Women’s Sports. Encyclopedia of World Sport

This article contains two entries. The first, by Gertrud
Pfister, discusses the development of women’s sports in
Europe; the second, by Joan Hult, concentrates on
women’s sports in North America. These are the regions of the world in which women’s sports developed
most quickly and thus influenced women’s participation in sports elsewhere in the world. Women’s participation in sport is also discussed throughout the encyclopedia in articles on individual sports as well as in
general articles.
Since most societies have been and still are dominated
by men, men have tended to take the leading role in
body and movement culture. Nonetheless, women have
usually been able to develop and practice their own
specifically female culture alongside the men’s, and
some women have always successfully demanded the
opportunity to participate in men’s sports. Questions
remain, however. Have today’s women, at least those in
the industrialized world, really overcome the obstacles
that once kept them from sports participation? Do
sports now answer the social and cultural needs of
girls’ and women’s lives?
Pre-Industrial Society
The body and movement cultures of pre-industrial societies were associated with religion and magic, economic processes, and warfare, a paucity of rules, a low
level of administrative organization, and an absence of
abstract records. Women participated in many if not
most pre-industrial physical activities, but their participation varied according to the division of labor be-tween the sexes as well as with norms, values, conceptions, and relations of power.
In ancient Greece, gymnastic exercises and sports
contests evolved from the structures, values, and ideals
of a bellicose culture of aristocratic men. Women,
whose roles were generally restricted to those of wives
and mothers, were neither politically nor legally equal
to men. They were prevented from exercising in public
gymnasia and from witnessing—much less participating in—the Olympic Games that took place quadrennially in honor of Zeus.
At Olympia girls did run races in honor of Hera, the
consort of Zeus, but this event, known as the Heraia,
was a local fertility rite that lacked the prestige of the
great panhellenic sports festivals. In Sparta’s militaristic society, girls underwent systematic physical training designed to make them into healthy mothers of future warriors. Some form of physical education for girls
may have taken place outside of Sparta, but gymnastics
and sports contests were basically a theater for the
demonstration of masculine physical prowess and
Little evidence points to Roman women’s participation in sports. Respectable Roman women apparently
avoided sports except as spectators at chariot races and
gladiatorial games.
In the Middle Ages, European sports often occurred
in close conjunction with religious festivals, but the regional differences and class divisions prevented the
emergence of a single, universally accepted system of
physical activities.
The predominance of male power notwithstanding,
some women achieved privileged status at court or in a
nunnery. Some of them rode horseback and enjoyed the sport of falconry; some played simple ball games.
Aristocratic women also played an ancillary role at the
medieval tournaments that were an important aspect
of the life of a medieval knight. Tournaments not only
hardened the warrior’s body and prepared it for battle;
they were also vivid symbolic demonstrations of social
order. Women’s presence was important to admire and
encourage the combatants and to acknowledge men’s
right to rule.
In medieval towns, the most popular sports—
archery, wrestling, fencing—were also related to warfare, a relationship that generally excluded women
from the archery guilds that were a prominent part of
urban life. Middle-class women were occasionally allowed to compete among themselves in an archery
contest, especially in Flanders and in Holland. Archery
matches throughout Europe were also important social
events that would have been painfully incomplete without admiring female spectators.
Among the peasantry, women were so essential in
the struggle for mere survival that it seemed only natural for them to share in many of the sports of their fathers, husbands, and sons. They appear in medieval art
not only as dancers but also as participants in the widely
popular (and wildly chaotic) game of folk football. In
England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, girls
and women ran races for smocks and similar prizes.
However, our picture of preindustrial body and
movement culture is incomplete. If women appear far
less frequently than men, one reason is that men have
written the histories and interpreted the documents
(which, in turn, were produced mostly by men).
The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Western political, economic, and social institutions were decisively
altered by new forms of technology and production, by
the French Revolution and similar political upheavals,
and by the philosophical currents of the “Age of Reason.” Work began to move from fields and households
to factories and offices, changing the nature of the family, which had traditionally combined economic and
domestic functions. Faith in scientific rationality, especially in the form of medicine and biology, began to replace religion as the basis of society’s conception of the
gender order. All these changes tended to increase
rather than decrease the perceived differences between
men and women. Although a few voices called for
greater equality between the sexes, most Europeans believed that men and women are by nature complementary opposites. The myth of manly strength and womanly weakness generally prevailed, as did the doctrine
of “separate spheres” that sent men into the political
and economic realms while women, especially those of
the middle classes, were expected to devote themselves
to the home and the church.
