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Fair or Unfair to critically compare male and female versions of the same sport?

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  1. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Fair or Unfair Comparison?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Shattered Shields, Oct 25, 2015.

    Something that always irritates me when it comes to sports is when people compare, for example, men and women's soccer/football, and then promptly diss and dismiss the female version of the sport (often in an insulting fashion).

    It irritates me, because you cannot make that comparison fairly. Men and women are different, that's obvious enough, and that means that they play a sport on different levels. Neither level is superior or inferior, they're just different.

    But that's just my five cents, what do the denizens of the forum think. Do you guys think that it is reasonable to compare the sexes in this fashion?

    And guys, keep it civil, please. Don't make me regret making this.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think when you use the word "level", you're suggesting a hierarchy. And I think it's an appropriate word choice. There are some great female athletes out there, but by and large, the best male athletes are better than the best female athletes at almost all sports. If the men's Olympic champion hockey team played the women's olympic champions, the men's team would kick ass. (Canada has a great women's hockey team, and when they're warming up for international competition, they play AAA midget boys teams. Best female hockey players in the world, playing against a bunch of 16 year olds, and they're usually fairly evenly matched).

    There are exceptions, I'd say. Gymnastics seems like a case where the male and female versions are legitimately different, with neither being at a higher skill level than the other. The men's events tend to focus more on strength, the women's more on flexibility - everyone's playing to their strong suits. There are women who compete against men at equestrian events, and I think maybe sailing?

    Most of our major sports are based on exceptional achievement from male bodies. They reward strength and speed, and men are genetically more likely to be strong and fast. If we redesigned sports, we could probably find some where women would have a similar advantage, but with the sports we have now? Women are generally at a lower level. And it's hard to say that lower levels aren't inferior.
     
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  3. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I agree that the women's leagues shouldn't be dismissed flippantly. It's expected that due to men's generally stronger physique that it will attract more attention in sport, but some aspects of sport do not rely on brute force -- and yes, unfortunately, this is discounted in popular thought, at least among some.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wandered off and Googled the subject, and found that apparently men and women compete equally in equestrian events, and there was some discussion as to whether it makes any sense to separate archery--only the very longest distances, where sheer strength is a big deal, were seen as logically separated.. I'd guess that there are other sports where skill, accuracy, etc, are paramount, and strength and size are not.

    I think that "inferior" would depend on the sport. I'd say that every sport has strength/size elements, and accuracy/speed/skill elements. Women could be equal to, or superior to, men in the accuracy/speed/skill elements, and still be unable to play against men because the strength/size elements make that impractical. And in that scenario, I don't think that I'd call the women's level "inferior."
     
  5. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    The differences in my view are that women's sports seem to be played more technically, while men's sports the players seem to rely more on their talent.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused. I would have thought that 'technically' would be about talent.

    Edited to add: Yikes! I only clicked once and it posted three times!
     
  7. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    What's the point of gendered curling? Do men even sweep faster? No, I'm not being facetious.
     
  8. Lewdog
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    No take for example basketball. If you watch a women's league they pass the ball more and they do the fundamental techniques better than if you watch a men's league where they are more worried about how high they can jump or how fast they can run up and down the court.
     
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  9. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Well, for one, when women play soccer, they keep going with blood streaming down their faces and teeth somewhere in the grass. When men play soccer, they take every opportunity to fall down and scream bloody murder for no reason.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah--see, I would use the word "talent" for the women's side of that comparison, not the men's. It sounds like you're using it for innate large-muscle physical abilities and their development, while I would use it for innate mental and small-muscle abilities and their development. Sounds like we just need different words.
     
  11. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Well, that was rather demeaning, or maybe just harsh. I certainly didn't suggest a hierarchy, cause there isn't one (and I don't understand exactly what you mean by hierarchy). Hockey plays to the strengths of men, speed and strength.

