Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

For centuries women have been treated as inferior, weak, and dependent on the opposite sex. It was thought that we are to uphold to this feminine image of beauty while feeding men grapes and vacuuming the house in our heels. I hate heels. But we have obviously evolved past this rudimentary image of a female, or have we? It was not until 1972, when Title IX was passed, females even began to start believing there was any hope that one-day males would treat us as equals.  When I say equal, I mean that we have equal opportunities and respect in all areas of our lives. Title IX opened the doors for women in sport as well as in a work environment. Being able to participate in sports gave women the confidence to push forward and defend their rights, as human beings.

In the article “Title IX and Gender Equity” Jon Boxill concluded, “For the vast majority of people, sport is the most available form of unalienated activity and consequently is an important way that people develop their uniquely human attributes, their self-respect, and their self-esteem.” (402) Whether you are male or female, movement is in your nature. We are made to move; both males and females have the capabilities to produce beautiful, fluid, and well-calculated movements. This movement is self-expression and is not synonymous with any gender. So why do we separate males from females? Should women play against males? How may society make the playing field equal?

Over many centuries our societies have been ruled by a masculine mindset of a selfish competitiveness, which involves treating your opponent as the enemy or obstacle to be defeated. Men are the protectors, the provider, and the one in charge. Men have suppressed the female population and are threatened by the thought of a women possessing equal skill. In ancient Greece they fought to the death, preparing for war, and now we play football.  Society has further suppressed women by incorporating a need for size, speed, strength, and power in sports such as football, rugby, and ice hockey where men knowingly have an advantage. In Bruce Kidd’s article “The Men’s cultural Centre: sports and the dynamic of women’s Oppression/Men’s Repression” He mentions, “ …For women were increasingly becoming a threat to men, and men responded by developing rugby football as a male preserve in which they could bolster up their threatened masculinity…”(407) In the most popular sports size does matter, this allows men to say, “ I don’t want to play with a girl. I might hurt her.” Resulting in women remaining unactive and unable to receive the wonderful mental and physical benefits of participating in a sport or physical activity. After Title IX women then had more opportunities to participate in sports, even the masculine ones.  Females have been gaining momentum and catching up with the men in sports AND business.

In Boxill’s article he states that, “because of the nature and design of sport, it provides a significant moral function for the individual and for society at large. It does so first because it provides autonomous agents with a vehicle for self-expression- a means to self-respect and self –development.” (396) The benefits that are found in sport are not gender specific, so why do sports have to be? As humans we are always evolving and adapting to the demands of life. Women have only been participating in sport for a few decades, while men have had centuries of practice. In the short amount of time women have participated in sports, the gap between men and women in some sports has significantly lessened, especially in the area of ultra- endurance sports. Boxill mentions that, “if women want to compete with men, then they must compete against them on the same level, using the same rules and standards. But, we don’t even require this of men.” (399) If you think about all of the different male and female body types, there is such a huge range; you cannot really say that men as a whole are stronger than women.  What if you had a male who was small and scrawny and was unable to put on any muscles against a girl who was a little larger possessed more manly characteristics? Who would win in a football game or wrestling match? There are to many body types of all shapes and sizes to say that women cannot become as strong, fast and powerful as their male counterpart.

I believe that there will always be a separation between male and female sports. It will never become fully integrated, or at least I don’t believe in this lifetime it will happen. I do not see anything wrong with this. I think that separation is OK. It is going to take a long time for females to catch up to males. It should be about having the option to compete against an equal counterpart, whether it is a male or female. If a female athlete is no longer challenged by her sport she should have the right to compete against the men. Women are evolving, some faster than others. I do not believe that as a woman wanting to compete with males is demeaning of women’s sports. Just like the men in big corporations had to step aside and make room for us ladies, men will also have to make room in sports.

We are designed to be different; this dualism allows us each to provide a different puzzle piece to this beautiful life, fitting together to make a whole. Physically and biologically we are different, on an energetic level, we are all the same. We both contain the essence of male and female within us. On the outside some males may have female characteristics and vice versa. Sports should be designed to ensure that everyone may have an equal opportunity to obtain excellence. Whether you are a male or female it should not matter. I know that there will always be a bit of a separation, because sometimes I just get sick of being around men and friendly equated competition from a female counterpart is just as fulfilling.  The point is, we are all one! I know that is a little hippy of me, but what can I say, it takes one to know one!