Turnen, Gymnastics, and Sports
Modern sports are the result of the confluence of several developments in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe (and, to a lesser extent, in the United
States). One such development was German gymnastics (Turnen), which evolved from the ideas and practices of pedagogues like Johann Christian Friedrich
Guts Muths and from the political program of
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. For Jahn, Turnen was an expression of nationalism, a means to overcome the feudal order that had cut Germany into a patchwork of antagonistic states. His movement was also aimed at the
expulsion of the French, whom Napoleon had led to a
series of military victories over divided Germany.
Given his patriotic goals and emphasis on military
preparedness, Jahn saw no reason to include women in
his program. Besides, clambering up poles and swinging from ropes were “unseemly” activities for “the
weaker sex.” The exclusion of women from the ranks of
the Turnen seemed so “self-evident” that Jahn and his
followers never bothered to explain or justify it.
Like Jahn, the Swedish physical educator Per Henrik
Ling (1776–1839) was influenced by Guts Muths. Ling
combined the anatomical and physiological knowledge
of his era with the ideas of “natural philosophy” to create an allegedly scientific system of simple exercises intended to promote balance, harmony, and health. The
core of his system, however, included military as well as
hygienic exercises. The institute that he established in
Stockholm in 1813 spread his ideas throughout northern and western Europe. Although Ling envisioned his
program as solely for men and boys, Swedish gymnastics eventually become the seedbed of women’s physical education.
In France, the evolution of gymnastics took a militaristic turn under the guidance of Francisco Amoros
(1770–1848), a Spanish officer who emigrated to France
and established a training school at which exercises
were conducted by military command. One result of his
influence, which remained dominant for most of the
century, was that the French, like the Germans and the
Italians, associated gymnastics with bellicose nationalism. The predictable result of this military emphasis
was the nearly total neglect of girls’ and women’s gymnastics in France as in every other European country The 19th century, however, brought increasing concern about the effects of industrialization and urbanization on girls’ and women’s health. Patriotism seemed
to require that something be done. There was soon a
lively debate over female physical education.
Among the first to champion physical exercise for
girls was Phokion Heinrich Clias (1782–1854), a propagandist active in Switzerland, France, and England.
His Kalisthenie (1829), from which we derive the term
“calisthenics,” was a landmark in the history of
women’s physical education. Its influence can be attributed in large part to the emphasis Clias placed on gentle exercises that enhanced female grace and beauty.
German pedagogues like Johann Adolf Ludwig Werner
also published books advocating gymnastics for young
women. By 1850 a number of gymnastic clubs offered
courses intended to make girls healthier and more attractive. It is unlikely that many girls benefited from
these opportunities, and most who did came from affluent middle-class homes.
In the latter half of the 19th century, governments
the length and breadth of Europe legislated one or another form of compulsory physical education for girls,
but many of these laws remained inactive until early in
the 20th century. Only late in the 19th century did significant numbers of girls schools began to include
gymnastics in their curriculum. When they did, the
teachers were usually careful to limit their pupils’
movements to regimented drill, which instilled obedience. To preserve “decency,” German girls, for example,
were not allowed to perform exercises that required
them to spread their legs or to lift them above the waist.
While German girls marched and executed the
standardized movements prescribed by Adolf Spiess
(1810–1858) and other schoolmasters, English girls
took slow walks and suffered the boredom of calisthenics. In an effort to improve the situation, the London
School Board looked abroad. In 1881 Martina
Bergmann (later Bergmann-Österberg; 1849–1915)
was summoned from Stockholm’s school of Lingian
gymnastics to take charge of girls’ physical education.
It was hoped that “Swedish gymnastics” would provide
inexpensive rational discipline without militaristic associations. The ideal was noncompetitive physical development without sacrificing femininity.
During these years, the British transformed their
traditional physical pastimes into what we now recognize as modern sports, with rules, organizations,
and standardized contests. In the course of the
19th century, schoolmasters at Eton, Rugby, and other
public schools made a cult of cricket, crew, and football. Sports were an essential part of “muscular Christianity.” They were thought to be the basis of moral
Girls and women were not entirely excluded from the
nascent sports culture of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Some participated in rural cricket matches. Aristocratic women competed in archery contests. Lowerclass women in London often engaged in boxing
matches, to the delight of the mostly male spectators.
