In July of 2023, an advertisement was published in France. The video consisted of highlights from the French Men’s Football team. Halfway through the two-minute long video, viewers were shocked when it was revealed that the beginning of the video was a deepfake. As the editing was reversed, it became apparent that the whole advertisement had in fact been the French Women’s Football team. While women’s sports are often criticized for being boring or slow, editing them to look like men intrigued viewers. This raises the question: If women athletes can capture attention and perform just as well as their male counterparts, why is the support of women’s sports so low?
As mentioned in a recent Popsugar article, the 2022 Men’s World Cup attracted more than 1.5 billion views worldwide, while the 2019 Women’s World Cup garnered approximately 260 million viewers.
The vast gap between the amount of viewers shows how little popularity the Women’s World Cup possesses compared to the men’s. This big difference can make us wonder why the support is so low for the women’s team, when they are just as capable as men. The reasons why women athletes are not supported might help us understand the challenges women face in sports.
To obtain a personal perspective on this issue, I asked Maya McKay, a sophomore field hockey player at North Penn High School, whether she felt the boy’s teams were more supported than her team or other girls teams.
In girls sports there’s more pressure to do well because there’s more people saying that you can’t do it. I feel like you have to be tougher [than the boys do] because you’re seen as weaker as a girl, so you have to be more aggressive just to get to the same level as they are
— Maya McKay, NPHS Sophomore
“Yes and no; the girls teams were celebrated and congratulated almost as equally as the guys teams were,” McKay said. “In girls sports there’s more pressure to do well because there’s more people saying that you can’t do it. I feel like you have to be tougher [than the boys do] because you’re seen as weaker as a girl, so you have to be more aggressive just to get to the same level as they are.”
The challenges women face in sports go beyond the lack of support or attention. Some people still cling to the belief that women athletes are weak or less skilled than men. This adds another layer to the struggle for women’s sports to be taken just as seriously as men’s.
According to a study done by YouGov in 2019, one in eight men (12%) think that if they were given the opportunity, they could win a point against Serena Williams. This shows that even a tennis icon with 23 Grand Slam titles can be underestimated and perceived as vulnerable when it comes to competing against men.
Another argument against women’s sports expresses an idea of men being inherently more skillful at their sport than women. While this may be true in some cases, it’s important to understand the historical context of why.
Based on an ESPN article of “Famous female firsts in sports history,” the first woman to appear in a National Sports League, was Babe Zaharias in 1938. According to a different article, from Oxford Research Encyclopedia, “The first major professional team sport emerged in baseball, a popular amateur sport that had developed in the 1830s and 1840s”.
This indicates that men have had decades of experience in their chosen sport before women were even considered to play in their own professional leagues. So the notion of men being intrinsically better at their sport comes from them having more time to practice and get better.
A way to give women’s sport’s more support is introducing it to girls at an earlier age. Early in the 2023 season, the NFL partnered with Nickelodeon to create “Toy Story Funday Football.” This was a program that animated the players of each team as Toy Story characters. Creating a broadcast like this that was targeted for children, helps the NFL to gather a large audience from the new generation. A special similar to this using women’s sports could help expose young girls to watch more games and to better understand them.
North Penn High School does a good job of equality when it comes to the amount of girls and boys sports. Recently, North Penn created a girls flag football team to be more inclusive with girls who want to play football. A girls wrestling team was also added to the numerous sports teams of North Penn.
In a North Penn Knight Crier article, Ella Maxwell, the girls wrestling team founder, described how she felt only being able to play against boys before there was a girls team created. She said that she wanted to show young girls that wrestling isn’t only a male sport, and that it can allow young girls to become stronger.
At the end of the day, when you look at, whether it’s just school in general, or athletics or extracurriculars, it’s all about providing opportunities for our student
— Mr. Kyle Berger, NPHS Interim Athletic Director
“Over 100 schools now, I think it’s even closer to 200 schools, have a girls wrestling team,” Mr. Berger, the athletic director of North Penn High School, stated. “It shows you that the need and the desire to have women’s sports teams added to schools is there. At the end of the day, when you look at, whether it’s just school in general, or athletics or extracurriculars, it’s all about providing opportunities for our students.”
From the difference in viewership to the stereotypes and pressures faced by women athletes everyday, it’s clear that gender inequality in sports is an ongoing issue. While some steps such as creating new opportunities for young girls to pursue sports, there is still more to do for this problem to be ended. Recognizing these issues and addressing them is essential in creating an equal playing field for athletes.