Women are often criticized and put under extra scrutiny for their appearance. Some face more ostracism than others. The muscular woman creates many responses from men and women, but a majority are vituperative in nature. These are not just attacks from men, but other women. While we all have different aesthetic preferences certain statements made by detractors are spiteful. Statements that a woman “looks like a man” or “she’s ugly” represent a bullying nature of body image conformity. Female athletes are even criticized for being “too muscular.” This is hilarious in a way considering one would expect that from their vigorous physical activities. There are roots of these negative criticisms and double standards. The first possible explanation is that people react to negatively to things they do not understand. A more vicious explanation is based on misogynist beliefs. A more common explanation is that beauty standards vary. However, the majority do not understand this. The obvious double standards have there roots in patriarchy, sexism, and discrimination. Traditional attitudes persist, even though women have advanced.
The first double standard is the issue of body image. The contemporary Western standard of beauty for a woman is the slim body type. Men are encouraged to aim for another unrealistic goal of being as muscular as possible. These two paradigms represent stereotypical gender identities. The weak woman and the strong man. This has had negative repercussions on men and women. Women are more likely to develop eating disorders and distorted self image. Men are not immune either, risking the the use of anabolic steroids or other performance enhancing drugs to improve their physique. Athletes are not the majority users of steroids, but men seeking a fast solution to weight loss. This is opposite of what many would assume. Some women are no longer embracing a thin look and instead want to build strength. There are women who even take this a step further by maximizing their total muscle mass as a goal. Yet, even women in the fitness industry who are supportive of weight training reject a muscular body type for women. They constantly reassure women “they will not bulk up.” This fear of looking male is unfounded, due to the fact virilization only occurs with long term steroid abuse. Not all women are the same and others may develop muscle easier. Normally, these women point to the female bodybuilder as what a woman should not be. This is disrespectful and adds to an already sexist culture. Men can be as physically powerful as they want to be, but for women it is not acceptable. Even the criticism “these women are too bulky” lacks cogency. The term bulky is a colloquial term to mean huge, but the muscular woman does not fall under that term. They have lean body mass.
The women that appear on stage appear to be enormous. The reality is that their limited body fat makes it appear as if they are bigger. Normally depending if there are weight classes, women come into contest weighing less. Tomoko Kanda competes at a weight of 156 pounds. Colette normally competed at a weight of 145 pounds. These weights are not large amounts . The average man would weigh more without such training, but not be as strong. The “bulky” argument seems to fall apart. When these women are clothed you probably would not know they have these powerful bodies.
The objection is routed in the belief that women should not participate in certain activities. Sports was seen a solely a male domain and no place for women. Physical strength was something thought to be natural to men only, but women proved that wrong. Many times there are some feminists who place the blame solely on men. There are women who also show a level of repulsion at the sight of the muscular woman. There arguments are along the same lines of their male counterparts, but there is a difference. They compare them in relation to their body by suggesting “why would any woman want that much muscle?” or ” I would not want that for myself .” No one is forcing the woman who criticizes a muscular physique to become that way. Yet, this same detractor will not hesitate to starve themselves into a size zero. There has developed in the past decades the size acceptance movement that challenges a society trying to distort women’s body image. This small movement does not extend its hand to the muscular or athletic woman. They face more repudiation and negativity from many people. There are also problems with the size acceptance movement. What is considered “plus sized” is not large at all. Decades ago they would have been considered average women.
To the left, the woman in the pink bikini is considered a plus sized model. She is not even large, but a woman with curves. The woman on the right is not huge either, but would be considered “too big” for regular modeling.
The fashion industry’s obsession with thinness has made people think that curvy women have a weight problem. This size acceptance movement seems like another hash tag trend that will be replaced by another. Critics claim that it is encouraging obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. A counter argument can be make when examining the amount of sugar and high fructose corn syrup food sold in grocery stores. The power of advertisement is more than enough encouragement with every last fast food chain producing commercials for television. Women liking their bodies is not encouraging an unhealthy condition. The only way that can be determined is by a doctor or medical professional, not by just looking at a person’s body.
