Delia, a 16 year-old high school student, was thinking doing some extra-curricular activities. Since she was brought up with three sports-minded brothers, it was natural for her to decide fairly quickly that she wanted to be in athletics. Therefore, she researched on which particular sport she would like to partake in. While researching, she came to a realization that there is a masculine-feminine dichotomy between the gendered sports in that the sought for traits and the dress of each sport differs between the gender roles.
As Messner states, “organized sports is also a ‘gendering institution’ – an institution that helps construct the current gender order. Part of this construction of gender is accomplished through the ‘masculinizing’ of male bodies and minds” (134). Delia found this especially true when she compared two oppositely gendered sports: gymnastics for girls and football for boys. Gymnastics focuses mainly on flexibility and grace, common traits attributed to women. For football, however, the desired traits are power and strength, prominently masculine traits. It is true that the oppositely focused traits may help in the sport, but they are not as valued.
Not only did Delia find the traits different, she also noticed that the clothing reflected their gender roles. Jhally states, “visual images are the central mode through which the modern world understands itself. Images are the dominant language of the modern world” (256). Thus, high school sports utilize images of clothing to dichotomize their athletes. It is obvious that different sports that mostly adhere to one gender would have different clothing, e.g. cheerleading vs. football. One can see that girls where short skirts and tighter shirts to show off their bodies, while the boys usually clothe upmore. However, if you look at a sport that both genders participate in, i.e. cross country, the clothing dichotomy is still there.
Jhally, Sut. “Image-based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture”. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Ed. By Dines and Humez. California: Sage Publications, 2003. pps 249-257.
Messner, Michael. “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Sage Publications, 1990.