O The Things We Will Do…To Be the Best

Aside

Always striving for excellence, always trying to be better than the opposition, at all costs, no matter what it takes. This seems to be the motto of our culture. We are willing to risk our mental and physical health to achieve physiological advancements. One of the most controversial advances is the use of steroids in sport.  Prior to the reading of the articles by Hoberman and Simon, my first reaction was that it is obvious the use of steroids should be illegal in sports of all levels. Although I still uphold that they should not be used, there were a few counter arguments that made the solidification of my statement not so concrete. So to defend my opinion I would like to briefly discuss why I believe it is unfair to use performance enhancers.

Free will, our right as a human being to have free choice. In reference to sport, yes, we are free to train a particular way, adhere to a particular diet, and use a particular brand of equipment, which may or may not improve overall performance. But doesn’t this idea of God-given free will coincide with moral value? Yes, we have the right to choose whether or not, as an athlete, we want to risk our physical and mental health to achieve greatness, but at what cost? In previous posts and readings we discuss reasons why an athlete will participate in a competitive sport. I believe that it is not only for the love of the game but also for the love of competition. Athletes work hard, giving up luxuries of life, to compete. So if the opportunity to beat the competition arises, people will ensue. But is it morally ethical to make such a decision and to go to such extremes to beat out the competition? I think not.

We have rules and regulations so that each competition is fair and everyone has an equal opportunity to win. When an athlete agrees to consume steroids or any other type of performance enhancement drug they are producing an uneven playing field. In Hoberman’s article, an argument in favor of performance enhancers states “they yield improvement only in conjunction with hard training and demanding work ethic. In fact, they allow muscles to recover faster and therefore permit users to engage in more intense and more frequent workouts than nonusers are able to manage.” Though this is potentially a correct statement; there is no magic supplement to replace hard work, ALL professional athletes are working hard to achieve the same goal. What about the athletes who want to achieve athletic excellence sans external means? Is this fair to those who are prudent of their future? No, it is not fair. In sport we strive to make rules that allow a fair playing field and we occasionally adjust rules to add more dimension and/or overall excitement to the game, but in this instance the athletes still have equal opportunity to succeed. When you factor in performance enhancing drugs you are adding an element that is uncontrolled, unregulated, and unfair. While some athletes are willing to risk physiological damage for better performance now, others are not.

Hoberman also discussed the idea of coercion in sport. “Athletes may believe they are trapped because they are faced with the choice where neither option is attractive: Don’t take steroids and lose, or take them and remain competitive.” In this dog eat dog world we still must considered how our actions affect those around us. I would consider this a violation of ones free will. If an athlete feels like the only way to be a competitor is to take enhancement drugs, then they are unable to act using free will.

Although athletes are always reaching and searching for ways to improve the performance and catch an advantage over their opponent, it is important to have balance. Yes, it is healthy to have a strong competitive drive, but when does it cross the line to overly competitive? We must not forget moral obligation. We have free will to use however we choose, but we must become aware that our actions do affect others, and what we do unto others we do unto ourselves. Although it is the athletes’ choice whether they want to put their bodies at inherent risk by consuming performance-enhancing drugs, it is not ok for their choice to affect the will of others.

“Now Remember, Be a Good Sport”

From trick plays and foul language, to helping your opponent cross the finish line; sporting competitions can be portrayed as a brutal battlefield or place of common goals in the pursuit of excellence. As an athlete I have had many experiences that have gone in either direction. I have participated in soccer and cross-country, in both events I was small, quick, agile, and a great target for the defenders and other runners to push around. Sportsmanship has a plethora of well-stated definitions in reference to differing contexts in which the sport or activity is played. Feezell speaks of the relation of sportsmanship to virtue and how there are also varying degrees of seriousness to those who participate.  Arnold divides sportsmanship into three categories. In this blog, I would like to touch on the differing views as well as dive into the controversial subject of “Running up the score” where Dixon discusses his views on sportsmanship and its relevancy to “taking it easy” on the opposing team.

As a young athlete I always heard the saying “be a good sport”, but what exactly does that entail? There is much talk of the parallel of sport to life. Participating in sport may teach a child to work as a team, respect others, over come barriers, and learn to handle defeat and show respect to the defeated in light of a win. All of these attributes will translate well to situations later in life. Before I dive into what constitutes a “good sport” I would like to discuss what it means to be a “bad sport”.

