Most sports generally segregate competitors by sex, even though men and women work, live, and socialize together in everyday life. There are various reasons as to why they segregate these competitions, the main reason being that men and women are built physically differently. However, some sports allow men and women to compete since their physical differences do not have any effect on the outcome of the competition.
Reasons for gender segregation in sports
- Physiological differences between men and women
Men are generally stronger, taller, and heavier than women. This means that competing on an equal basis isn’t possible in most sports. A good example was the U.S fencing championship in 1938. Helene Mayer beat the fencing champion, but her title was taken away, and a ban was instituted on men-women competitions. The fencing commission gave the reason for the ban to be that Mayer won in an unfair fight because men “can’t go all out” when playing against women.
Women also have a better balance, which can be attributed to having a lower center of gravity. This gives them a distinct advantage over men in sports such as shooting.
- It is the tradition of the sport
Some sports remain segregated by gender because it is the tradition, and that is what society is used to. Research shows that most fans would never watch a football match where men play against women. This means that if the rules of the competition change, there would be fewer fans leading to loss of business for brand marketers, TV networks, and sports leagues.
- For safety
Research has shown that the Olympics are segregated to safeguard the safety of the players, especially during training. Men and women have different endurance levels, and therefore putting them together in one team isn’t a good idea for most sports. The team coach will have to come up with new techniques to fit both genders. This remains a hassle that is not welcome in the Olympics.
There are some Olympic sports in which men and women compete either in mixed teams or against each other. Here are different ways:
Mixed team events
Some sports allow men and women to form a team and compete against another mixed team. This enhances fair competition since both teams feature the same number of males and females. Such sports include:
Tennis: in mixed double matches, each team has one man and one woman. This form of tennis is, however, rare in professional games since men’s and women’s tours are organized separately.
Badminton: just as is the case for tennis, you can have a mixed doubles match where each team consists of one man and one woman.
Luge: traditional luge had a doubles competition that allowed a team of males and females, but most of the time, the teams were only made up of men. The doubles event was later replaced by the mixed relay which allows competition between teams with equal numbers of men and women
Ice skating: ice skating includes both figure skating and ice dancing. This sport allows a mixed-gender team referred to as a pair to showcase their skills on ice as they compete against another pair.
These are the sports that allow men and women to compete directly and equally against each other. The physiological differences between men and women do not have any effect on the outcome of the competition. They have been played by both men and women ever since they were invented; thus, it is typical for men and women to compete in such sports. They are:
Sailing: the sport of sailing was the first to have a compulsory mixed-gender event in the 2016 Olympics. Males and females are allowed to compete on equal terms either as individuals or as part of a team.
Motorcycle racing: this isthe sport of racing motorcycles either on tracks or on open courses. There are different categories of Moto racing, and all of them allow for mixed-gender competitions. Ana Carrasco from Spain became the first woman to win a world championship motorcycle race in September 2017.
Darts: this is a sport in which two or more players throw small missiles at a target that is known as a dartboard. Darts was played traditionally as a pub game then it was introduced as a professional competitive sport. There exist separate men’s and women’s darts championship, although there are no restrictions on men competing against women. Fallon Sherrock made history at the PDC world championship in 2017 by becoming the first woman to beat a man in darts.
Equestrian: in 1900, equestrian events were introduced in the modern Olympic Games. Equestrianism, commonly known as horse riding, includes driving, riding, and vaulting with horses. This sport allows competition between men and women and has different forms of competition which are:
- Dressage: this is the progressive training of a horse where the horse and rider are expected to perform a series of predetermined movements from memory. In modern dressage competitions, the movements are ridden within a standard arena as the judge’s watch and assign scores.
- Showjumping: in this event, the horse and rider are required to jump a series of obstacles with minimal knockdowns within a given time limit.
- Cross–country jumping: in this event, horses jump over fixed obstacles such as ditches, stone walls, logs, and water trying to finish the course under the optimum time.
- Eventing: this is also referred to as the combined training. It brings together the athletic ability of show jumping, the obedience of dressage, and fitness demands of the cross country jumping phase.
Participating in sports in which women compete directly with men allows building friendship between genders and also prevents stereotyping. Sports need to focus on another criterion of segregation other than just gender and physiology.