Dyke sport

Although sports of one kind or another seem to be a human universal found in every known culture, for children if not for adults, most historians agree that the formal-structure characteristics of modern sports are fundamentally different from those of earlier periods. Modern sports are best understood as the result of those processes of secularization and rationalization classically described by Max Weber in ‘Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft’. Sport is open to all on equal terms rather than reserved on the basis of astrictive characteristics like race and more commonly in today’s society, sexuality.

Women’s participation in cricket and football is one issue among many with which we should be concerned. This is because women’s participation in sports such as the ones listed above, at all levels are very commonly exposed to damaging myths and sex discrimination. Quite often, in contemporary society, there is a lot of effort put in to ensure that the connections that women might make between sport and the rest of life are not made, but the sexuality issue surfaces and re-surfaces all to often in contemporary society. Sport seen as a masculine domain, barriers to women’s sport participation and misleading media influences are all factors which have led to the criticism of women’s participation in cricket and football and more importantly exposed the underlying concerns that they are sports which attract lesbians.

The bonding of males through sport has been so strong that the culture of sport has excluded women. The traditional polarization of sex roles has produced in our society two different kinds of human beings-Woman and men who are expected to play different roles, hold different attitudes, espouse different values and express different feelings. “Women are to assume roles in the private sphere as wife and mother and men are expected to assume roles in the public sphere as workers and citizens. Among other traits, femininity has come to mean nurturance, dependence and passivity; masculinity has come to mean aggression, independence, activity and competition” (Boutilier, sporting women, pg 100).

The men who have created these contemporary institutions and culture have done so in accordance with these understandings of being women and men. In particular, they have shaped institutions to generate and strengthen the role of men and the values of masculinity, which simultaneously devalues the role of women and these values of femininity. It is in this sense that many historians have reflected on the isomorphism between sport and masculinity and in turn identifies why women have been criticised in sport.

In a society where the meanings and models of masculinity are more and more remote from the everyday lives of little boys, sports become crucial vehicles for teaching the virtues of masculinity and the principle of male dominance. Furthermore, there is such criticism of female playing male dominated sports because of hierarchical ranking sex roles. The Social stigma attached to being feminine and to including women in their activities has led men to forcefully insure a sexual division of labor in most area of social life. Women have their ‘proper place’ in this institution. They can be involved in tennis, golf and swimming but should avoid the manlier contact team sports. Even when women play sports such as cricket and football, men are quick to point out the differences between the ‘women’s game’ and the ‘real game’ that they play.

In contemporary society, cricket and football have a great appeal to women. Men do not like the idea of feminizing these games because to them they are seen as sport symbolizing their masculinity. Furthermore, Bryson explains that society tends to accept that men are far better at sport than women. One could well add to this by suggesting that women who participate in traditionally male dominated sports such as cricket and football codes are considered lesbians. Furthermore, because team sports were considered ‘masculine’, women who took up these games were criticised and ridiculed. There were many jokes about sportswomen’s fashion in the press however the more savage attacks were reserved for women “who were bordering on the margin of contemporary notions of male and female behavior”. (paradise of sport, Cashman- PG 88).

Football, in part at least because of the rough, physical nature of the game, has acquired a reputation of being pre-eminently ‘a man’s game’. It has been described as the ‘ultimate Man-maker’, inculcating values such as courage, self-control and stamina. All of these, it is claimed, are the products of man to man element in football, “for to play rugger well, you must play it fiercely, and at the same time, and all the time, remember while doing so that you must be a gentleman”. (Hargreaves and Jones, 2000 Heroines of sport pg,31 ). Women perceive themselves as being in direct competition with men and find it frustrating that in order to maintain a male dominance in football and cricket they have to create generalisations and stereotypes on sporting women.

“In the Bendigo Easter fair in the 1870’s, women fought hard to play cricket despite ‘obscene and insulting comments’ made by male spectators and the patronizing attitude of the press, which focused rather more on their costumes than their cricket”. (Cashman, pg87) The women of Bendigo saw this game as a fun, recreational game, the men saw this as inappropriate and unfeminine and the press was only interested in the conflict and the way they dressed, not the cricket and how well they could play.

Homophobic and heterosexist attitudes- and specifically, hostility to lesbianism are prevalent in Australian women’s cricket. Women’s cricket has been labeled a ‘dyke sport’ and criticised for making this game feminized and lesbianized. Dr. Ken Dyer explains that this homophobic-induced fear runs very deep and is and has been over exaggerated by the media. He also suggests that the reason as to why men as so against women playing cricket is because they have tampered with the ‘manly’ image of the game. This has led to increasing numbers of allegations that lesbians have not only ‘infiltrated’ sports, but that in some cases they have taken them over, that they have become predators and obsessed b power, resulting in reverse discrimination against heterosexual women.

In 1995, Denise Annetts lodged a complaint to the anti-discriminations Board alleging that she had been dropped from the Australian Cricket team because she was a heterosexual and married. In situations where is it known that there are a sizeable number of lesbians, there is always verbal abuse, innuendo and suspicion. This is the very case for women in football and cricket teams. According to Pat Griffin (Addressing Homophobia in physical education, pg 57-59), much of the prejudice and discrimination against lesbians in cricket and football arises from the fear that they are predators who will seduce and corrupt girls and young women, whom she suggests, taps into “the deepest fears of parents and heterosexual sportsmen, women and coaches”. (J. Hargreaves, Heroines of Sport PG 139).

Richard Cashman also explains that the construction of an “ideal feminine sporting physique” developed very slowly because it didn’t fit in with the beautiful feminine image, which portrayed gracefulness and delicateness. When women would become toned and their muscles were large and visible the generalization arose that they looked ‘beefy’ and thus concluded that she must be a lesbian. Women who played in team sports were frequently seen as unattractive. Men criticised female footballers and cricketers that they look ‘butch’ in their trousers and shorts and as an attempt to change this image in order for women to be socially accepted in these two sports, women cricketers opted for culottes and footballers, more short and fitted shorts.

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