In the video clip it shows a distance runner in the last leg of the race hitting his opponent when he passed him for the win. In his obviously frustrated state, his reaction was uncalled for, which I believe may also reflect his state of consciousness. If he was a “good sport” and had a good moral attitude he would have accepted his defeat and congratulated his opponent for a job well done. But as I will discuss later, the act of congratulating your opponent, in the eyes of Arnold, could be considered Altruistic and not necessary for good sportsmanship. In the next clip Metta World Peace elbows James Harden. Wow. I do not follow basketball, or any other televised sport, but that is not only a blatant disrespect but also complete contradiction of his external portrayal of who he claims to be. These are obvious cases of bad sportsmanship. As discussed earlier, sport is an aid in teaching moral value, though in the eyes of Simon he believes there to be no necessary connection between playing sports and building moral character, it can assist in doing so.  Other forms of bad sportsmanship would include, cheating or the intent to injure an opponent. Although Feezell states,  “but acting in such a way that one might injure an opponent is often morally ambiguous.” There seems to be a thin veil to what may represent “good” or “bad” sportsmanship.

In opposition, the article by Feezell quotes Keating in stating “the interpretations of the essence of sportsmanship have included numerous other virtues: self-control, fair play, truthfulness, courage, endurance, and so forth.” Keating then dives deeper by also implying the dual nature of sportsmanship, sports as a playful activity and sports as a competitive athletic contest.  There is a difference between participating in sports a player versus an athlete, but not to imply that there is no overlay between the two. The game its self has not changed, the rules are the same, expectations of moral behavior are not vastly different, but attitude, preparation, and reason for participation may differ. These divergent views of sportsmanship will help conclude later whether it is of good sportsmanship to “run up the score” of a game or event. I believe good sportsmanship should parallel good virtues, we all have moments where we may react to a situation in sport irrationally in the heat of the moment, and ultimately in the end it is how you handle the situation post reaction. Did you apologize for your crude irrational actions? Help the opponent up after you have just fouled them? Congratulate them for their win?

In Arnold’s article on sportsmanship it was divided into three different views. 1. As a social union, where “playing by the rules promotes a sense of community and amicability.” In this approach one must not only play by the rules but also keep faith in the spirit of the sport by acting in ways not required by the code of conduct but acted out due to your adherence to moral values, traditions of competition, and friendly rivalry. In this form of sportsmanship, it is not whether you win or lose – but how you play the game.  2. As a means to pleasure. Arnold disputes against Keating’s division between “sports” and “athletics”. Whether participating for play or the struggle for victory, “marked by a spirit of dedication, sacrifice, and intensity”, Arnold argues that some of the best examples of this type of sportsmanship arise from pursuit for ” honorable victory”. It is when an athlete acknowledges what is morally and ethically right even if it results in a loss for him/her. 3. As altruism, forms of action and conduct that are done not just because it is fair play but there is a concern for one’s fellow competitors.  In this occasion, an athlete goes out of his or her way to help an opponent, on the same side or not, even if the end result brings, suffering, misery, pain, or a loss; he is going above and beyond moral or ethical obligations. In the end I believe in sports, reason for participation aside, good morals and good ethics should always take forefront. Bad karma is not something I choose to collect.

The last question, is “running up the score” entail good sportsmanship? Dixon believes there is nothing wrong with allowing for a lopsided victory in a competitive game. In our society we have equated a large defeat with humiliation of the losing team. Dixon points out, if the game is played with out the intent to humiliate, and they conduct themselves fairly, there is nothing wrong with winning in such a way. Something could also be said of going “to easy” on the other team. Sportsmanship is a two-way road; you must accept defeat as honorably as you accept victory. Large defeat can also denote level of ability. There is something to be taken from defeat, it can be used as a tool to grow and become a better athlete. I believe that such a victory is acceptable, especially in a competitive athletic situation. I also think that there should be a level of prudent thinking for the starting players and if given the opportunity to rest, that should be done. Even in large defeat, I do not think that it is appropriate to ask the second string players to not play to the best of their ability. Some may only get a few minutes in the game to play, and if that were the case I would not be playing lightly. It would be appropriate to “take it easy” in more light-hearted gaming situations. In the case of teacher/student, if you know that your ability exceeds that of your opponent, and the context of the game is non-serious and non-competitive, then lightening up your game may be appropriate so that you may teach your opponent and allow him/her to grow in their own abilities.

