Athletes And Teachers In Our Society

Alex Apkin:

         Believing is Seeing immediately speaks to the idea of separating men and women into two distinct categories. The reading begins by saying that while the bodies of females and males have not changed what has changed are the justifications for inequalities. Although the basic body materials are the same for both men and women society has built up the idea of two genders that are clearly very different from each other. The author says, “Bodies differ in many ways physiologically but they are completely transformed by social practices to fit into the salient categories of a society…”(569) Lorber then goes on to argue that the gender is made up of many variables that society seems to ignore, saying that sex and gender are not, “pure categories.” Then she delves into the world of sports and what they say about sex and gender in society. Even though it seems that men have historically had a deeper passion for sports there are aspects of this arena of entertainment and athletics that show an unfair acknowledgement of women’s capacities. For example Lorber brings up the way in which gymnastics attempts to cater to women by using equipment meant for more petite females, while the men have equipment designed for larger and stronger men to use. Clearly the sport plays into the designated roles that society has created for women and men but why is it that they have done so. While it makes sense that men will be more muscular and capable of certain feats in gymnastics it seems that it is taken to the extreme for both men and women. While women and men tend to have talent directed in certain areas, gymnastics rules slant to the extreme in an attempt to reveal these abilities and they go too far. The men if they were allowed the opportunity, could show their talents in more finesse areas of gymnastics and the women could show their strength and power. In the sport of golf the rules are the same but the women have their own to tees from which to begin at each hole, which are closer to the target. However this is not an aspect of the game that was installed only for women, the forward tees were a creation for the novices, the old, and the young, to make the game more fun and accessible to all who wanted to play. With the difference in driving distance between professional men and women golfers it makes sense for the tees to be moved forward. Where the women lack in power they make up for in their short games and ball striking ability and the tees being pushed slightly forward does not take away from that since golf is won and lost on the more precision and shorter shots that do not require power but rather touch and feel that all the elite male and female golfers possess. Gymnastics can learn from other sports such as golf, which creates an equal playing field for all ages, genders while keeping the essence of the game intact for all.

          As Lorber brings in the idea that the bodies of male athletes are considered powerful and females’ bodies sexual, this seems to be an even greater hurdle that society must overcome. Power is always worthy of praise when it comes to male athletics, which can be seen in various forms including the explosion in popularity that baseball received during the homerun chase of the late 90’s. This period is now considered the height of the steroid era for the sport. Many of the top baseball players and most of the one’s hitting so many homeruns were cheating as they attempted to become stronger and gain more power to shatter records. The use of steroids and other human growth hormones have become a massive problem in various sports as athletes are always trying to become more powerful and keep up with others. While this is also an issue in female athletics it is to a lesser degree than men’s sports. The portrayal of the female athlete is mostly that of a graceful being rather than powerful. This is not necessarily a bad portrait to paint of the female athlete but when she becomes more sexual than graceful the athlete is lost. This I believe is the biggest issue facing female athletics. It seems that women’s athletics are watched if those competing are considered attractive, or else they are not watched at all.  Instead of searching for power in men and beauty in women, viewers should search for ability, effort, and greatness in both. The highest compliment that can be given to anyone is to say that they have drive and push themselves to reach their potential. This ability is usually incredibly visible with top-notch athletes; because to reach that stage they are on they must work incredibly hard to get there. So it is not physical but rather mental. Being a phenomenal athlete is not an issue of gender, which is why male and female athletes should be perceived in the same light, as incredibly talented and driven individuals.

          Becoming a Gendered Body speaks to the hidden curriculum of schools which helps push genders. While it seems upsetting in many ways that children are pushed into one of two genders at an early age, the teachers’ actions through the hidden curriculum are also preparing students for the society that is in place today. The teacher is showing them the current norms that exist now, and so are the parents. How do we brake this cycle as a society? The teachers and parents believe that these ideas are correct because they are the norms, this is what they grew up learning was right and it is now ingrained in them. However in reality girls and boys should not be pushed in certain directions due to gender. Schools are a good place to start changing this philosophy about gender because this is where people grow and learn. Change is difficult though especially with teachers and parents entrenched with thoughts about how things are supposed to be and in a world where these messages about what boys and girls are supposed to be are accepted by nearly everyone. Martin speaks to the restrictive nature of dresses, and this fits into parents giving into the norms of society. To parents of a young daughter putting a dress on her does not seem at all restrictive but rather normal. It is hard to break this mold, but if parents are more aware of their restrictive actions more change will likely occur.

