Gender politics and science have never gotten along very well. The patriarchal system was—and in some cultures still is—based on the premise that women are more mercurial, less deliberative and physically less sturdy than men. Those are perfectly easy beliefs to hold—at least until you subject them to the least bit of intellectual scrutiny or real-world testing, at which point they fall apart completely.
In the 1970s, the script flipped, with the fashionable thinking being that gender differences are artificial constructs. Give little girls footballs or model rockets and little boys baby dolls or princess toys and they’d play perfectly happily with them as long as someone didn’t tell them otherwise.
But this too was mostly rubbish, as any parent who has raised both a boy and a girl can tell you—and as scientists confirm. The more closely they study brain structure, prenatal hormone exposure and more, the more they confirm that boys and girls are born fundamentally, behaviorally different.
The question gets a little murkier when it comes to one of the great dividing lines between the sexes: sports. On the one hand, both interest and participation in organized sports is still a predominantly male thing. On the other hand, when any culture makes the effort to level the playing field of opportunity, female participation rises dramatically. In 1972, before the enactment of Title IX, the landmark law that ensured gender equality in educational opportunities, only 7% of high school athletes were girls. Today it’s 42%.
Still, according to a thoughtful new study published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, the hard hand of evolution plays at least as much of a role in sports interest and participation as policy does—and quite possibly a greater one. And that, like it or not, tips the balance in favor of males.
The research, led by psychologist Robert Deaner of Grand Valley State University in Michigan, was more of a deep analysis of decades worth of other research, which is often the best way to get a high-altitude view of any social science. Deaner and his colleagues began by looking at the basic numbers.
One 2014 survey of 37 countries, for example, found that in every one, men were likelier to play some kind of sport than women. In a few countries, the difference was not statistically significant, but when the question was narrowed to specify competitive sports like basketball and exclude non-competitive ones like running, the men blew the doors off the numbers, besting women by nearly four-fold. A 2013 study conducted by Deaner and a colleague not involved in the current work found that males were twice as likely as females to be involved or interested in sports across 50 different countries or cultures.
The non-evolutionary explanations for the imbalance are familiar and numerous. Homemakers, goes one argument, who are still predominantly female, have less free time for sports than men do. In fact, however, research shows that both genders have about the same amount of free hours, but if the women are going to devote some of them to physical activity it’s likelier to be fitness training like yoga or Pilates or gym workouts. There is also the argument that even in a Title IX world, there still fewer well-organized sports leagues for girls than there are for boys. That may be true, but if the innate interest in sports were really the same across genders, the great leveler of sports in childhood—pick-up games that kids organize themselves—would be played more or less equally by all kids. But here the boys hold a ten-to-one edge.
As for the overwhelming gender disparity in sports spectatorship, the familiar non-evolutionary explanation is that there simply aren’t enough professional teams and leagues featuring female players to attract female spectators. But experience—if admittedly limited—doesn’t show that. The quality of play is first-rate in the 20-year-old Women’s National Basketball Association, but the league remains very much a ward of the much larger men’s NBA, with far smaller audiences and far less public interest as a whole.
Women’s professional soccer is taking off around the world, but it’s men who make up most of the viewership, not women. In Germany, the male share of the audience for women’s soccer is actually greater than it is for men’s, 64% to 58%.
So if it’s evolution that’s behind the gender divide—and Deaner and his colleagues take pains to say it’s not only evolution—what exactly are the survival advantages of playing a sport? And what in the world could be the advantage of simply sitting around and watching other people play.
Much of the answer is based on the phenomenon known as the spectator lek. Principally found in birds, but also in some species of insect and mammal, a lek involves males gathering in a single place and displaying their plumage, size or overall fitness, sometimes by engaging in mock—or not-so-mock—combat, while other members of the species observe. For females, the value of watching the displays is straightforward, since it helps them select the mates who have the fittest genes and can best compete for resources. For male spectators, it has equal, if different, value, allowing “nonparticipating males [to] monitor the performances so they can evaluate potential competitors and allies,” the researchers write.
The precise nature of athletic activities is important too, since so many of them—running, tackling, throwing projectiles, advancing across terrain (or even around a diamond)—are useful in warfare. This all serves to refine skills, reinforce alliances and intimidate potential rivals.
Social status matters too, and sports reliably confers it, enhancing both power and mating options for the participant. That’s a dividend exploited far more by male athletes than female. It is the rare women’s sports star who travels with a posse, spends extravagantly on the plumage that is bling or beds a partner in every city in which she plays. It’s too much to say it’s the rare male sports star who doesn’t do those things, but it’s certainly more common among the lads.
The function of sports as a kind of mortal combat for men is evident even in the way they approach a less directly competitive sport like marathon running, in which all but a tiny handful of participants are not actually contending to win. Overall, three times more males finish the race within 125% of the record time for their gender than females do for theirs, which suggests that the men were more focused on running to win than the women were. That’s a strategy that often backfires, since men were also three times likelier to slow significantly throughout the race, suggesting that their competitive impulses got out ahead of their abilities, whereas women tend to maintain a smarter, steadier pace.
