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Women and men in sports: Separate is not equal

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The answer to all these questions, in some form, is that sport is not merely about the game. It is, rather, about the identities of those who play and watch the game. It's about what gets established and reinforced every time sex-segregated formulas cast males as categorically superior to females.

Sports matter – and probably far more than they should. Many more people tune into the Super Bowl than the president's State of the Union address.

When we invest in sports as fans, parents, and recreational players, whether we know it or not, we become complicit in a deeply gendered institution in which male superiority and female inferiority are played out as clearly as HDTV.

Ironically, though, we've come to accept this differential treatment of males and females as "normal." It appears to be all right to charge $4 to see the Rutgers women's soccer team play and $7 to see the men's team play, for example.

Likewise, it seems that no one complained (or hardly noticed) when a Massachusetts youth soccer league put a warning in a bold-framed box at the top of the online registration page for Spring 2008. Local officials were no doubt trying to be helpful – but also reflecting a norm played out in communities across the country. It read, "Note: If you are attempting to register a daughter, please be aware that Newton Youth Soccer is co-ed, but primarily boys."

Replace gender descriptors with words reflecting race or religion, and the problem becomes appalling. Be aware that Jews are welcome, but the league is mostly gentiles? Be aware that blacks are allowed, but the program is primarily white? No way.

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