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Gender is a Social Construct and Gender Inequality in Sports

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Gender inequality is in fact a major issue of today. For human beings there is no essential femaleness or maleness, femininity or masculinity, womanhood or manhood, but once gender is ascribed, the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations, therefore creating inequality. We could clearly construct gender to allow us to believe that there was a difference between male and female but neither gender is superior or inferior so therefore there should be no such way of constructing gender.

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The social construction of gender is a theory in feminism and sociology about the operation of gender and gender differences in societies. According to this view, society and culture create gender roles, and these roles are prescribed as ideal or appropriate behavior for a person of that specific sex.

In today’s world gender is becoming more and more of a growing issue. We relate to gender in every part of our lives, in school, in college and at work. There is no doubt that gender is a social construct that facilitates inequality. Gender construction starts with assignment to a sex category based on what the genitalia look like once a child is born. A sex category becomes a gender status through naming, dress and the use of other gender markers. Because gender is a process, there is room not only for modification and variation by individuals and small groups but also for institutionalized change. Sexual statuses reflect gender statuses.

Our social constructions of gender facilitate inequality. Today we continue to expect that women will be more involved in rearing children than men are, which continues to make it harder for women to reach the highest level of many careers. It is a well-known fact that women are not able to move up into higher power as quickly as men are in the workplace. Women are always seen as a lower class in comparison to men. The social construct of gender in the workplace has a major impact on gender inequality. Investigating the allocation of men and women into stratified positions of organizational power serves to illuminate the intervening mechanisms that are responsible for the relationship between gender status and work compensation. Spaeth (1956:611) data further indicated substantial sex differences on a battery of work stratification variables, with men possessing significantly higher levels of authority and resource control than women. These sex differences in job power and resource control are a significant source of gender income inequality (Roos,1981;Robinson and Kelly 1978. The employment rate for women aged 15-64 in Ireland in 2003 was 55.3%, which was just above the EU 25 average of 55%. The employment rate for men in Ireland in 2003 was 74.7%, which was well above the EU 25 average of 70.8%. If we then take the figures from 2016 we will notice the increase for women. In 2016 59.5% of women were in employment but still 69.6% of men were in employment so once again looking back at gender, men will always be ahead.

Here are a few more statistics in relation to Gender in 2004 compared to 2016. The percentage of Men in the labour force in 2004 was 75.7% and dropped to 67.8% in 2016. The percentage of women in the labour force in 2004 was 56.1% and dropped to 51.5% which is still a high enough percentage of women in the labour force.

Gender and sex are not similar, and gender as a social construction does not flow automatically from genitalia and reproductive organs as a social structure, the main physical distinctions between men and women. Physiological differences such as race, stage of development, skin colour and height are fundamental indicators in the construction of social status. If sex is a major component of structural discrimination, the devalued genders have less power, reputation and economic incentives than the valued genders. While there will always be segregation between men and women on the job, regardless of what is done or said, and each work is considered 'appropriate;' women's work is usually paid less than men's work, even if both work the same job. Lorber, J. (1994).

Parenting is gendered, with different expectations for both mothers and fathers. The traditional roles for mothers in the family is to cook, clean, do all the domestic work and mind the children, bearing in mind she may or may not be working as well outside of the home. While on the other hand the father/husband would be the person who would be bringing in the money to the household. He would work all day and comes home to a clean house and a dinner on the table for him cooked by his wife. This is the old traditional ways, but it is what will always be expected by society from women. Today however fathers are doing more housework and taking care of little children. Women and men are now getting the same education and working in the same jobs while the children are either sent to a child minder or a creche/playschool. Many people find it hard to come to terms with the change in gender roles in today’s world, but this is what the future is. People are standing up for their rights and women in particular. They now have a voice and are not afraid to hold back. The process of gendering and its outcome are legitimated by religion, law, science and the society’s entire set of values.

Most parents create a gendered world for their newborn by naming, birth announcements and dress. Children’s relationships with same gendered and different gendered caretakers most definitely structure their self-identifications and personalities. Through cognitive development, children learn and apply to their own actions the appropriate behaviour for those who belong in their own gender, as well as race, religion, ethnic group and social class, rejecting what is not appropriate Lorber, J. (1994).

In almost every encounter, gender is produced by human beings. They behave in the ways that they learned are appropriate for their gender status while also resisting or rebelling against these norms. Resistance and rebellion have altered gender norms, but so far in today’s world they have only rarely consumed the statuses. In the social construction of gender, it does not matter what men and women actually do; it does not even matter if they do exactly the same thing. Gender's social institution focuses only on perceiving what they do as unique.

Gender inequality in sport is an all-time growing issue. Essentially it is the elephant in the room…while it is always discussed and argued on tv mostly by women at the same time it is an issue that some people try to ignore and just hope that it will somehow fix itself. Women competed in the Olympic games for the first time 118 years ago. Powerful female athletes are finally being recognized for their superhuman achievements all around the world. In saying this, the solution to gender equality in sports has not quite been reached yet. When the Ethics Centre of Finnish Sport investigated discrimination in football and ice hockey, they found that an unsettling amount of female players feel trivialized and discriminated against on grounds of sex. 70% of sports now offer the same amount of prize money for men and women. There are 2 million more men than women currently taking part in sport at least once per week. 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sports goes into women’s sport. This means that 96% of commercial investment goes into men’s sport. Coaches in women’s team sports at college level earn 63 cents for every euro/ dollar earned by head coaches of men’s teams.Once again, this all deals with the social gender framework built up by society as to how talented men and women are in sport or not.It can definitely be argued that yes men are ‘typically’ biologically stronger than women but sports isn’t all about physical strength. It is known that to be a top athlete in the sports world you need determination, courage, discipline, commitment and technical skill. Going by these facts alone, men are not at a natural advantage: The playing field is even. Pavlovich, L. (2017).

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker writes that “some categories really are social constructions; they exist only because people tacitly agree to act as if they exist… some examples include- Money, Tenure, citizenship, decorations for bravery and the presidency of the united states. Gender according to West and Zimmerman, is not a personal trait; it is “an emergent feature of social situations: both as an outcome of and a rationale for various social arrangements, and as a means of legitimating one of the most fundamental divisions of society” (West and Zimmerman 1977, P.126). Gender once again according to west and Zimmerman is not simply what one is, but what one does- it is actively produced within social interactions. “Doing” gender is not just about conforming to stereotypical gender roles- it is the active engagement in any behaviour that is gendered, or behaviour that may be evaluated as gendered. A persons teen years are the prime time in which socialization occurs. This particular time is when ones ability to accomplish their gender performance labels them as successful (normal) or unsuccessful (strange and unfitting). Teens are influenced by influencers and bloggers on social media. They feel like they have to be like these people and if they break the ‘social norms’ that they will not fit in with society. Social Media in today’s wold impacts society greatly. Many people use social media as their way of breaking these social norms and coming out to the world as a different gender to how they once were.

So what does this mean for our future? Is the social construct of gender going to increase inequality or make the world more equal? Based on the above points and evidence put forward the concluding point is that we need to continue to address the global issue of gendered inequality in more innovative and fruitful ways. These are; To highlight the increasing academic focus on masculinity and gender relations and its relation to feminism. To rethink the amount of inequality that goes on in the workplace and work towards a fairer system. Inequality is the main roadblock in our journey towards social justice and we need to make changes in order to overcome this and therefore do our very best to stop gender inequality in the world. 

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