Gender discrimination in (UK) sports

Anyone reading this site and the majority of people alive today will know that sport is as popular for women and girls as it is for men and boys. Of course that doesn’t meant that it has always been that way and even today there’s a lot of gender discrimination in sport. It was only very recently in fact that the governing body of international basketball allowed head coverings as part of official kit for athletes. Although this also benefited some men—most specifically in the UK Sikhs who wear turbans when they play—one of the main beneficiaries are Muslim women who want to wear hijab but still wish to play basketball.

While this new ruling is a step in the right direction towards gender equality in sport, there is still much room that needs to be covered. A lot of sports evolved from more martial matters, such as archery and fencing to name a couple of obvious examples, or were used by societies as a peaceful substitute to warfare. In modern day Canada and the United States lacrosse for example was used by Native Americans as a peaceful means of solving intertribal disputes. Matches could last for days or even weeks. With very few exceptions in the history of humanity, war was the purview of men and so it followed, within traditional patriarchal society that sport was for men. As recently as the 20th century, women in the UK were forbidden from publicly playing sport as it was considered unladylike.

Even though that was the most common case, it wasn’t true 100 per cent of the time. In the late 1800s and early 1900s women’s football clubs popped up across the UK and even drew large numbers of both male and female fans to watch the matches. In a reactionary and discriminatory manner however the leagues were banned in the first quarter of the 1900s and it wasn’t until after the Second World War that the practice reemerged.

The virtues learned from sport such as teamwork, camaraderie, and cooperation are not, and should not be, the sole realm of men and boys. This is especially true in a society that still actively discriminates against women and to that end have female teams—be it football or any other sport for that matter—is crucial to the well-being of society and as the athletes themselves.

The topic of gender discrimination in sport is one that is not likely to go away any time soon, to the frustration of progressive men and women alike. There is still much social and legal work to be done to further the cause of gender equality and while it may not get too many headlines, have teams and leagues for women and girls to play sports and compete is one of the best ways to help that cause.