None of this means that socialization, gender bias and all of the other cultural variables are not at work in the largely male world of sport. “An evolutionary approach is fully compatible with socialization playing a large role,” the researchers write, and so it is. Play has always been a big part of the life of all humans, and sports can be a big part of play. But that doesn’t mean the genders don’t still do it in many different ways—and for many different reasons.
How Socialization Influence a Person Essay
Socialization is a process of learning through interacting with people who live in our environment. This interactive process is brought about through connecting with others and making our own decisions in our lives, some of which is through the process of “influencing those who influence us”. There are two main approaches on socialization, the first is the functionalist approach and the conflict theory approach to socialization, the second is the new approach to socialization.
Functionalists and conflict theorists both believe that socialization “conforms to an internalization model”.
Functionalists focus their research on the people who are being socialized, the people and institutions that do the socializing, and the results of socialization of the people being socialized.
Functionalist’s research is aimed mainly to find out exactly who athletes are being socialized from. When athletes were young it was found that the main influencers were their families, teachers, coaches, friends and role models. These influencers are described as the “significant others”.
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These researchers send out questionnaires to children and high school students to try to find out exactly who influences a person to play a certain sport, and what personal characteristics they have to require to be interested in sport. However many of these methods have presented “inconsistent and contradictory findings”.
Unfortunately the information form these questionnaires have not given a clear view on sport socialization as a process in peoples lives.
Conflict theorists even though they use the internalization model as well concentrate more on socialization serving “the economic needs of capitalist systems”, through trying to make people hard workers. They believe that people with money and are higher up in they line of work in society try to use “economic forces” to make sure that they stay in their powerful positions.
Conflict theorists focus on whether or not competitive sports encourage racism and sexism among athletes and coaches, if people less fortunate and of poorer backgrounds are denied playing sports the way they want to, and if the powerful people in society make sports the way they want them for money.
It has shown that athletes will go to all lengths for sport participation, even as far as violence to win and playing while injured which could cause them to never play again, but to them its worth it all for one game.
Some researchers have been dissatisfied with the methods of functionalists and conflict theorists that they turned to the “interactionist models of socialization”.
These researchers use more “qualitive rather that quantitive” methods to gain their information. They prefer to observe the players, their life styles and use one to one interviews to find out who they are and exactly why they participate in sport, rather than using questionnaires to give the answers that we need to know about sport socialization. These researchers’ main aims are to find out in detail peoples personal experiences in sport, how they make the decision to participate in sport and what they gain from sport.
The results found from using interviews, and observing and studying athletes while playing sport has shown that participation in sport is a decision that people make each day of their lives for different reasons. It has been shown that there are three main examples of socialization; the first is becoming the athlete, becoming known and accepted, and lastly the decision “to participate or not to participate”.
Research of how people become athletes has been studied by a sport sociologist, Chris Stevenson. He realised that there are two main processes that proceed to become an athlete; the first is the “introduction and involvement”. This starts off by young children being gradually introduced to sports through important people that influence them such as their family, friends and teachers. Gradually over time they decide to stick mainly to a particular sport that they feel they are good at and enjoy mainly due to the good experiences received while playing that sport. The second process is the “developing a commitment” to the sport that they have chosen to participate in. This process starts the children form good relationships with their coaches and other players, and as they start to get noticed and appreciated. As they get more encouraged to play at the sport and start to form strong identities as athletes they become committed to participating in the sport and want to be counted as an athlete.
Both of these processes are continuous processes that occur over time, they are complex and can not be taken for granted as circumstances like support and resources that the athletes require for participation can change and mean they may have to alter their sport participation. Stevenson has therefore shown through his studies that socialization is an interactive process that we all participate in.
To become known and accepted in any sport you first have to have knowledge about the sport, talk to people involved in the sport and get to know their views and opinions, and finally get known in the group as an athlete and part of the same team. Becoming accepted as an athlete in a sport all comes down to whether you are able to “talk the talk and walk the walk”. If an athlete does not manage to keep up with any changes then they may face losing their acceptance and support which overall could affect their participation. This process of having to become accepted occurs in every sport of every kind, each unique sport has it own way of communicating with each other. It is known that if athletes are not fully accepted, their participation in the sport may not last, which again shows that sport participation is complex and that socialization is interactive.
“To participate or not to participate” in sport can be due to many reasons, some to changes in circumstances, past experiences, and others due to lack of support or resources. Some young people use sport just to have a sense of control in their lives and show to be competent. These people base whether they play sport mainly on what it is they want to do in their future. People drop out of sport for many different reasons; injury, win-oriented teams and coaches, or never being accepted fully into their sport. Most of the time though people do not drop out of sport all together they decide to play less demanding sports or decide move into different roles like becoming a coach. This also portrays how socialization is continuous and interactive.
In conclusion there are different approaches to socialization that conform to either an “internalization model” or an “interactionist model”. These approaches show that socialization is a process which is continuous, interactive, and complex; that involves us to make decisions every day of our lives, and requires support and acceptance from others.
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