Magazines that claim to promote health are adding to distorted body image. Most of the women’s magazines are focused on weight loss or being as thin as possible. The men’s magazines feature men of extreme muscular physique. These body sizes are probably not attainable for most people, but their is a motive behind it. By subconsciously tampering with people’s insecurity it will get them to buy magazines. The hope of the buyer is that they will some day look like the person on the cover. This induces more consumption of the magazine. Traditionally, sports and fitness magazines focused on training, athlete interviews, and events. Now the emphasis seems to be focusing on a particular standard of beauty Body image is developed by the media and the materials that are consumed b y the society.
The negative criticism of the muscular woman is rooted in dated beauty standards. These standards vary from culture to culture. The West values a thin and almost emaciated form of the female body. For cultures of the East and global South a much softer and fuller female body has been valued. The lugubrious aspect of this is that few people are accepting of other forms of beauty. Women spend much of their time putting on make-up, adding accessories, and doing other forms of ornamentation to adhere to cultural beauty standards. These standards have changed overtime in the West. One of the places that caused this trend was the fashion industry and Hollywood films. Leslie Lawson ( known as Twiggy) was a model in the 1960s who popularized the extremely thin body. She was so thin her body almost resembled a prepubescent boy. This had been the standard since and it has had dire consequences. There has been an increase in the amount of eating disorders among women. Hollywood film stars followed this trend, seeing as they would wear some of the most expensive cloths. The factor of increasing obesity rates and a mass media inducing insecurity only complicates the situation of the muscular woman .She can either be classified within this rigid and closed mined system as an anomaly or a new paradigm.
Twiggy was a model from the 1960s.
There is a new fitness zeigiest known as “strong is the new skinny.” Then again this has its limitations. While accepts the concept women can be physically fit and strong in appearance, it does not promote women being as physically developed as possible. Being “too muscular” is still not acceptable to the majority of society. The traditional feminine ideal is to appear as frail as possible to be attractive. Women have challenged this in another way embracing natural curves rather than an emaciated appearance.While larger women are gaining acceptance, the muscular women are still a bizarre concept to many. What women of this appearance need is something similar to fat acceptance. The fat acceptance movement has been criticized as promoting an unhealthy lifestyle or being frivolous. Doubtless of what people perceive, that movement allowed larger and overweight individuals to view themselves in a different light. Having acceptance of ones self and developing consciousness can challenge the status quo in regards to certain issues . May be a muscular acceptance movement will have to emerge to counter negative public reaction.
There also exists a more vicious reason for harsh ostracism of the muscular woman .Sexism and misogyny are also factors in negative attitudes. There has been a belief that women’s bodies had to be controlled. Women were not only controlled by legal and social barriers, but through domination of their bodies. This explains why reproductive rights have become so important to women’s freedom. Access to birth control and abortion allowed women’s rights to advance to new heights. When women have control of their bodies and can change the appearance of them, male domination is challenged. Strict gender roles dictate that man is leader and woman has to be a servant. A firm system of patriarchy puts man as sole authority.This at times was not always as oppressive, but none the less took subtlety offensive paternalistic overtones. Women needed to be protected because they were too weak mentally and physically to survive on their own. Men were strong and brave and therefore were women’s protectors. This by definition in terms of law was known as protectionism stating women had to be shielded from life’s cruelties.This justification was used to discriminate against women in various occupations and educational institutions. Many top ivy league universities were resistant to admit women on this principle. Also, it was used as an excuse women were too physically weak to engage in sports and it would damage their health. False information and pseudoscientic beliefs about women’s bodies became prevalent, but were discredited. When women gained more power men began to feel threatened. Sports was considered a male only domain, but by the late 20th century that was changing. Women began displaying more powerful physiques and were no longer ashamed of them. This overturned the long held conviction that women were weak and child like. The strict gender role binaries had been breached and misogynistic backlash occurred. This was tied to another form of intolerance when athletic and muscular women were accused of being lesbians. Sports has a long history of homophobia and women of a different sexuality had to deal with sexism as well. Racism has never disappeared either. Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis champions has not only been criticized unfairly because of race, but her appearance. Sports writers have said ” her body is built like a man’s and that’s why she wins matches.”This follows a long tradition of disparaging African Americans in the US and degrading women.
These negative comments are not only uttered in traditional media, but over social media. Social media has exposed the vast amount of hate that exists in people. Video sites are even infested with hateful commentary that is either racist, sexist, homophobic, or prejudice against a particular religious faith. While this new media format is great at connecting fans, it also opened a platform for unsavory individuals. Besides standing up for reproductive rights, women who change there bodies to this extent are making a revolutionary statement. Men do not have sole ownership of physical strength and women can control their bodies.
