Most people think of feminism or the more commonly used term “women’s lib” as “a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men.” (Hooks 2014 p 18). Susan Faludi (1991, p15) describes feminism’s agenda as the freedom for women to define themselves instead of having their identity defined for them. Feminism continues to play an important role in Australian society today. In Australia, we have the freedom to express our views without getting into trouble, but regarding gender equality, a major feminist aim continues to be a major barrier faced by the women of Australia and “we really must do better” (Jenkins 2016).
This essay will begin by briefly outlining the feminist movement in Australia. Then it will describe the current state of gender inequality in Australian sports. Finally, it will show how feminism relates to social constructionism and conflict theory in regards to gender inequality in sport.
- Feminist movement in Australia
The historical backdrop of the women’s activist development has been characterized as far as three ‘waves’ each distinctive managing parts of women’s activist issues. The first wave, in the 19th through to the early 20th centuries, manages the issue of women’s’ suffrage primarily. The second wave (1960s-1980s) focussed on the social and political imbalances. The third wave (1990s-present) is both a continuation and reaction to the obvious disappointments of the second wave. (Turner-Graham, 2018)
In the nineteenth century, Australian ladies had not very few legal rights. When married, these rights were additionally constrained as they were exchanged to her significant other. Married women surrendered all property to their spouses, and any wages earned. Spouses were the sole lawful guardian of any children from the marriage and could remove them from a mother’s care whenever notwithstanding passing on their care to other individuals in their will. (National Museum Australia, 2018). However, social attitudes were gradually evolving. Australians prided themselves on their forward thinking, and by 1902, women were given the privilege to vote and to be elected at federal elections. This forward-thinking started a chain of events throughout the history of the rights of Australian Women.
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By the 1960’s women could prevent pregnancy by taking the contraceptive pill, although initially only available to women with a prescription and a husband. In 1962 Indigenous women won the right to vote in federal elections. In 1965, in the act of protest, two women chained themselves to a bar in Brisbane and demanded the right to drink in public bars. While this was by no means the most important gender discrimination issue, it was one that could make a quick impact. In 1969 abortion was legalised. (Victorian Women’s Trust 2018).
Enter the 21st Century and women in Australia are still fighting for equal rights. With the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Sex Discrimination Act 1984 CWlth) making it illegal for people to discriminate against gender, why is it that we still find gender inequality issues in today’s society such as the gender inequality in Australian Sport.
Gender inequality in Australian sports
While gender equality has come a long way regarding sports, there is still room for much improvement. Inequality in sports regarding women can be drawn upon three things gender stereotypes, mass media, and inconsistent salaries.
Gender stereotypes continue playing a large part in characterizing what women ought to and ought not to be doing as to sports. While there have been many advancements, for example, the Olympics. Many years ago, women were not permitted to step foot into the stadium, while now numerous women currently compete in a variety of various games in the Olympic Games. (Katz & Luckinbill 2017). This proving that equality has advanced. In any case, society keeps on feeling that women should not have strength, endurance or be muscular however rather be ‘ladylike’ and feminine. Women’s rights have evolved, and women have been given the privilege to play sport, however, are still not given an equivalent playing field.
Mass media also influences the inequalities women face. While women are currently given a chance to be seen in magazines, daily papers and on the TV. Female and male sports receive uneven coverage on Australian TV, in spite of the progressing victories and solid interest levels of women in sport. Coverage of women in sport made up 9% of all sports coverage in Australian TV news media, while 7% of non-news programming content on TV was committed to female sports. Male sports, then again, involved 81% of TV news announcing, and 86% of non-news programming on TV. (Lumby, Caple & Greenwood 2010). These are disappointing but true statistics of gender inequality still remaining in our country.
Inconstant Salaries (100 words)
While the media and gender stereotypes define women as being less competent than men in sport. So too does the confirmation of lower pay rates for professional female competitors. To highlight the gender wage gap in sports, the average wage for a male AFL player is $265,179 while the average player on the Australian national netball team earns $43,000 (The Line 2016). In any case, what’s to state that women cannot be as fit or shockingly better than a few men? By having inconsistent athlete salary ranges between men and women, it portrays the message for society to acknowledge that men are preferable and all the more meriting over women.