We have all experienced the good and bad of sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship is not only abiding by the rules, but having genuine concern for others, not just for “honorable victory”, and having the ability to put emotions aside and respect the outcome of the game whether you win or lose. In the end, it is just a game. In moments where a teams ability is obscenely out matched, both teams must still play admirably, with only the intention of fair play. Though sport is not the only avenue for educating one of proper moral and ethical values, it can play an integral role of teaching us the ups and downs that occur in sport and life.

Prudence In Sport

Growing up sport was my life, deeply seeded in my being. I had a lot of heart, was a fierce competitor, not afraid to go head to head with the competition. For me getting injured was never a dwelling thought. Fast-forward to my freshman year in high school. I was on the soccer team; it was the second pre-season game. I was playing forward and went head to head against a girl who had at least 30lbs on me. Of course, I went for the ball. Moments later I feel my knee cap pop out and back in, along with a loud pop. Bam. I was laid out and my mom had to carry me off the field. (Can you say embarrassing?) An MRI confirmed it was a torn ACL. It was only partially torn so I didn’t have surgery, but my mom told me that I could not play anymore. Soccer was my life, my identity. At the time I did not understand that they were thinking of my future. My parents wanted me to enjoy my sport, without the risk for injury. A majority of parents put their kids in a sport/practice so that they can obtain moral values, learn to work together, and develop mental and physical strength. In opposition you have the parents who only seek to live vicariously through their kin pressuring them to seek the external rewards of practice; imprinting into their subconscious the notion they have one chance to accelerate and “make it big”. Why should one participate in a practice or sport? Should risk play a role in participation? Without my parents prudent thinking, what would have been the consequences? It is common knowledge that everyBODY is different; it is a learned skill to know what is right for YOU.

In the article by W. Miller Brown, he discusses how prudence is important in the practice of sport. We must not only think in the now, but also focus on how the now may affect our future. Though thoughts of future effects of current practices play an important role in sustaining long lasting skill/fitness level, we must first acknowledge why one participates. Brown speaks of the internal and external goods that accompany practices. Internal goods consist of virtues such as fairness, honesty, and courage. External goods are that of which are not a direct result of the practice, but are offered to those who excel, these include; money, power, fame, vanity etc. I believe it is about finding balance. The internal allows one to develop good morals and values. The external goods tend to cloud that of the internal, shifting what was once fun and enjoyable to an activity that is driven by institutionalization of sports. Institutionalization plays an important role in sustaining practices; it brings a sense of community and allows one to develop important human capacities that transcend the practice itself. Brown states that “if institutions are needed to sustain practices, they are also by their nature liable to affect them by offering external goods and seeking to substitute them for internal goods intrinsic to the practices they nurture”.  We must be mindful when participating in a practice, and not get swept away by the enticing external goods highlighted by institutions. Remember WHY we participate in the first place.

Risk is an apparent part of living an active life. How much should one risk in order to fulfill their need for internal/external goods? Brown makes reference to the prudential athletic life (PAL). “Our well-being when old is equally important as our well-being when young, the second is the prudential strategy of keeping our options open. “ There are always risks when participating in any physical practice. Brown acknowledges, “ We seek the challenge of doing well something of great difficulty”. It is the risk that may attract ones participation for a sport or practice. Knowing the risks is the most important part. Some are motivated by the high risk of a practice (I.e. Football, boxing, rock climbing, etc.) This is where prudent judgments must be made; if we do injure ourselves we must use that to learn more about ourselves. It is common to come across an individual who has had multiple knee surgeries from participation in practice. What is their drive behind wanting to get back on the field?

People tend to forget that we do not have to stick to one practice in this lifetime. Brown notes that a lot of motor skill developed with one particular practice will translate well to other practices. Life is about branching out, having new encounters, new experiences, knowing when to let go and move on. There is a thin veil between testing the limits and pushing way past the limits. Injuries happen and can play a role in teaching us internal values such as patience. My parents not allowing me to participate in soccer was a prudent choice, in which I currently thank them. Prudence involves a balancing between being overly cautious and pushing just the right amount.  We must learn to experience and enjoy the now while keeping in mind the effects in may have on your overall health in the future. An example would be the career of a professional football player, most football players suffer major physical consequences for all of the high impact entailed in the sport, and they make a conscious choice to play in light of the consequences. This is a direct result of the external goods highlighted by institutions.

People need external gratification to fulfill their need for approval and to feel accepted. We strive for good health, but in the process are mindless in our actions and push ourselves to far to early, leaving the later years to dwell on the consequences. Being prudent is about balancing the risk to benefit of a practice and being cautious of how our current actions directly affect our future.