On the whole, however, modern sports were considered
a masculine preserve.
The Turn-of-the-Century Triumph
of Modern Sports
Women’s roles changed rapidly with the industrialization and modernization of society at the end of the
19th century. Feminism became a powerful force. Universities opened their doors to female students, and educated women began to enter the professions. Men discovered that more and more women were ready and
willing to participate in “manly” sports. Participation
was, of course, influenced by such factors as national
culture and social class. In Spain, where the economy
remained agrarian and where the Roman Catholic
Church exercised great authority, only aristocratic or
upper-middle-class women indulged in such daring
pastimes as golf, tennis, and skiing. Gymnastic exercises for girls were virtually unknown and were certainly not a part of public education. In the liberal
democracies of northern and western Europe, female
athletes found much readier acceptance. In France, as
well as in other European countries, technological improvements in the bicycle progressed to the point
where large numbers of women caught “cycling fever”
and a few of them actually defied convention and competed in bicycle races (which were discontinued when
conservative opinion expressed outrage at such “unwomanly” forms of amusement).
There was, in fact, still widespread opposition to
women’s sports even in northern and western Europe.
Critics relied on an arsenal of medical, moral, and aesthetic arguments. Track and field contests were condemned with special fervor because they were thought
not only to encourage an unwomanly competitiveness
but also to threaten a woman’s health.
Despite opposition, most European countries had at
least the beginnings of women’s sports before the outbreak of World War I. Germany had women’s sections
of men’s gymnastics clubs, independent clubs for
women, and even a number of women’s sports clubs, as
did England and France and—to a lesser extent—
Italy. Although the costs of tennis, golf, and rowing
tended to restrict participation in these sports to the
affluent, there was also a movement for workers’ sports.
The German federation for workers’ sports, founded in
1893, attracted a number of female members. The
Czechs were also active in the field of workers’ sports.
In these federations, and in those of France, Belgium,
and Scandinavia, female members generally had the
same rights as male members, at least on paper, which
was usually not the case in middle-class clubs and federations.
Track and field is an excellent place to describe
more closely the barriers faced (and eventually overcome) by female athletes. In Germany, the first track
and field contests for women met with strong opposition. When the Berlin sports club Comet staged a
Damensportfest in 1904, the club hoped to lure a large
number of sensation-hungry spectators. The 400-meter race did, indeed, generate revenue and publicity, but
it also raised a number of questions about the appropriateness of the race. When repeated, with the added
attraction of some French participants, the race provoked less public interest than expected. The official
journal of the German Track and Field Federation took
the “ladies race” as an occasion to condemn women’s
races. The runners’ style was satirized as a “duck waddle,” and their efforts were written off as a misunderstanding of female emancipation. In truth, these
Damensportfeste had less to do with emancipation
than with voyeurism and sensationalism. Despite the
failures of the first attempts to inaugurate women’s
track and field, interest in such events was growing.
In France as well as in Germany, athletic meets were
men’s affairs. Pierre de Coubertin criticized such
meets, along with football games, as “unworthy spectacles.” Despite such efforts at “guardianship” and despite
the turmoil of World War I, French women did stage
such events in the years 1914–1918.After the war,Alice
Milliat (1884–1957) organized international competitions for women and an international federation to administer them.
In England, the beginnings of women’s participation in modern sports goes back to the women’s colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, founded in the 1870s,
and to London’s polytechnical schools, where many
clubs were created for female students to do gymnastics and other sports.
With the increasing acceptance of women’s gymnastics and sports came striking changes in dress. In
the 19th century, as a rule, sports were done in everyday clothing, but the popularity of the bicycle forced a
change in costume for safety’s sake. (One solution was
a long dress that could be divided and rebuttoned into
a pair of makeshift trousers.) The early decades of the
20th century brought gradual acceptance of kneelength shorts. The controversy over sports dress was not merely a debate about clothing; at issue were symbols of male power.
Twentieth-Century Society and the Gender Order
In most European nations, women moved a step forward in the direction of legal equality, but even where
they achieved the right to vote and hold office, they
were still regarded as “the second sex.” A woman who
chose to embark on a professional career suffered from
discrimination; she who chose domesticity was expected to acknowledge her husband as the head of the
household. Clothing reform was also less than complete. There was more freedom of movement as anklelength dresses and tight corsets were discarded. Nudists discarded even more articles of clothing and
proclaimed a new, more athletic ideal of femininity.
