat of a lawsuit, WordPress demanded I change or delete my statement. I did. But I was suspended anyway. As it turns out, Maloney is a naturopathic doctor, not a real doctor, so I was always in the right. But that wasn’t important to anyone at the time. Well, except Simon Singh, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and a number of other defenders of real science who helped publicize the censorship. And presto, I am back.

This was also the month when FTSOS hit the arbitrary mark of 100,000 views. I have always been open about the fact that I am fortunate to have images show up in Google Image, but the vast majority of views come from posts with substance. And really, that has always been the trick: Put up content that interests people and they will read it.

One of the biggest non-Moritz/Maloney posts was the one about circumcision. I always feel the reactions to these sort of posts end up very skewed because much of the absurdly vehement opposition is just that – absurd and vehement. It is a vocal minority being vocal. But they do have legitimate concerns. In fact, I suspect if I wrote that article again, it would go through some significant revision. But I do not see myself ever sharing the inane passion against circumcision that the anti-snip crowd displays.

March:
My favorite post from this month was the one on mitochondria and microsatellites. I wrote about the difference between how the two are utilized in studies on populations and evolution. Mitochondria is good for the long-term, but microsatellites can be very useful over short periods, perhaps over a few thousands generations. In the post I cited one study on the spatial and temporal structures of populations of Atlantic cod off the coast of Canada and Maine, extending to Nantucket Shoals.

There was also the heartbreaking story of Constance McMillen. Her bigoted southern school would not allow her to attend her prom with her girlfriend because, well, it was a bigoted school. A judge ruled as much, but the school then encouraged parents to create a private prom to which Constance would not be invited. Constance has since moved on, receiving scholarships from celebrities and others who respect her for being a human being who matters.

Another heartbreaker comes from the post about Kelly Glossip. Kelly was in a relationship with Dennis Engelhard, a police officer who died while on duty. And even though they had long shared their lives together, Kelly was not allowed to receive any sort of survivor benefits because the two were legally prevented from entering a same-sex marriage. I think if more people bothered to realize how their anti-gay, pro-bigot stances hurt real human beings, we would start to see a lot less opposition to equality.

Finally, I have to break with the short-lived tradition of only featuring three posts per month because I just have to mention my article about the reasonableness of absolute uncertainty. I wanted to explain what atheists mean when they say “There’s probably no God” since so many people seem to think atheism is the same as certainty. It is not.

Expect April to June tomorrow.