    I've known female gymnasts in High School. And they weren't renowned for their flexibility. They were ripped, stronger than me. I'm not saying every female gymnast is the Hulk, just not that every one relies on flexibility.

    For your third paragraph, I agree completely. The reason women's sports aren't as fast is because those sports were built for men, back in the days when women playing sports was like finding a horse than could play the violin. It just didn't happen.

    My point is, since the sports themselves are biased in the respect that many were never meant to allow women to play them, you cannot compare the two gender versions of them fairly.

    EDIT: Women dominate in Ultrarunning. That's one.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'd accept "harsh" as in "harsh reality". You didn't use the word hierarchy, but it's hard to use the word "level" without some reference to the idea. The whole idea of levels suggests that some levels are higher than others. If they're not higher or lower, they're really not levels.

    I don't know about the gymnasts you knew, but top level gymnasts are absolutely flexible. It's important to the sport, regardless of how they were renowned at your high school. And I absolutely believe that the female gymnasts were stronger than you - I just don't accept that they're stronger than male gymnasts.

    I've heard the same thing you have about ultrarunning. But it's strange that you'll accept the language of "dominate" in a field where women are performing better than men, and won't accept the same language in a field where women are performing worse. If you can say that women dominate that sport, why is it demeaning for me to point out that men dominate hockey and soccer and football?
     
  13. Bookster
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    I'm with @BrianIff on curling. Seems like the women should be able to play that sport as well as the men. Depending on the course, women should be able to be competitive in golf, though the few times when women have played in a PGA men's tournament, they didn't do well. Another sport which doesn't necessarily depend on superior upper-body strength (which is what we're really talking about here) is auto racing. I've always thought that auto racing was like professional acting - participation depends more on access than talent. Once parents support their daughters' racing aspirations as they do their sons', we'll see championship-level female racers.
     
  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, is there such a thing as a superior weight class in boxing?
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think golf has a strength component, doesn't it? (I don't play, I'm just thinking that it would be easier to accurately hit a ball a long distance if all you have to worry about is the accuracy, rather than the accuracy AND the distance).

    And men tend to have more fast-twitch muscle fibers, which aren't as good for endurance but are, well, fast. So something like auto racing, where I imagine fast responses would be an asset, could be easier for men than women.

    All of these answers, of course, a referring to the absolute best of men vs the absolute best of women. I have no doubt there are women out there who could kick the asses of 99% of men at just about any sport. It's just kicking the asses of that final 1% where things get tricky.
     
  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose women's sports are still in the process of breaking through, but year by year, they're gaining visibility and credibility. Just look at what Rhonda Rousey has done to women's MMA. The skill levels in men's sports are often higher because there are more practicioners -> more competition, and higher the skill level, more enjoyable it might be to watch it. Then again, when it gets really highly technical, it can also get boring to the viewer.

    I think some sports are equally interesting regardless the athletes' gender. E.g. I like men's and women's swimming, tennis, gymnastics, MMA, boxing, and thai-boxing. Sometimes it's not even the skill level that matters. Some people (or men :D) prefer women's beach volley over men's -- no shame in that. Similarly, some women prefer men's rugby...

    This is true. Women do tend to gravitate to dressage more often than men while men often outnumber women in show-jumping, although it seems women are catching up. I've also seen more women jockeys these days. I'm not sure why horse racing has always been so male dominated 'cause the lighter the jockey the better, so females would probably be even better suited for the job, but I guess tradition slowed down gender representation there. I believe in competitive shooting (in practical shooting at least), women and men compete together as well, although women's and men's series are held too if there are enough participants.
     
  17. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Harsh reality indeed, yes. I shouldn't have used the word level then, but I can't think of a better word to use.

    I've no doubt that gymnasts are very flexible. I've no doubt that they're stronger than me still. I ran Cross-Country in high school, and we didn't lift much. But when did I say that the average female gymnast is stronger than their male counterparts?