Harsh criticism is not always hateful, but comes from fear of the unknown . Muscular women are rare. Even very muscular men are few compared to the entire population. The muscular woman simply is something that many in the general public are not used to. There are certain reactions that are evoked by first time observers. One is that of being perplexed. Seeing some one who does not fit common standards can be difficult for people to comprehend. It challenges personal schemas. Everyone has a general model or opinion in regards to certain groups. When the group does not fit into that schema it creates conflict. Media and cultural images of how certain groups should be create a horrid cycle of stereotypes and myths. The woman who does not fit the frailty stereotype, then induces a negative or confused reaction from people who’s only knowledge is presented by surrounding factors. More extreme reactions are disgust. Shunning or excluding people who deviate from the standard of conformity are common in most societies.
Another reaction to the muscular woman is fear. This is just as irrational as the vitriolic behavior by some detractors. Common phrases like “she is scary” or ” I would not talk to her because she would beat me up” are repeated ad nauseum. There is the idea that the strong woman would naturally be aggressive toward men. This ludicrous assumption has no basis in fact. Women who are involved in sport have husbands, partners, or boyfriends. Many have families and they are a support structure when pressure and stress becomes high. Some women credit their boyfriends for getting them involved in fitness. This bully and “man hater” image seems to be a psychological projection of certain individuals. There are men who think that if women get some power they will use it to harm men as a form of revenge for past injustices. No such thing will ever happen. Equality does not mean you have a desire to harm other people. The other reactions to physically strong women are either curiosity or lust. Curiosity is not a negative trait. It is the strong desire to discover or find out about something unknown. The muscular woman becomes a curiosity to people who are more open minded. It was not uncommon to see women athletes or muscular women being interviewed on day time talk shows. Jenny Jones and Montel Williams had female bodybuilders on their programs from time to time. Reactions from a studio audience varied. Sometimes it could negative, positive, or changing some people previous conceptions. This shows exposure and help deal with prejudice and misunderstanding. There has been a zietgeist among fitness circles that “strong is the new skinny.” This new concept forms a another paradigm of beauty trying to challenge the old one. the comes to the reaction to the muscular woman as something to lusted over. This poses a problem. While its great that there are men who find different types of women attractive, there is the problem of sexual objectification.
The muscular woman or athlete then becomes fetish object under a new part of the “sex sells” ideology. This is questionable because it seems to be reliant on dated sexist convictions of the past. Some wonder if the “strong is the new skinny” motto is replacing one unrealistic beauty standard with another. This debate seems to have no definite answer. These are just a few reactions that the muscular female physique can generate.
Everyone has a different opinion and perspective on certain matters. This unique look may not be people’s ideal. People have the right to there opinion, but that does not give them a right to be rude, obnoxious, or vituperative. Women with a muscular physique face insults and ridicule from a closed minded public. It was worse in the past when women were just entering professional sports. Gradual progress has been made, with women themselves defining what is beautiful. Although not the majority some women actively pursue muscle and strength. Women are displaying more powerful physiques in athletic competition. Women are discovering the joys of lifting and a doing it as a recreational activity. The phenomenon seems to be spreading. There are also a growing number of male admirers who enjoy various types of women’s physiques. Strength once considered a masculine trait has now become neutral in gender description. Women no longer have to be weak to be considered feminine. Body image continues to be an issue for many women with the influence of media and advertisement. Yet, an alternative has emerged. It is unclear whether this a temporary fad or a genuine paradigm shift. Only as time progresses will the result of women’s new fascinating with strength be known. From what is observed now, it is no longer wrong to be strong.
These are some memes and motivational posters that I found, but did not produce myself. I felt that they were worthy of being spread further across the vast world of the internet.
I’d take my chances with her. She can bench press me any day.
We should praise the First Lady’s Get UP and Go program. American children need physical activity to maintain good health.
All of us have off days sometimes.