          In Tuck In That Shirt more of the same ideas of teaching boys and girls the correct way to behave is seen. Teachers repeatedly ask girls to act like young ladies and the boys to behave like gentlemen. One teacher, Ms. Taylor, explains how she attempted to get the girls to sit up straight and to close their legs. She sights a lack of parental involvement as to why these girls are not acting like young ladies. Ms. Taylor believes it is necessary to teach all girls to behave in a certain manner associated with being a lady, and if the parents don’t do it then she must. The rest of society has imprinted this on her. Most of the other teachers in the reading stated that they thought that they needed to improve the behavior of the girls so that they could find some social skills that Mr. Neal perceives to be missing because of the way in which most of them speak and move. This study showed a detailed example of teachers attempting to heap the societal norms and expectations for boys and especially girls upon the students attending the school, and the resistance from many students who acted naturally unaware of their wrongdoing. By the end of the reading Martin writes about the inhibiting capabilities that the teachers constant scolding holds as some of the students who are repeatedly disciplined for acting as themselves may lead to disinterest in school. When the gender push hurts students success that becomes the most harmful part of all. 

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6 thoughts on “Athletes And Teachers In Our Society

  1. In intro to sociology last semester we did an exercise where a couple boys were act to sit, walk, and talk like they would expect girls to, and then a couple girls were asked to do the same about guys. When watching the boys sit like they thought girls were expect to, it looked awkward because it wasn’t something we were use to. Same as when the girls say slouched and relaxed like they thought boys did. It took us back to to the pre-school perception of boys and girls and its fascinating how what we learn then about what it means to be male and female sticks with us even when we challenge the barriers latter on in life. At the same time one can’t avoid these “norms” because if they weren’t taught at home, they would be taught at school and vice versa.
    – Sophie Furman

  2. Gina Pol

    It is surprising, yet it sometimes goes by unnoticed that when a parent sends a child to school with a skirt or dress, the child is often restricted to do certain activities due to that attire. As a result, girls are often told to participate in activities that require less physical movement or mostly sitting down. An example Martin discussed was a teacher that recommended a group of girls to paint eggs at a table. This example alone enforces gender associated activities that did not require the girls to do as much physical work.

  3. I found Alex’s interpretation of Lorber’s critique on gender in a sports environment very interesting. I would argue that a bigger problem facing female athletes is their own need to resexualize themselves in order to still feel like traditional women and to be recognized as such throughout society. Lorber mentions female athletes devoting time to makeup after workouts regardless of whether or not they will take a long bus ride home. Statements like “Flex appeal is sex appeal” also show female athletes’ struggle to maintain a sexual perception if they compete in areas designed for strength and build rather than gracefulness and balance. This odd dichotomy of female athletes as not true females because they are no longer weak and “rapeable” or as not true athletes because their sports are geared toward childlike bodies is a horrifying reality.
    Olivia Rabbitt

  4. Karen Dayanna Cardona

    The point that Lorber brings in when regarding male athletes being portrayed as powerful while the female bodies become hyper-sexualized by society sheds light to a large issue between men and women. Since a young age i always heard the little boys challenge one another by saying “come on dude, you play like a girl” , as if girls were never meant to play sports. I started swimming and playing water polo at the age of 11, as i became a teenager the hyper-sexualization for young girls that play sports that use little clothing became much more clear to me. I became aware of how the girls in my team became self conscious of the way the older man in the stands would stare at us during the swim meets , many of my guy friends admitted to simply go to swim meets and water polo games for the ‘good view’ , referring to our bodies. This sickened me , the fact that our hard training and effort was never recognized , the only thing that we were ‘good for’ was to look.

  5. Sophie Sharps

    Alex brought up some really interesting points from all three articles. One thing that really got me thinking is when Morris discussed the ideas and stereotypes that society has socialized teachers to believe. Alex mentioned how difficult change is when teachers have these misperceptions. However, I would even take it one step further to say that not only is change difficult, but these beliefs then transfer over to other students. Morris mentions that “many teachers expressed a similar othering of Latinos, constructing the group as exotic and untrustworthy and connecting them to negative gang activity” (36). Whether this is overt or disguised, the fact that these teachers believe this means their cautious and fearful actions as well as different treatment towards these Latino boys may be picked up by other students who will then grow up to believe these absurd assumptions and stereotypes.

  6. Zoe Halpert

    Alex mentions how the teacher believes parents are responsible for making sure their children behave in a gender-appropriate way, but teachers are there the pick up the slack. In my other sociology class, Professor Flores mentioned how it’s impossible to raise children in a gender neutral environment because even if the parents don’t enforce gender stereotypes, the child will pick up on these social cues from other sources. School plays a major role in this, as Morris and Martin prove. Teachers, friends, and school rules all ensure that students “do” gender.

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