    It may have just been me, but your first paragraph sounded like it was doing it's best to insult women's hockey by dismissing it entirely out of hand since they don't have the strengths that men do. That is demeaning, and unfair as hell to boot. Hockey seems like it was practically invented for men to play, since it suits them.

    Ultrarunning, on the other hand, is very different. Men and women often run together, because the only common factor that sport tests is your legs and your endurance. In that respect, women seem to excel. I don't know why, but that's just how it happens.

    You assumed much. Never did I reject the prospect that men dominate in hockey.
     
  18. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    You do know @BayView is female, right?
     
  19. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's interesting. Like they've made most world records? Or they win/make it to top 20 in most competitions held worldwide?
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmmm... maybe neither?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultramarathon

    I didn't search exhaustively, but it doesn't look like a single one of those categories had a woman doing better than a man...
     
  21. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    How is that relevant?

    No, more women finish (especially in Leadville) than men do. That's an example of excellence to me.

    Because those categories are all based on speed, not endurance, as far as I can see.
     
  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    So are there races where people just run until they drop? Can you link? (I'm intrigued...)
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm having trouble finding evidence of women "dominating" ultramarathons... the best I'm finding suggests that they compete on a more or less level playing field?

    Lots of hype, though. Like the article http://www.runnersworld.com/trail-running-training/why-women-rule-ultrarunning with the heading "Why women rule ultrarunning" goes on to outline several races where a woman placed well, but was beaten by a man, and one race where a woman beat everyone. Certainly interesting, but I'm not sure I'd say women rule.

    There's data at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945434/, suggesting that women aren't going to dominate even the longest distance races (like 1K km).

    There's support for the more-women-finish idea at http://www.clubedrunning.com/2011/01/are-women-tougher-ultramarathon-runners.html#.VjKvWberSM8, but it's a really small sample size (one small race).

    Overall? I don't think women need to make up accomplishments or abilities for ourselves. It feels a bit patronizing to be lied to about women's athletic achievements. On average, men are stronger and faster than women. I'm okay with that. Modern society is not built on people being strong and fast, it's built on people being smart. If someone says women aren't as smart as men, they'd better have some damn good data to back it up. But if someone says women aren't as fast or as strong? Okay, fine. That's not a problem for me.
     
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  24. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Unless I missed something, no one's mentioned how societal power has influenced things. Engineering might make enough sense for a meritocratic admission (females partaking in math and science in greater numbers than the past). But something like F1 seems, although not impenetrable, so male-dominated that it's still incredible how far Danica Patrick has made it. Realistically, how many parents are going to encourage -- or support the dreams of -- a female race-car driver?
     
  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does there need to be a broad base in order to have a pinnacle of achievement? (Honest question, not rhetorical). Like, does it MATTER that most parents wouldn't support their daughter's F1 ambitions, as long as SOME parents support it?

    I guess it does, because it provides a larger group of people from whom the elite can be drawn. Like, maybe there are other women out there with Danica Patrick's raw ability, or some who are better than her, but they weren't nurtured into the sport. That makes sense.

    But when I look at other sports? Women have been playing hockey and soccer and basketball and volleyball for generations, at least where I live, and a lot of the girls are encouraged more than the boys, especially in volleyball. I used to coach girls' volleyball at the high school level, and we had a lot of girls on our team who played "club" volleyball outside of the school, and were really competitive in the sport. The boys team was made up mostly of boys who couldn't make the basketball team and wanted an excuse to get out of class. And the boys team could still outplay the girls.

    I agree with someone's comment above about technical skills - our girls' team passed better, had better strategy, etc. But the boys out jumped them and out hit them. Training on the girls' part, raw power on the boys' part, and the boys' won when we played them. Were they better volleyball players? Well... they won. So based on how the game is usually judged, I guess they were better players.
     
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  26. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    We can agree on that, for sure. For those that have a love of the sport itself, insofar as that means strategy, technique, etc., they should at least be watching women's leagues on an equal footing.
     
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