Russia has been accused of a state sponsored doping program. Now there are attempts to ban Russia from the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Anti-doping agencies are pressuring the IOC to take legal action against Russia in the matter. There are claims that there was a cover-up of positive tests of certain athletes who competed in the 2012 London Olympics. The question remains what evidence is there of a large state sponsored doping program? Is this really about performance enhancing drug use or political motivations?When examining the events this possible ban becomes all the more suspicious. If this complete ban goes through the IOC will have officially abandoned its policy of international inclusion. Other nations like the US or UK do not seen to value that promoting the ban of Russia in their newspapers and mass media. It is not fair nor is it wise to ban Russian athletes. Doing so, is unjust to athletes who did not use performance enhancing drugs. The World Anti-doping Agency has now brought the War on Drugs to sports and it could have devastating consequences. Sports organizations have the right to ban whatever substances they wish, but they must realize every drug cannot be detected. If this practice is to continue then eventually a vast number of nations could be banned. Suspending individual athletes from competition is fair within certain rules, bur collective punishment of a country shows a vindictive motivation.
This movement to ban Russia from the games began with the former director of Russia’s Anti-doping lab. His name is Girgory Rodchenkov who is now presented as a hero in the Western media. He claimed that the Russian government forced him to cover-up positive drug tests that were from athletes who competed in Sochi and the 2012 Olympics. Roddchenkov made the claim of an alleged state sponsored doping program to The New York Times in May. The World Anti-Doping Agency took his claims seriously, which prompted an investigation. It seems odd that all of a sudden he would reveal a program or claim it exists. This is only one person, but there are accusations from other individuals. Yulia Stepanova said she was provided performance enhancing drugs under a state sponsored program. Her husband Vitaly Stepanov corroborated her claim. The two filmed what appeared to be Russian athletes discussing doping with their coaches and gave it to a German broadcaster ARD. They told their story which became a television documentary in 2014.
Her husband was working at the Russian Anti-doping Agency. How can one be certain that all were using performance enhancing drugs? It could be possible that Yulia’s husband provided her with drugs, but not others. They could have known others using, but were not organizing as a collective unit. The fact that these whistle blowers did work in Anti-doping labs gives them credibility. There are still unresolved factors. Specifically which officials were involved in the day to day management of the program? This appears to be the actions of coaches and athletes obsessed with winning at all costs. Government officials either had some knowledge or none about the actual practice of performance enhancing drug use. This means it was not a secretive government policy. East Germany during the Cold War had a doping program dictated by government policy. Furtive it gave athletes performance enhancing drugs without their knowledge or consent. Rodenchenkov claims he switched urine samples before the Sochi Games in 2014. Although there are still questions in these series of events some have already made up their minds. Anti-doping agencies from more than ten nations are pushing for a ban on Russia participating in the Olympics. The Anti-doping agencies of the United States, Germany, and Canada have become the most vociferous. This development leads to another discussion of a motivation bigger than sports.
Russia and the West are witnessing a deterioration in relations. Particularly with the United States, Russia has found no common ground. Disagreements over Ukraine and Syria are creating conflict. This had projected itself in all areas of life. This Russian ban from the Olympics may be America’s way of seeking revenge against Russia for hindering foreign policy objectives. The United States wanted to see regime change in Syria by killing Bashar Al-Assad with rebel groups active in the country. Russia intervened on the behalf of the government fighting both ISIS and US supported rebels. The US encouraged the protests against President Viktor Yanukoych. The democratically elected government was deposed and Russia reacted by supporting rebels in the Eastern section of the country. This was then followed by a referendum by Crimea to join the Russian Federation. Washington was vexed at Moscow and then set about as presenting Russia as a danger. Part of this campaign is to present Russia and its people as malevolent. This Cold War like mindset and Russophobia has contaminated the sports world. Russians are now seen as “cheaters” or ” evil dopers.” It ignores the fact that athletes from other nations have used performance enhancing drugs. It is not a monopoly of one country, but if one only has Western mainstream media as their only source of information many would be convinced.
Russia Today provides its perspective on the ban on Russia. It provides some valid points.
This has not been the only time the West has attempted to stop Russia from being a participant in international competitions. There were attempts to stop Russia from hosting Sochi Olympic Games and the World Cup. This behavior is following a pattern. Isolating Russia will not solve anything in sports or politics.
