Ah, sports. To the humble archer it is a reconnection of lost tradition, now obscured by an alty dystopian teen. To the overbearing rugby player, it is a life and legacy. To the uneducated, they may reminisce on the wise words of Archie Andrews, “you haven’t known the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of high school football.” The truth is, I don’t have many opinions on sports. My Volleyball days are long gone. At most I still teach dance (which most definitely is a sport) but no one wants to read about contemporary. What I see most in something I don’t quite understand is how intertwined sports and the patriarchy are. The patriarchy, something so intangible and powerful, is damaging male, female and non-binary athletes.
The patriarchy is much like a spectre. It hovers over communities, into tight-knit groups and pursues pressure. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘man up’ which discourages men from showing emotion. I should add that to be a man does not mean being void of expression. It does not mean to take up a ‘manly’ field of work. It does not even mean dressing masculine. These social constructs feed the patriarchal narrative. On the other hand, I see it affects females everyday. I’ve been told I would only be good as a housewife, a child bearer and nothing more. It clouds my voice and capabilities. The intergenerational power of the patriarchy is astronomical. Throw sports into the mix and you have something much trickier.
I’ve seen women in sports change their identities because of the patriarchy. As a young girl I took up ballet. I grew to love the feeling of leaping to the sound of classical music. When I reached intermediate it slightly changed – hips and shoulders widened, thighs grew and the once delicate leotards felt uncomfortable. The girls around me changed too. The pressure of attaining a small, ‘feminine’ figure is ingrained into the dancing community. While it didn’t affect my self-esteem, it has affected others. I can’t speak on the pressures of male body image. Mainly because I haven’t had a conversation with my male friends about it – something which speaks volumes about vulnerability. Regardless, I imagine it is just as damaging no matter your size and height.
As the Tokyo Olympics commence, I see athletes who have given everything. It translates to their athletic builds, now broadcasted for everyone to see. It’s difficult to discern how much insecurity lies behind their hard work. One thing I am certain is the role the patriarchy has played at some point in their athletic careers. As we capitalise off the sporting industry, we must be aware of the effects they cause; even if you’re like me and could care less about who won the European Football Finals