Gender in Sports
When people are asked about the sport of wrestling, normally big muscular men throwing each other around a mat in a circle is what comes to mind. Generally, wrestling has been seen as a very manly sport since its invention by the ancient Greeks. Wrestling is a sport that pits one against one, and who’s the victor is seen as the alpha or the manlier of the two. Many guys use wrestling to prove their masculinity to their friends, to their families, and even themselves. However, wrestling is not a sport just for men. Some of the most decorated wrestlers in the world are women. In the Rio Olympics, Saori Yoshida, a 16-time world champion and 3-time Olympic champion, was dethroned as champion. Yoshida is the most decorated wrestler in the world as women in a sport that is majority male. Wrestling has portrayed to the world that female masculinity exists, but not it’s receiving the attention it deserves.
In the article from USA Today, it stars Helen Maroulis, a 24-year-old from Maryland, who made Olympic history this summer by winning a gold medal for team USA in the women’s freestyle 53kg bracket. Her opponent in the finals was Saori Yoshida, a 33-year-old from Japan, who also happens to be the worlds most decorated wrestler. Yoshida is a 16-time world champion, as well as a 3-time Olympic gold medalist. She had only lost a total of 2 matches in 16 years of competing, until she wrestled Maroulis for gold. Maroulis won the match 4 points to 1, and got to live every athlete’s dream of wearing their countries flag on their back right after winning. In an interview after the match, Maroulis said, “I’ve dreamed of this my whole life. I put it on this pedestal.” Maroulis joined male team mate Kyle Snyder as the only 2 Americans to win Olympic gold in wrestling.
In chapter 1, Introduction to Female Masculinity, in the book Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam, the reader is experiencing a new ideal that might not be familiar to them. Halberstam talks about how people view masculinity as “heroic” because we enjoy seeing them in movies and media. However, she says that these “… “heroic masculinities” depend absolutely on the subordination of alternative masculinities”, and then goes on the relate this statement to James Bond. (Halberstam 1). The focus on James Bond is trying to show that all the “cool” and “manly” things he does are not without the help from others who wouldn’t be thought of as to having much masculinity. Halberstam goes on to talk about James Bond “masculinity” came from the help of his female boss and less heroic and “manly” government scientist. Halberstam proves that without these two, Bond’s adventures of testosterone filled action would not have been possible. After the anecdote about Bond, the chapter introduces that when female masculinity first became recognized, it was defined as Tomboyism. According to Halberstam, tomboyism was accepted as a short period of female deviance from the norm, until it starts to become a sign of extreme male identification (6). Young girls were allowed to act and dress like boys, until they hit puberty. After puberty, women were expected to lose the desire to act like boys, or else it was seen as deviance and was punished. Halberstams book looks to disprove the that female masculinity is just tomboyism, but rather it is an “opportunity to recognize and ratify differently gendered bodies and subjunctives.” (8).
The USA Today article about Helen Maroulis backs up what Halbertam saw to be female masculinity. The article described how Maroulis became a world champion in one of the “manliest” sports athletes participate in. Not only did she become world champion, but she defeated the worlds most decorated wrestler, who was also a woman. Halberstam in the beginning of her paper says that masculinity should be more than just a male physique, which Maroulis demonstrates. Maroulis is not a muscular, beef cake of a woman; however is considered to have masculinity. Maroulis, contrary to beliefs talked about in Halbertsam’s paper, did not become tomboys to rebel or deviate from the social norms of women. This extended time period of “tomboyism” wasn’t because she was lesbian and didn’t want to be a woman. She just competed in a sport that she grew up loving, which should not take away any “femininity” from her. Maroulis portray’s female masculinity by competing in the sport she loves while still leading normal lives as a woman.
While reading this article in USA Today, there were some subtle gender assumptions found. The first assumption is the giant picture of Team USA’s basketball team right under the headline about Maroulis, which then had a small picture of Maroulis underneath them.
This makes me believe that Team USA basketball is seen as more important than female wrestling, showing misogyny in sports. By putting the giant picture which leads to a video of Team USA basketball, it is clear that it is believed that men’s sports are more important than women’s sports.
The other assumption it makes is the looks of women in different sports are ranked into which women’s sports should be watched and what should not. At the bottom of the article, there is a slide show of best pictures from the day Maroulis won gold. Going through the slide show, the order of women’s sports went: volleyball, track and field, basketball, wrestling. In an article about Helen Maroulis, her first picture was 19th.
If the order is looked at, the stereotype of how the girls look based on attractive are in the order from best to worst. Whenever people talk about volleyball, the words “attractive” is normally used to described the athletes. Then with wrestling, it is completely different. Whenever people think of female wrestlers, they assume the women are manly looking and muscular.
The USA Today article about Helen Maroulis shows an example of female masculinity, which Habertsam described in her paper. Just because Maroulis has masculinity, it doesn’t make her any less of a woman. However, the article has some assumptions about gender in sports. The article assumes that more people would be interested in men’s basketball than female wrestling by putting a huge picture of the men’s team right above the headline of the article about Helen Maroulis. In the slide show of pictures, the article assumes the reader would be more interested in seeing pictures of men’s sports or of sports with stereotypically better looking female athletes. Besides the assumptions in the article, it does a pretty good job of giving Helen Maroulis the spotlight she earned.
Sports, USA TODAY. “Helen Maroulis Wins USA’s First Gold in Women’s Wrestling.” USA Today. Gannett, 19 Aug. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.