The IOC is in the process of coming to a decision on whether or not to ban Russia officially. This raises the question of fairness, a concept that is preached, but never practiced. There is a change that individual athletes can still go to the games to compete. However, this case by case basis could take a long period of time considering there are 25 sports federations that non-users would have to go through. Time is already short and Russian athletes are eager to compete. This process should have been done months ago if it were actually trying to be fair. Then again, the Olympics has never been truly fair. It has a long history of sex and racial discrimination. Transsexual athletes are still marginalized and treated with suspicion. Sports have a long history of homophobia. A complete ban would be a regression. It would prove that the idea of Olympic inclusion is a myth and further divide sports organizations. Athletes who followed the guidelines in regards banned substances would be punished for no reason. Many athletes who trained hard are being denied the opportunity to compete over disputes not even related to doping itself. Yelena Isinbayeva champion pole vaulter athlete has harshly condemned the rulings of the IAAF. She has revealed that the organization is now under orders to prevent Russian participation in the games. Talent athletes who never used performance enhancing drugs like Isinbayeva now have to defend themselves in courts of athletic governing bodies. Athletes thought is they followed the rules perfectly nothing would ever happen to them. That belief has been proven false.
The biggest irony out of this was that Yulia Stepanova will be allowed to compete in Rio. She has confirmed her use and acted as an informant. The Doping Review Board of the IAAF has cleared her for competition. When her biological passport showed irregularities in 2013 she was banned. Then she moved to the US with her husband. Yulia will not be competing for Russia, but as an independent neutral athlete. The fact she has earned eligibility to compete demonstrates an egregious double standard. The message is if you are willing to collaborate with a particular agenda former incidents will be absolved. For others the rules will be applied differently, but it will not be the same for everyone. Yelena Isinbayeva has to fight to compete, even though she did nothing wrong. So far, there is no evidence that her biological passport was altered. This only proves that fairness is an illusion in sports.
A War on Drugs model is slowly being adopted and this could have dire consequences. It has been known that in the US the War on Drugs has fueled a prison industrial complex, which targets non-whites. It has made profits off of people’s incarceration. The sports world is now adopting this model and it will eventually cause more problems. The World Anti-Doping Agency may seek assistance from the UN to go further than just forcing sports organizations to ban athletes. They may try to give them prison time. The IOC and the IAAF may become compliant with this to improve its already negative image. Certain nations will be targeted simply because they are non-Western. There should be concrete proof of state sponsored drug programs, before it is taken seriously. Otherwise nations with vendettas against one another will attempt to get the other banned. India could try this with Pakistan or Israel with its Arab neighbors. The current system of suspending athletes who test positive works well enough. Suspending entire nations will lead to hostility. The crusade against “drug cheats” seems like a self righteous and almost egotistical campaign. It is true that performance enhancing drug use has been a part of sports through out history. According to mainstream media, one would assume that it is mostly athletes who consume these drugs. The reality is is non-athletes are taking mostly anabolic androgenic steroids. The casual non-athletic user may do it as a quick method of weight loss. Drug use may not be as extensive as previously thought. There is corruption just like other institutions. Condemning entire nations to a no competition prison reflects an extreme bias.
it is unfortunate that athletes who did not test positive have to go through an application process. Collective punishment has never been proven to be just. Russia should be allowed to compete in the Rio Games out of the principle of fairness. Fans want to see various nations compete, not a select few. The world is a vast and diverse place of different people. Exclusion will only harm possibilities of understanding and trust. Although many want to keep politics out of sports, its unavoidable. Some would like the Olympics to become a place were different nations can come together and enjoy great entertainment. The Olympics could be a platform of reducing international tension through sports activity. People who seek it to be a divisive tool or a way to exclude certain countries are doing a disservice. There are already wars and economic disputes further eroding an international community. The Olympics should not be a part of that. Banning Russia is not a rational answer to performance enhancing drug use. Updated drug testing and more competent sample analysis can help. Most importantly there needs to be a shift away from the win at all cost culture that has emerged in sports. This value drives athletes to drug use. Russia must not be banned for the sake of IOC credibility. A final decision will be made on Sunday July 24 on what legal action to take. The only hope is that Russia will be given clearance to send its athletes to Rio.
