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Women and men in sports: Separate is not equal

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To be sure, this effort runs counter to centuries of prejudice. Credit Aristotle for locating female inferiority precisely in the body part men lack: the uterus.

The Victorians perfected this argument, as a cadre of 19th-century physicians and craniologists laid down the "science" explaining the female's natural weakness. Of course, it was rooted in the reproductive role and occasioned all manner of "protections," restrictions, and rest.

Ads for Nike and Gatorade may feature well-muscled, sweat-drenched women athletes pushing personal boundaries, but institutional boundaries remain rigid.


•Men's pro tennis players play five sets. Women play three (a holdover from 1902, when the US Lawn Tennis Association cut women's play, fearing over-exertion).

•A 12-year-old girl who enters a local tournament sanctioned by US Kids Golf plays just nine holes; a boy her age in the same tournament plays 18 – regardless of their relative skill or experience.

•Co-ed adult sports leagues are rife with special "gender rules" to accommodate the supposedly weaker female sex. In some basketball leagues, women get two points for every basket; the men get just one. In touch football, a female touchdown is worth seven points; a male TD earns six. A 24-year-old who plays on a co-ed softball team recently shared with us her annoyance at rules (no more than two men bat in a row, men hit larger balls, etc…) which presume that any male player is better than every female player. Her beef? She played Division I college softball.

Of course, there are physical differences between men as a group and women as a group. That would support different rules for super-physical sports such as boxing and tackle football. But how does that account for the disparities in billiards and bridge?! Indeed, given that females are physiologically suited for ultra-endurance events, why are women's Olympic events slightly shorter than men's?

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