- Feminism relates to social constructionism and conflict theory
Feminism is a way of looking at the social world through the lens of gender inequality. It focuses on the male and female struggle for power and focuses on the rights of women. (Ferguson, 2017) Two sociological perspectives social constructionism and conflict theory can be used by feminists to understand gender inequality in sport.
Social constructionism is not easily definable. It encompasses an array of theoretical positions whose aims, and objectives are very complex and different. (Fiaccadori 2006). There are always two sides to every view. On one side there are those who believe that our identities, especially traditional definitions of gender, are socially constructed. On the other, there are those that believe that biology and genetics, play a more significant role in the expression of identity. It is the old nature versus nurture argument. However, one thing that is clear social constructionism focuses on how things are naturally or innately what they seem to be and are often sustained by social processes that vary historically and culturally (Furze 2013). This way of thinking has proved very valuable to feminists, and this is not to say that feminist accept social constructionism, they make use of it not just to explain women but also the oppression of them.
Social constructionism offers feminists means to challenge the ideas that women are inferior to men due to their natural characteristics. Another sociological perspective the modern feminist allies with is conflict theory.
Feminism is advocated in contemporary Australian society. While feminist perspectives suggest that women face many inequalities in sport including gender stereotypes, fewer media coverage, inconsistent salaries, less funding, discrimination is established on society’s general conviction that women are second rate compared to men and are in this way unequipped for succeeding in sport the same way it is essential to continue to push for change.
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This essay has explained the main achievements of the feminist movement in Australia and described the current state of gender inequality in Australian sports. Also, it described how social constructionism and conflict theory relate to feminism regarding gender inequality in sport. In popular culture of the late 1990’s success of the “Spice Girls’ mantra “Girl Power” may form part of the feminist culture, it is important for women to remember the words of Annie Lennox “Sisters are doing it for themselves” if they do not define themselves they will be defined by others.
- Faludi, S, 1991, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, 15th edn, Three Rivers Press, New York
- Fiaccadori, E, 2006, The Question of ‘Nature’: What has Social Constructionism to offer Feminist Theory?, Goldsmiths Sociology Research Paper, London, UK
- Ferguson, K, E, 2017, Feminist Theory Today, Annual Review of Political Science, vol 29, pp 269-286.
- Hargreaves, J 1994, Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women’s Sport, Routledge, London.
- Hooks, B, 2015, Feminist theory: From margin to centre, South End Press, Boston, MA.
- Jenkins, K, 2016, In terms of gender equality, we really must do better, Alternative Law Journal, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 80, viewed 3 September 2018, https://www.altlj.org/news-and-views/opinion/1034-in-terms-of-gender-equality-we-really-must-do-better.
- Katz, RS. & Luckinbill, RW 2017, ‘Changing sex/gender roles and sport,’ Stanford Law & Policy Review, vol 28, no 214, pp 215-243.
- Lumby, C., Caple, H & Greenwood, K, 2010, Towards a Level Playing Field: Sport and gender in Australian media, Australian Sports Commission,
- Turner-Graham, E 2009, The Women’s Movement in Museums Victoria Collections, https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/2829, accessed 03 September 2018.
- National Museum of Australia 2017, Defining Moments in Australian History, Women’s Suffrage,http://www.nma.gov.au/online_features/defining_moments/featured/womens_suffrage, accessed 03 September 2018.
- Sex Discrimination Act 1983 (Commonwealth), https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2014C00002, viewed 03 September 2018
- Victorian Women’s Trust 2017, We’ve come a long way—but we’re not there yet: Gender eqality milestones, viewed 01 September 2018, https://www.vwt.org.au/gender-equality-timeline-australia/
- Women in sports-what’s with the gap? 2017, The line, viewed 01 September 2018, http://www.theline.org.au/women-in-sport-whats-with-the-gap.
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