October 07, 2002

"So why is it that sex still counts? Suzy Whaley recently qualified to become the first women to play in a Professional Golf Association Tour event. Tennis star Venus Williams's serves have been clocked at around 190 kilometres per hour, about the same as Andre Agassi's. And women can match men in long-distance running and swimming marathons." After four years of court challenges, Justine Blainey took her battle for the right to play on boys' hockey teams to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1987 -- and won. Now a married chiropractor with a daughter, Justine Blainey-Broker reflects on the gender gap in sports.

posted by mcwetboy to culture at 08:47 AM - 10 comments

And women can match men in long-distance running... Don't kid yourself, men still dominate women significantly in long distance running.

posted by patrickje at 12:58 PM on October 07, 2002

Sorry, didn't mean to be snarky, but when people make off the cuff, completely wrong statements as fact, I tend to ignore anything else they have to say.

posted by patrickje at 03:08 PM on October 07, 2002

IIRC, in the PGA qualifying tourney Whaley played in, she was allowed to use the women's tees. "Fast forward a few years, and what if the best women golfers, or tennis players or hockey players end up playing with the men?" Yes, female athletes have come a long way, but top female athletes are still nowhere near a top male athlete. Your average pro tennis player would beat the Williams sisters. If Whaley used the men's tee she probably would not have qualified. Now when you talk about amateur athletes, I could see females being somewhat competitive against male athletes. A former women's college basketball player could probably hold her own playing in the YMCA. However when you pit the top athletes of both sexes, there really is no comparison.

posted by gyc at 03:13 PM on October 07, 2002

patrickje, while Blainey-Broker's comments are en passant and don't go into detail, I don't think they necessarily support the reading you're giving to them. "Women can match men . . . " -- what does this mean? That women can stay in the pack and remain reasonably competitive? That women can break the top 10? Top 100? Top 1000? How many women must place at what rank before you change your position? You can't say that she's completely wrong without knowing what she's referring to. And providing some data from your end would have helped, too (i.e., "she's completely wrong, and here's why [link] . . . "). top female athletes are still nowhere near a top male athlete That's as may be, but I think her point was that women could be competitive, not dominant. Again, maybe not top 10 or even top 100 (depending on the competition), but they wouldn't automatically finish dead last. You talk as though not being able to finish first means there's no point in participating. (Of course, that could be my Canadianness speaking. Going for the bronze, oh yeah.) We're not talking top echelons, we're talking the entire range of the minor- and major-league and professional circuits. Can top women athletes hold their own against utility players, for example? I think they can. Against the best of the best? Now you're just moving the goalposts back. I also somehow think you're underestimating women athletes. I think the Williams sisters would do better than the "average" pro tennis player -- it depends on what you mean by "average" -- and I suspect a women's college basketball player could absolutely mop up at the YMCA. But that's just my hunch, which is probably no worse than yours.

posted by mcwetboy at 03:34 PM on October 07, 2002

Sorry I didn't provide confirming links, I know because my brother is a professional road-racer (mid-distance 5-10k), and my boss is really into triathalons, and I usually check on their results on the web. Just a summary check on some results (1, 2, 3) Race 1: (10K) Winner: 28:49 - 4:41/M Top woman: 35:45 - 5:46/M Race 2: (4 Mile) Winner: 18:43.6 - 4:41/M Top woman: 24:54.7 - 6:14/M Race 3: (1 Mile) Winner: 4:01.6 Top woman: 4:29.9 In terms of the distance run, those are some STEEP differences. I agree women are very competitive, but the difference between the best men runners and best women runners is very wide. The quote from above was women can match men in long-distance running when it's obvious they can't. The quote wasn't women are competitive with men.

posted by patrickje at 04:11 PM on October 07, 2002

I don't actually believe there's much preventing women from competing in any sport, assuming they have the talent to compete. To use golf as one example, the PGA Tour has no rules prohibiting women from participating. Presumably a woman with sufficient talent could try out at Q school and earn her tour card. And with respect to individual sports (racing, swimming, etc.), I think that if times reached parity, there would no longer be separate competitions for "men" and "women." But if you eliminated all gender distinctions now, wouldn't that have a catastrophic impact on women's sports? At least now the fastest female swimmer gets recognition in the Olympics. If the race was gender-inspecific, and that same female finished 43rd (or, more likely, couldn't make the team), what kind of recognition would she get?

posted by jmpeterson at 04:29 PM on October 07, 2002

The problem with the article is it ignores basic physiology. Genetically, women have a higher percentage of body fat than men, and less muscle mass. This ensures that women can never be as good as men in certain sports. It is arguable they should be able to compete in sports where precision, not speed and agility is required (for example golf and snooker). However, for the same genetic reasons, long distance swimming women perform better than men.

posted by BigCalm at 03:09 AM on October 08, 2002

When they start playing lacrosse properly, give me a call.

posted by yerfatma at 07:04 AM on October 08, 2002

Not entirely on-topic, but do you all remember Manon Rheaume? She played a period or two in a exhibition game for the Lightning in 1992. Not surprisingly, she was too small to cover enough of the net to keep the puck out. She didn't play well, but then neither did the rest of the team (it was their first year in the league). Like mentioned in the previous posts, even the best female athletes generally can't compete at the highest levels, although Manon went on to win a few games in the ECHL and WCHL. Sad but true. It's a damn shame, too, because Manon Rheaume was pretty hot.

posted by Samsonov14 at 11:59 AM on October 08, 2002

In some sports, such as horse racing and equestrianism, women have shown they can match men. In other sports such as motor sports, women have at least shown they can be competitive. I have no idea where the good female snooker players are.

posted by salmacis at 07:32 AM on October 09, 2002

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