Sports can be defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” The definition can also have a connotation of simply being a game or contest that has winners and losers. Poker, electronic gaming, and other activities are occasionally included in the sports classification. At its core it is a leisure activity. Today it has become a major big business and global entertainment phenomenon. Fans obsess over statistics, their favorite athletes, and game presentations. This rise in popularity can be attributed to the development of popular media such as radio, TV, film, and the internet. Throughout history various civilizations had some form of sporting activity. Modern professional sport was not always inclusive having issues of racism, homophobia, and sexism. These social ills were only challenged in the later half of the 20th century and still remain persistent problems. Even though these continue to be obstacles, athletes of various backgrounds compete in national and international competitions. There still remains a mystery between this cross section of sociology, entertainment, and biological sciences. What function does sport serve? It can be theorized by certain observations. Sports does on a personal level functions as a form of escapism. Most forms of entertainment serve that role for a public that sees the world as a dangerous and dismal place. Another purpose is that it has a political function. Sports as much as fans hate to admit serve a political agenda. It could be national unity, encouraging patriotism, or advancing a social justice cause . A more sinister purpose of sport is that it is an outlet for humanity’s aggressive tendencies. War is the highest form of violence conducted by people. Human beings are still animals, even though more intelligent and still are controlled by more primitive behaviors. Sports provide place to express violence without having severe consequences. It could be possible without it, society would become more violent. These observations of sport describe its multifaceted nature and characteristics.
Although it seems like simple entertainment sports do have a political dynamic. They encourage unity through a national pastime. Baseball for example represented America’s desire for unity after the Civil War. Culture can be a unifying force for a state and sports are an enormous part of culture. The Super Bowl is a major part of Americans TV viewing rituals. It provides a space in which people of various backgrounds can have common ground on. Naturally, there is divisiveness in society. Having a common activity cements a bond between citizens. This also can create the illusion of a harmonious and peaceful society. This myth was challenged when sports began to include more non-whites and women. Racism, sexism, and homophobia have been a part of professional sports since its birth. Sports when they became desegregated and former colonies became independent became a vehicle for social justice. Newly independent nations in Africa and Asia were sending athletes to the Olympics for the first time in the 1960s. African American athletes in the United Sates challenged segregation and white supremacy. Wilma Rudolph, Jackie Robinson, Althea Gibson, and Muhammad Ali were active in their communities for the cause of racial equality.
For new nations of Africa and Asia it instilled a sense of anti-colonial nationalism. It gave former colonized peoples a new sense of self and achievement. Currently, nations from all over the world send teams to compete in the Olympics. The most radical change besides the expanding ethnic diversity, was that women’s sports participation increased dramatically. This rise of women in sport has been ignored in academia until recently. Women’s inclusion into sport represented their growing power in society. Second wave feminism was largely responsible for breaking particular barriers. Yet, women faced other forms of discrimination like sex verification tests, unequal pay, and limited access to certain training facilities. Non-white athletes either got limited media exposure and still faced the same racist prejudice. However, it was impossible to completely ban non-whites and women from sport completely. Although sports was used as a vehicle for social justice it has been used for reactionary purposes. The 1936 Olympics was used as a presentation of of German racial superiority and the greatness of fascism. Nazi Germany used the games to spread its racist propaganda and to make Germany appear to be the best nation in the world. Jesse Owens through his athletic performance discredited Nazi propaganda. Owens’ success enraged Hitler hoping to capitalize on the victory of German athletes. There is no doubt that sports continue to play a role in politics. There is a reason that the national anthem of the US is played at football and baseball games. It is designed to encourage patriotism in a subtle manner. This could have negative or positive consequences. There is nothing wrong with loving your nation, but hate against others is unethical. Other problems emerge in this practice.
Recently there has been controversy over the practice of paid patriotism. The Pentagon has paid and established contracts to sports teams to have patriotic displays at sports events. The estimated 6.8 million dollars has been used to promote the US military and encourage enlistment at sporting events. Numerous sports organizations had contracts with the Pentagon including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. Tax payers had to pay more for this and critics were concerned that it was promoting war. With military interventions increasing this is a major concern. The fear is that the public is being brain washed at sporting events to support aggressive wars that violate international law. These events are presented to “honor troops.” When this practice was investigated by congress it turns out tax dollars were being used to profit both the Department of Defense and popular sports franchises. Sports are more than just entertainment, they are platforms for political objectives.
