The journey for women in sports and its reflection in society

Tonight hundreds of locals are resting their tired feet after a long day running. This morning at 7:30 a.m. runners lined up in downtown Athens at the race start of the 3rd Annual “AthHalf“ to test their endurance in the iconic 13.1-mile half marathon race. While runners trotted through the eclectic neighborhoods of Athens, local bands played and supporters lined the streets, cheering and encouraging the runners to keep on going.

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As one of the participants in this year’s “AthHalf” I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of runners in the race. There were runners of every age, sex, size and socio-economic status. In this moment I remembered why I loved running; Anyone, mind the physically incapable, can run. All it takes is a pair of running shoes, the road and the willpower to push ones body to its limits.

More than 40 years ago this was not the case; For years women were not allowed to race in marathons or compete in running races at all. It was not until 1972 that women were allowed to run in the Boston marathon and it was not until 1984 that the women’s marathon was included into the Olympic games. It was only 40 years ago that Kathrine Switzer competed in the Boston marathon and was literally shoved by the race director when he realized she was a woman. At that time women were not allowed to compete in the same race as men and women were not allowed to run in races more than one and a half miles long. Many believed that women were not capable of running long distances and that it damaged women’s reproductive systems. Now that those falsities and unjust race regulations are a thing of the past the only thing stopping women from competing is themselves. (http://www.marathonguide.com/history/olympicmarathons/chapter25.cfm)

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Although women’s running is not a usual topic in this class, its discussion sheds light on an important topic in sports: the role of women sports. Although women have been athletes for a long time, it has taken years for them to have the same rights as male athletes. One of the greatest achievements of our time for female athletes was the enactment of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Title IX has helped women tremendously by creating more opportunities for female athletes and by improving gender equity in women’s sports. (http://www.titleix.info/)

As the opportunities for female athletes has increased so has the acceptance for female sports fans.  According the Sports Business Journal in a recent study titled “I’m Part of the Shield, Too: Examining the NFL Game Experiences of Female Spectators and Influential Patterns” women make up 45 percent of the NFL fan base. The league is now working to cater to the needs of these female fans.

“The marketing department has ads that celebrate our female fans. Our consumer products department has had a lot of success with the launch of our women’s apparel line. And on the game-day front, our security department continues to make sure our game-day experience is family friendly, which obviously resonates with women,” said Gulliver, the Chief of Human Resources Operation at the NFL.

According to the study one of the women’s biggest complaints is the lack of diversity in female apparel. Although the struggle for women’s rights in sports and the desire for improved women’s apparel is hardly comparable, it is a testament to how far women have come in sports. Women do not have the concerns that female athletes faced years ago; Women are now recognized as reputable, capable athletes and are truly valued as a part of the sports community. Although the movement in women’s sports and the NFL’s marketing strategy are very different, they prove that the relationship between women and sports is no longer a rarity.  http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2013/10/14/Leagues-and-Governing-Bodies/NFL-women.aspx

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