Unequal Play: Experiencing Gender Inequality in the Athletic World

By Ruby Paarlberg

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“Equal pay for equal play.”  -Carli Lloyd, Olympic Medalist & Soccer Player

Have you ever attended a women’s sporting event? Have you ever watched women’s sports on television? The answer is probably no. Sports inequality is a phenomenon that is often neglected.

Peering in from the outside of Modell’s Sporting Goods, I see male mannequins line the windows and an onslaught of posters advertising mostly men’s clothing. If I look more closely, I can make out one small poster of a woman. Once inside, I only find more disparity in gender representation. Behind a display of three male mannequins wearing Nike shorts and shirts are two female mannequins in similar outfits. This entrance into Modell’s can be overwhelming as a teenage girl, being suddenly surrounded by men’s apparel. Only a small part of the store is divided between kid’s clothing and women’s clothing. There is an abundance of male sweatshirts, while the female section has a much narrower selection. The same can be said for the shoe section, where the selection and prices for women’s and men’s shoes differ substantially.

Upon first glance, I see that there are four rows of men’s shoes and two rows of women’s shoes. While women are offered two kinds of Nike running shoes, men are offered five. This phenomenon also presents itself in the shoes’ prices. For example, the Nike Zoom running shoes for women cost $109.99, while the Nike Zoom running shoes for men cost $99.99. The shoes are the exact same style and brand, different only in color. Nonetheless, the women’s pair of shoes is ten dollars more expensive than the men’s. This is just one example of the inequality women face in the sports world.

Earlier this year, I had to order a uniform for my club team, Gjoa. The club did not even offer the women’s option because it was more expensive. When I purchased the women’s shorts elsewhere, I found that they were $5.08 more than the men’s: the men’s squadra17 soccer shorts were $16.98, while the women’s squadra17 soccer shorts were $22. The shorts for men and women are identical, yet women are forced to pay more for the proper attire.   

Gender inequality in sports is not limited to stores like Modell’s; it can be seen here at Beacon. A Beacon student, Etta Gold, notes how “more [students] go to boys’ soccer games than girls’ soccer games, even if the girls have a home game on a Friday.” Whether women are given a more limited selection for apparel, a more expensive shoe, or fewer spectators at their sports games, the gap between the treatment of male athletes and female athletes remains abundantly clear.  

At one soccer practice, my friends and I were talking about how excited we were to watch the women’s United States National team play their first World Cup game. When we asked our coach if he was going to watch the game, he responded, “I don’t like to watch women’s soccer. It’s too slow.” The women on the national team were my role models and my coach’s disparaging words were unforgettable. That we were a girls’ team undermined his respect for our strength, perseverance, and toughness. This not only upset me, but changed my perspective as I realized that my admiration for women’s sports teams did not reflect in many people.

In the words of Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the women’s United States National team, men “get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.” Sports inequality is an omnipresent problem. So students, go out and support the Beacon girls’ sports teams! Help bridge the gap.

Women’s Sportswear                                                 Men’s Sportswear

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