The more recognizable purpose of sport is entertainment and escapism. These two things are essential for psychological well being. The world can be a cruel and unforgiving place. War, poverty, and a general state of hardship can be seen through out the world. Sometimes people just want to get way from constant bad news and sports provide almost a therapeutic comfort. Entertainment has the power to briefly have an individual free from life’s troubles. Watching sports also can be a bonding experience among friends and family. People gather together to either watch soccer, basketball, football, or other sporting events. This ritual among people can be traced back further. Before television, books, or other forms of media there was story telling. This tradition can be seen in multiple areas across the globe. It can be seen that people would gather to hear the story teller speak. Humanity’s need for entertainment goes before the rise of civilization and permanent settlement. The cave paintings done by cro-magnons not only tell stories, but could be considered an early form of entertainment. Sports is clearly an outgrowth of this long tradition.
Being amused is a way to fight ennui. Sports combine amazing athletic feats with interesting personalities. There is trash talking, show boating, and rivalry between competitors that keep viewers captivated. Sports that are not mainstream even have devoted cult followings. Bodybuilding has attempted to go mainstream, but will always be in a sense be a subculture. Still it has its devoted fans who come to competitions and know the specific stats of their favorite athletes. Occasionally some sports that are not mainstream are broadcast to a larger viewing audience. ESPN used to broadcast more strength sports, but it mostly focuses on football, baseball, tennis, and soccer.
Entertainment provides a psychological relief from the stresses of life. Human beings seek stimulation such as this because they are social animals. This ritual of entertainment has been present longer than some realize.
There is a more dark side of why sports are played. It may be an outlet for aggressive tendencies, that left unchecked could spiral out of control. The capacity for violence from human beings can be seen in war, crime, and murder. Sports do require a level of aggression to be played. Anyone watching a UFC fight or an American football game realizes this. Team sports do in a way function like simulated war. Strategies are made and executed in an organized manner. All team members must function as a cooperative unit. A level of trust is built forming comradery among players on a team. The army does this with recruits who join. They are regimented, taught to function as one unit, and learn to carry out broad objectives. Another dynamic is at play with this. Sports could also contribute to promoting a bellicose mentality and warfare itself. Besides just fighting a warrior mentality must instilled in subjects.Sparta did this during ancient Greek civilization encouraging a warrior society. Both men and women were expected to engage in exercise and sport. This instilled in the society the warrior’s spirit. Fight till the death, be loyal to your state, and work efficiently as a combat force. Modern day society does not like war, but its till happens. Humanity cannot admit that it still has aggressive impulses and that violent occurrences are anomalies. It is unfortunate that violence is part of animal nature. All through the animal kingdom organisms fight for mates and territory. Human beings do the same only with in a complex system of power structures and international politics.
Controlling human violence requires a criminal justice system, a political structure, and a civil society. Sometimes these either fail or are too weak to control instinctual impulses. Sports may be a way to control violent impulses of the public. Professional sports simulate the Roman gladiator games, only without the possibility of death. The environment is controlled and sports organizations ( not always ) try to protect the health of their athletes. Having people participate or view sports may direct some of the public’s desire for violence away from society. Yet, wars still happen and crime is still prevalent. Sometimes sports can be a catalyst for violence. Football hooliganism has become a major problem in Europe. Right wing extremists, street brawlers, and overzealous fans assault people at soccer matches. This case sports becomes another violent terrain. It has become a delicate balancing act. There are positive effects of a shared activity among the public. For sports it can also lead to possible division if not managed properly. Europe’s failure to challenge and address the growing disorder from football hooliganism will cause discord. Also a situation similar in the US is the widespread domestic abuse by football players and the NFL’s refusal to address it. Critics say that it is the aggressive nature of the game, which players bring home causing the domestic disturbance. It is a hyper-masculine atmosphere the denigrates anything female, which may explain some of these antisocial behaviors. Although domestic violence existed before football, some wonder if this just exacerbates it. There is an ugly side of sport that is not recognized . Recently, scholars and historians of sport are examining this link between sports and violence.