Short hair, a tanned body, and narrow hips were
thought to be fashionably “modern.” The liberation of
the body was purchased, however, at a cost. Women internalized aesthetic ideals, like slenderness and a
youthful look, that required considerable effort.
Progress in Gymnastics and Women’s Sports
In the postwar years, sports, which were increasingly
subjected to the processes of modernization, achieved
a new zenith of popularity. The globe was spanned by a
network of international sports federations such as the
Fédération Internationale de Football Association
(1904), which administered soccer (association football), and the International Amateur Athletic Federation (1912), which oversaw track and field. Women
were by no means immune from the fascination of
sports, and large numbers of them engaged in increasingly strenuous contests.
Although few people doubted that girls and women
should be physically active for the sake of their health,
their participation in highly competitive sports led to
fierce controversies. At their core was the debate over
the compatibility of competition and motherhood. The
weightiest arguments against strenuous sports came
from medical experts, especially gynecologists, who inveighed against competition and against participation
in “manly” sports such as soccer. (The danger was that
a female might be “masculinized.”) Again and again,
the Cassandras of the medical profession complained
about the female athlete’s diminished fertility and her
disinclination to bear children.
The Olympic Games were a highly visible arena for
these controversies over the appropriateness and desirability of women’s sports. Although Coubertin had revived the Games in 1896 as a purely male enterprise
and continued to oppose women’s participation to the
day of his death in 1937, a dozen female golfers and tennis players competed in Paris in 1900 in the Olympic
Games that were held in rather confused conjunction
with a world’s fair. Subsequently, the number of female
athletes rose slowly but continuously. Prior to World
War I, women were limited to sports that the men of the
International Olympic Committee deemed appropriately feminine. (Swimming and diving were introduced
at Stockholm in 1912.) In the 1920s, the struggle centered on track and field. While the International Amateur Athletic Federation and the International Olympic
Committee wanted to keep the “core” of the games free
from the contamination of female runners, jumpers,
and throwers, the Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale (FSFI), which Alice Milliat had founded in
1921, agitated for their inclusion in the Olympic program. The FSFI held its own Jeux Olympiques in 1922
(Paris), 1926 (Göteburg), 1930 (Prague), and 1934
(London). In response to this challenge from the FSFI,
the IOC reluctantly inaugurated women’s track and
field at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. Once the dike of
discrimination was breached, no amount of argument
was able to hold back the tide of women’s sports at the
Olympic Games. The number of sports contested by
women and the number of female contestants have
both grown steadily.
In Olympic sports as in others, the opportunities for
women varied from country to country. In Germany,
women were encouraged to participate in sports contests, including those in track and field, that had earlier
been considered “unwomanly,” but women’s soccer remained taboo. In France, however, where a variety of
female sports federations had been founded, women
not only competed in track and field, they also formed
soccer teams and played in national tournaments. The
rougher game of barette, similar to rugby, also had its
French enthusiasts. In other parts of the continent, including Scandinavia, women’s sports were less widely
The national differences in opportunity can be
clearly observed in the figures for between-the-wars
Olympic participation. Except for the Games in distant
Los Angeles (1932), female athletes representing Germany constituted generally about 7 percent of their nation’s Olympic team, while their Norwegian counterparts were not only far fewer in number but also much
more likely to limit their participation to “feminine”
sports. Only after World War II did Spain send a single
female athlete to the Olympics.
Women involved in sports held differing opinions on the question of participation in the Olympic Games.
With few exceptions, German sports organizations
were sexually integrated., while French and British
women tended to form their own organizations. The
French, who were the dominant force in the international federation for women’s sports, favored Olympic
participation; the British, organized in the Women’s
Amateur Athletic Federation, wanted to continue the
tradition of separate “Women’s Olympics” (which, ironically, the French had inaugurated).
Toward the end of the 1920s, the mass media began
to celebrate the achievements of female athletes.Among
the early idols were the temperamental, flamboyant, unconventionally dressed French tennis player Suzanne
Lenglen, the German airplane pilot Elli Beinhorn, who
made headlines not only with her round-the-world
flights but also by her marriage to a famed automobile
racer, and Sonja Henie, the beautiful Norwegian “Ice
Princess” who skated her way from the Olympic Games
to a career in Hollywood. The headlines that announced
Gertrude Ederle’s successful swim across the English
Channel were comparable to those that celebrated
Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic.
