The Case for Contact Sports for Women
by Ana Kuang
Glance at a list of women’s contact sports teams for any given high school in America, and you’ll find that the number tends to be pretty consistent—zero. This holds true for many smaller colleges as well. Meanwhile, men usually have the options of (American) football, one of the most popular and well-funded sports in America, and wrestling in high school. In larger colleges, their options expand to include lacrosse, rugby, and various forms of martial arts.
The lack of women’s teams means that interested women must either seek out a men’s team to join or find a recreational league. The first option includes the risk of increased harassment and an unwelcoming environment. In many men’s sports, players are encouraged not to “run/kick/hit/throw like a girl.” The hyper-masculine mindset found in men’s sports only further serves to exclude. As for the second option, finding a recreational league that fits one’s schedule and is located nearby is often nearly impossible.
Some critics argue that women simply are not interested in contact sports. However, according to the National Federation of State High Schools Association, in 2012, over 1,500 women were playing on men’s football teams, and 7,351 women were on wrestling teams. These numbers could be higher if women’s teams were available and the attitude towards women and contact sports changed. Currently, women playing contact sports are treated as jokes. A quick Google Images search of “women’s American football” brings up images of bikini-clad women. While their fully-clothed male counterparts are presented as “tough” and capable, female football players are often sexualized. Additionally, many high schools around the nation occasionally host football games for women that are called “powderpuff” games. The term trivializes the idea of women participating in contact sports. Even worse, powderpuff football games tend to be non-contact, furthering the idea that women simply cannot handle contact sports.
Women today are simply not encouraged to be aggressive and to assert themselves. Those who do are labeled “bitchy” or assumed to be lesbians, playing to homophobic stereotypes. Offering women-only contact sports teams would provide a safe environment for women and young girls to garner the social and physical benefits from such sports. Furthermore, they would help combat the idea that women are too delicate for such contact sports.