The definition of sport has expanded to include activities that are not specifically physical in nature. Electronic gaming, race car driving, and poker are now considered sports. They may not be as mainstream ( race car driving has gradually become more mainstream), but they have an increasing fan base. It is not strange to see ESPN broadcast a poker tournament. A sport does not always have to involve intense physical activity. Hunting for many in certain parts of the world is considered sport. This does not involve the throwing of balls or complex body movement, but a gun and the ability to track wildlife. Fishing has also been broadcast on ESPN as well. Sports can now be simply considered a game that consists of contests in which there will be winners or losers. As technology advances and interactive entertainment flourishes video games have become an important industry. Video game enthusiasts began playing popular franchises together . Later they decided to hold competitions for prizes that could be won for high scores. Video gaming competitions have players compete in fighting games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, or other fighting game franchises. There is a level of skill learning long combos and executing them fast enough to win matches. The reason some underground sports do not get exposure is because they do not have an official organization. These organizations set guidelines, policies, and rules for particular sports. Underground sports do not receive the any if at all TV broadcast. Mixed Martial Arts seems to be an exception. The sport was not as popular in the 1990s. The 2000s brought new opportunities for MMA. When it was shown on the Spkie TV network in the US, the public started taking interest. It was something new and unknown. This model may not work with all underground sports. Demographics, marketing, and media play a role in the level of success. The definition of sport is not monolithic; it can have multiple elements.
The other aspect of sport is the role of biological sciences. Skill, technique, and general athletic performance are studied through the context of exercise physiology, sports psychology, and anatomy. There are questions that are asked, that still have no answers. Has human physical capability reached its maximum? Is athletic ability determined mostly by genetics or training ? Can women in the distant future match men’s levels of athletic performance? These questions are still vigorously debated. Training techniques are rapidly being altered to see just how far athletes can push their performance. There is also controversy in regards to the use of performance enhancing drugs. They have been a part of sports since its development, but modern day society has become solicitous about them . Arguments range from the concept of fairness, health, and issue surrounding transhumanism. The last argument seems to be the most cogent. Should humanity enhance itself by pharmaceutical, chemical , or genetic means?This is raises a huge bioethical question. Humanity has a way of altering nature and abusing new found knowledge. When humanity understood nuclear physics, this lead to the creation of atomic weaponry. When humanity invented guns warfare could be conducted more efficiently. Science has produce many great milestones, but with that achievement comes less than positive repercussions. With every new medicine created there is a potential for abuse. These questions are becoming more interesting considering scholarship is putting focus on these topics. There is still much to be learned about the human body and even more in regards to how it effects athletic performance.
Sports are multifaceted. Today professional sports are a billion dollar industry. The Olympics has competitors from all over the globe and sports have large air slots on television. Professional athletes are not the only ones playing sports. Children and the elderly are participating. Youth are playing football, soccer, baseball, and other sports in either in school or through youth league organizations.
Boys and girls want to either emulate or have aspirations to be like their favorite athletes. The United States has seen a growth in youth sports from the 1950s onward. There are positive benefits for children. They learn how to collaborate with others, it keeps them out of trouble, and keeps them physically active. However, there are issues. Aggressive parents ( soccer moms or football dads ), the student athlete challenge, and injury are causes of concern. Parents need to remember that this should be enjoyable for the children and not push them too hard. These are children not professionals. The student athlete issue creates a problem. Young people should remember that academics are just as important as your athletic pursuits. This is especially critical for students entering universities. The goal is to leave with degrees first and for most. Children seeing as they are still growing and developing injuries carry an extra risk. Coaches, parents, and physical educators should be aware of potential harm. The elderly are taking part in sport and physical between each other as well. Seniors either are taking part in swimming, walking, and even bodybuilding. Ernestine Shepard who still active in fitness made a Guinness World Record as being the oldest female bodybuilder. She at the age of 78 shows no sign of slowing down.
The reason seniors continue to be physically active is for the sake of their health. When people age there are changes in both the nervous and circulatory system. This can lead to diseases that are neurodegenerative or cardiac illness. Maintaining good health is critical to the quality of life. Medical professionals thought at one time it was a good idea that seniors slow down in old age. This has been challenged and now it is recommended that seniors engage in some form of moderate exercise. Sports activities among seniors help fight loneliness or depression. These feelings become common in old age, when psychologically an individual goes through introspection about their life. It seems that sports and physical activities are having more of an impact on the public’s lives than previously thought. What started off as simple recreation in ancient times became a professional industry. Still professional sports is relatively new. It really is the creation of the 19th and 20th century. The influence on culture can be seen in film, news media, radio, and television. The digital age has pushed sports exposure further, giving fans greater exposure and access to information. Stats and results become readily available. Fans can communicate to each other at their own convenience. Sports are constantly evolving and it is uncertain what it will be like in the future. There is a possibility new sports or games will emerge either dethroning the popularity of current ones.