While the achievements of female athletes continued to be met with a mix of fascination and disgust,
gymnastics were gradually transformed into an almost
entirely female domain. Throughout Europe, a variety
of systems and schools were propagated, some emphasizing health and hygiene, some more intent on the aesthetics of human movement. Strongly criticizing modern sports and their obsession with quantified
achievement, the proponents of gymnastics were concerned principally with the quality of the movement
experience, the form and shape of the body, and the
harmonious development of the whole person. Common also was a tendency to cultural criticism; gymnastics were affirmed as a “natural”contrast to the mad
pace and artificiality of modern civilization. Although
the gymnastics movement propagated a rather traditional image of womanhood, it spoke to many who believed that it offered an essentially feminine movement
culture that was free from men’s interference and control. For such thinkers, gymnastics meant movement
without competitiveness and without role conflict.
Women’s Sports and Fascism
In the fascist ideologies espoused by the dictatorial
regimes of Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and
Franco’s Spain, biological and racist ideas were revived
to restructure the gender order and to recast masculinity and femininity as the polar opposites they were
thought to be in the 19th century. These regimes
sought to reduce women, once again, to their wifely and
maternal roles.
The fecund female body and the hardened male
body were central to Hitler’s “racial hygiene” and to his
dreams of dictatorial expansionist power. In addition
to health and “racial purity,” Nazi physical education
was intended to inculcate an ideology of racial superiority, community, military preparedness, and strong
leadership. As the term “political physical education”
indicates, gymnastics and sports were subordinated to
politics. Physical education was a central pillar in the
structure of the Nazi state. It was supposed to prepare
men for their predetermined biological role as fighters
and women for theirs as mothers. In Nazi discourse
and in the medical literature influenced by it, discussions of women’s sport centered on two questions:
What enhances and what diminishes a woman’s reproductive function? By providing “healthy” and “appropriate” exercises, organizations like the Bund
Deutscher Mädel (Federation of German Maidens)
tried to institutionalize the goals of motherhood and
the health of the community. Although Nazi ideology
had originally been opposed to sports competition for
women, Hitler realized the propaganda advantages that
were sure to accompany demonstrations of physical superiority. His regime supported female athletes in a
number of ways, and the 1936 Olympic Games in
Berlin seemed to prove him right. Although the Games
were staged to demonstrate—to the point of absurdity—the cult of masculinity, Germany fielded the
most successful team of female athletes.
Developments after World War II
After the devastation and deprivation of World War II,
the peoples of Europe turned eagerly to sports that,
even in occupied Germany, represented a more attractive world than the ubiquitous ruins of the postwar
world. With the gradual return of ordinary life came a
call for women to resume the domestic roles they had
been forced to abandon by the exigencies of war. The
1950s were a decade that emphasized traditional ideals
of home and hearth.
Simultaneous with the renewed debate about the
appropriateness of women’s participation in strenuous
competition came the ideological struggles of the Cold
War. The confrontation of communism with liberaldemocratic capitalism left its mark on sports. Signs
were observable everywhere in Europe, but especially
obvious in Germany, divided down the middle by the
ideological line that separated East and West. Whether they sought the role or not, the female athletes of the
Federal Republic of Germany and those of the German
Democratic Republic bore the banners of two embattled political-economic-cultural regimes.
Women’s Sport under Communism
The performance of the Soviet Union’s female athletes
at the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki astonished the
world. For nearly 40 years, athletes from the communist regimes of Eastern Europe continued to dominate
the women’s events at the Olympic Games (except of
course, in 1984, when Romania was the only communist nation to send a team to Los Angeles). When observers marveled at the “big red sports machine,” they
tended to think of the women, especially those from
East Germany.
Olympic success was the result of a number of interrelated factors: the centralized search for athletic talent, which began with the systematic recruitment of
children; scientific research designed to maximize performance; the concentration of economic resources on
sports; the high prestige and social security granted to
successful athletes; material rewards (such as trips
abroad); and medical manipulation through drugs. As
a result of the communist sports bureaucrats’ ruthless
pursuit of gold medals and world championships,
women and girls were trained to the point where, in
Western eyes, they no longer seemed female. In an attempt to make their female athletes culturally acceptable, communist regimes propagated new ideals of
women’s roles and female physiques. “Muscular femininity” might have been their unspoken motto.
