Have you ever wondered why men are so obsessed about sports? For men, meaningful conversations either start or are entirely over sports and related issues. But why? Why is ‘men and sports’ the more conventional, obvious choice than ‘women and sports’? Sure, more women are participating in sports and have become relatively aware of its issues, but upon deep thought, sports remains a male dominated area. Why so?
Reasons men like sports:
How often will you see a group of men sitting by the sofa watching football or cricket while shouting the usual ‘hurrays’ and ‘oh nos’! Almost every day, right? A man’s love for sports can be traced back to his childhood where he would wake up in the morning ardently waiting for his friends, his father or brother to join him in playing any kind of sports.
Most men feel that sports are one of the impeccable ways to bond over with someone new or create a meaningful relationship with their loved ones. This is called the lek.
Lek is a popular phenomenon among birds, mammals and other male animal species which showcase their courtship abilities with each other. This phenomenon can also be applied to men in general who use sports to bond with other men and engage with their acquaintances and thus explaining one aspect of men’s obsession with sports.
Sociologist Harry Edwards has stated in his argument that over-indulging in sports can hem in the opportunities provided to poor and minority youth for professional growth and development in other areas. Nonetheless, sports has become one of the socially approved systems where men can bond with each other.
More than this primal activity of building relationships, sports largely has a positive influence in men’s lives as it could be the perfect ephemeral refuge to an inane stressful life. For some, a relaxing weekend is defined either by playing sports or watching it tirelessly.
2. Masculinity and Sports:
The idea that constantly facilitates the relationship between masculinity and sports often takes its birth when a parent complains about his child to a sports tutor, ‘He throws like a girl!’ Since then, sports have been largely used by a majority of men to separate themselves from women and act as per the ideals set by society as to ‘what is a man’.
To be physically virulent on the field with other players is considered completely commonplace as it becomes one of the outlets to express masculine traits. Therefore, qualities like competitive spirits, winning, gamesmanship, sportsmanship, team play quickly ensue to dignify the obvious relationship between men and sports.
Moreover, after passing a certain stage, due to health reasons it proves to be difficult for some men to continue indulging in sports. Nevertheless, men continue to retain and bolster their masculinity through continuously watching sports, following the scores or opt for the job of a full-time coach.
The vanguards of sports view it as a male-dominated area, which could be optimized to highlight their upper-hand in comparison to women. Former professional basketball player Mariah Burton Nelson explains this situation in her 1994 book, quoting, ‘The stronger women get, the more men love football.’
Is the media one of the reasons why men like sports?
With more women athletes emerging in our milieu, the inspiration and courage they emanate to other sportswomen are remarkable. However, up to a certain degree, the media has not been quite welcoming of more women athletes. It has been perpetuating the male-dominated ethos of sports through its arbitrary coverage.
For instance, any successful male athlete or sportsman will be covered in a majority of newspapers with the conventional attributes of a man, such as strong, hard-working, persevering fighter, so on and so forth. Such words set a peculiar image of sportsmen, legitimizing the masculinity factor with sports. On the other side of the coin, a majority of sportswomen have been rewarded with the phrase ‘she played like a man’.
Such stereotypical practices do not take much time to manifest itself into the quotidian, strengthening the relationship between men and sports even more.
Does Gender Disparity Have a Role To Play Here?
Statistics conclude that only 25 percent of women participate in sports in comparison to 43 per cent of men. Umpteen social, environmental, cultural factors hem in which make sports largely a male-dominated arena. From the beginning of the formative years in the life of a man and a woman, they have been taught to live two completely different lives where the difference is not less than two distinct poles.
A majority of women have been told to play the part of homemakers, which does not have any space to constitute sports or any other related issues. On the contrary, the number of men who refute the association of sports with masculinity, strength, purpose of life is undoubtedly inconspicuous. One of the major reasons that dissuade women to be sports-oriented lies in their fear of being judged by society. Their fear at some point is comprehensible as their association with sports marks a paradigm shift in a largely male-dominated arena, which is certainly not welcomed with open arms.
With years down the drain in the contemporary era, women have relatively become more aware and participative in sports. Be that as it may, their motives have been separated by this gender gulf. A greater number of women are participating in sports activities these days to get in good shape, upgrade their fitness levels, or other social factors. For men, sports is more than a choice between staying active or inactive.
As there is an exception to every rule, one observes that this gender gap was never received the time of the day in Chinese sports, as it was a low-status activity which was certainly not condemned but also not appreciated enough by the powerful men to participate in. Moreover, it is also believed there that a skilled female kung fu practitioner will be able to defeat a stronger man who is relatively less-skilled.
It seems that Chinese sports have redefined the gender roles associated with it. Perhaps it’s time for us to do the same to work towards making ‘women and sports’ the new normal, rather than ‘men and sports’.