The concentration on elite athletes came at the expense of recreational sports. Facilities available to ordinary citizens were poor and teachers of physical education had far lower status than coaches of national
teams. Eastern European women were triply burdened;
their vocational, domestic, and political obligations left
them little time or energy for sports participation. Although propagandists proclaimed the contrary, the
women of the communist world were far less likely than
those of the West to be involved in recreational sports.
In the West, the debate over femininity and sports
was resumed. When athletes from the communist bloc
introduced new acrobatic movements into women’s
gymnastics, many Western Europeans found the contortions ugly and unfeminine. The first reaction of the
German Gymnastics Federation was to defend its ideal
of femininity; since the simple, graceful, rather static
movements the federation favored were unlikely to
earn high scores, the federation decided in 1954 to
withdraw from international competition. In time,
however, the logic of modern sports forced Western
women to do as the communists did or to abandon
their sporting ambitions.
In other sports, there were attempts to halt the
trend toward “masculinization.” In many European
countries, women were discouraged from playing soccer. It was not until the 1970s that the Fédération Internationale de Football reversed itself and began to
sponsor world championships for women. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) waited another 20
years before bringing women’s soccer into its program.
It was so difficult to disprove the myth of woman’s
weakness that the IOC resisted the woman’s marathon
race until 1984.
Despite the laudable effort to end sexual discrimination at the Olympic Games, the program remains unequally divided between men’s and women’s events. In
1988, for instance, only 26 percent of the athletes at
Seoul were female; only a third of the events were for
them. Even then, a woman’s chances to compete in the
Olympics depended on her nationality.Women were 35
percent of the British team, 18 percent of the Spanish
team—and they were entirely absent from many teams
representing Islamic nations; in order to win the 1,500-
meter race at Barcelona in 1992,Algeria’s Hassida Boulmerka had not only to outrun her rivals but also to surmount the psychological barrier of fundamentalist
death threats.
Women’s Sports Today
The inequalities observable at the Olympics are paralleled by those in the lives of ordinary women interested
in recreational sports. Despite the dramatic changes of
recent decades, women are by no means as likely as
men to be involved in sports. This is clear both from
surveys and from the membership rolls of European
sports federations. In England, Germany, and Norway,
approximately 40 percent of adult women say that they
participate in sports, but one must be attentive to the
definitions employed by the researchers. In England,
walking is considered a sport; in Finland, elderly berrypickers are counted as athletes. German data are more
complete and more reliable. Nearly 30 percent of all
Germans are members of a sports club; 37 percent of
the members are female. In Norway, girls and women
are 38 percent of all club members. In Spain, however,
the situation is quite different. Only 26 percent of the
women claim to be athletically active (as opposed to 48
percent of the men).
To a greater degree than is the case for men, age and social class are important influences on women’s sports
participation. In German clubs, for instance, girls begin
to cease participating in sports from their 14th year
while boys continue to be quite active until they are at
least 18. In every European nation, men and women of
higher social status are more likely than the less affluent
to be athletically active, but the effect of this variable is
greater for women than for men. The result is that only
a minuscule number of middle-aged and elderly working-class women participate in sports of any sort.
For those women who do participate, the spectrum
of available options is far greater than in the past.
Young women now participate in sports once thought
to be exclusively male: marathon running, soccer and
rugby, water polo, even boxing and weightlifting. Of
course, there continues to be a gender difference in
rates of participation in various sports. Men are still
more likely than women to engage in sports that require aggressive body contact. Gymnastics, aerobics,
and dance continue to attract far more women than
men. It must also be said that the financial support for
women’s sports is still less than offered to men. Except
in tennis and golf, opportunities for women to earn
their living as openly professional athletes remain almost nonexistent. Women are radically underrepresented in sports administration at every level, from the
International Olympic Committee to the local sports
club. They are rarely to be found in the press box or as
commentators on televised sports. There is, however,
one area where women have made major gains. Although women are still a minority of the scholars engaged in the academic study of sports (about 7 percent
in Germany), their voices can now be heard.
Bibliography: Blue, Adrianne. (1987) Grace under Pressure:
The Emergence of Women in Sport. London: Sidgwick and
Jackson. Guttmann, Allen. (1991) Women’s Sports: A History. New York: Columbia University Press. Hargreaves,
Jennifer. (1994) Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the
History and Sociology of Women’s Sports. London: Routledge. Pfister, Gertrud, and Christine Peyton, eds. (1989)
Frauensport in Europa. Ahrensburg: Czwalina.