Archive for October, 2010

Ticket pricing, gender, & “value”

October 31, 2010

“You get what you pay for.” This common saying expresses the idea that more valuable things are going to cost more money, while things of little value are going to cost less money. Clearly, women’s sports are not valued as highly as men’s sports by most people. Even those who have grown up in the “Title IX age” tend to view women’s sports as uninteresting and inferior to competitions involving men (Lebel & Danylchuk, 2009).

As far as the answer as to why this is the case, most explanations I hear involve the idea that women’s sports are less interesting because women are not as good at sports as men. This claim has never had much explanatory power for me because, for example, college sports are very interesting to many people even though college athletes are not as skilled as professional athletes. If people only found the best athletes interesting (as is the argument for why women’s sports are uninteresting), then college sports wouldn’t enjoy much popularity. Thus, rather than rely on oversimplified explanations about skill level, it is important to consider the social and historical factors leading to the devaluation of women’s sports.

Returning to the issue of money and perceived value, let’s consider the issue of tickets to women’s sporting events being priced lower than those to men’s events. Regarding this issue, I believe most people would make an argument such as, “of course tickets to women’s basketball cost less…because no one cares about women’s sports.” However, research regarding ticket price and perceived value suggests the situation is more complex. For example, a study by Hebl and colleagues (2004) found that ticket price disparity results in lower evaluations of women’s teams, even when controlling for other potential explanation for the discrepancy. Further, the researchers found, “when women’s tickets cost less than men’s tickets, the women’s team was rated lower than the men’s team. When the cost of women’s tickets was greater than the cost of men’s tickets, the women’s and men’s teams were considered equivalent in ability and fan support” (p. 233).

In other words, this research suggests that the lower price of tickets to women’s events is not merely a reflection of the lesser value assigned to women’s sports, but it also reinforces the inferior status of women’s sports. Unfortunately, the study also found the disparity between men’s and women’s ticket prices is growing, which makes me think the prospects for seeing progressive change in the near future are not good.

REFERENCES:

  • Hebl, M. R., Giuliano, T. A., King, E. B., Knight, J. L., Shapiro, J. R., Skorinko, J. L., & Wig, A. (2004). Paying the Way: The Ticket to Gender Equality in Sports. Sex Roles, 51(3/4), 227-235.
  • Lebel, K., & Danylchuk, K. (2009). Generation Y’s Perceptions of Women’s Sport in the Media. International Journal of Sport Communication, 2(2), 146-163.

Business, gendered inequality, & Augusta National Golf Club

October 18, 2010

Sports matter. They matter because sports have important connections with a host of social, cultural, political, and economic issues in society. One example of how sports matter is the important place of golf in the world of business. Some might argue that more business often gets done of the golf course than in the boardroom. This is the case because activities such as golf have an important role in forming personal connections, and people often like to do business with their friends. When one considers the gendered inequality that exists in the world of business (only 28 women hold CEO jobs at Fortune 1000 companies), it becomes clear that the issue of women’s membership at Augusta National Golf Club is not just a struggle about golf, but a struggle over power in the world of business.

In a 2004 Golf for Women magazine survey of 1,000 businesswomen, 73 percent said playing golf has helped them develop key business relationships (January-February issue). In that same issue of Golf for Women, Ruth Ann Marshall, current President of the Americas for MasterCard, talked about the role of golf in her business success. Specifically, when she had become CEO of Buypass, a company that processes retailing transactions, one of her first executive decisions was to buy tickets to the Masters Tournament. She used these tickets to invite people with whom she wanted to do business (CEOs of petroleum and supermarket companies) to the Masters, which allowed her to form relationships she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to develop.

If women were allowed to be members at August National, they could similarly invite potential business contacts to play a round at the prestigious course, thus developing key relationships. However, because women are denied membership, female executives are precluded from engaging in such connection-building activity, which plays a role in perpetuating the gendered inequality that exists in the world of business.

Why sex segregate sport? Title VII and Title IX

October 18, 2010

A central question posed in Playing with the Boys (2008) by Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano, is why do sports remain the most sex-segregated (secular) institution in American society (with the possible exception of the military)? Considering Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 adds an interesting twist to this question. Specifically, Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual based upon race, religion, or sex. The only exception to this rule is when sex is a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOC). Title VII does not allow employers to discriminate based on statistical group differences between women and men. For example, in Diaz v. Pan-American Airlines (1971), the airline company argued its policy of hiring only female flight attendants was justified, in part, because women were more soothing to anxious passengers. However, the court ruled that even if it accepted this doubtful argument, some men would be better at reassuring anxious passengers than some women. Thus, it would be more appropriate for airlines to hire males sensitive to passenger needs rather than have a blanket policy of hiring no men at all. Similarly, in cases where strength has been at issue, courts have ruled that if a woman is strong enough to perform the required tasks, she is qualified to hold that job.

In contrast to the approach required by Title VII — that a person’s individual attributes be taken into account — Title IX’s implementing regulations (1975)  specifically permit sex segregation in contact sports. This creates an interesting legal conflict between Title VII and Title IX. While a woman cannot be excluded from a job for which strength is a requirement just because she is female (based on Title VII), a girl hoping to play football may be excluded from doing so just because of her sex (based on Title IX). Although males, on average, may be larger than females, there is a great amount of overlap between men’s and women’s athletic ability. The approach taken by Title IX, however, may prevent such evidence of a continuum (Kane, 1995) from being seen. Thus, as McDonagh and Pappano (2008) suggest, although it has played an important role in growing sport opportunities for girls and women, Title IX has reinforced rather than challenged the belief that women are physically inferior to men.

Little League Baseball and a lost opportunity for exposing the continuum

October 13, 2010

Little League Baseball, which began in the late 1930s, maintained a policy of allowing only boys to participate for more than its first 30 years of existence. When in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a few individual teams allowed girls to participate, LLB addressed this issue by threatening to revoke the charters of leagues in which girls participated. With this strategy LLB was able to resist the entry of females for a few years. However, following a 1973 lawsuit filed by the National Organization for Women on behalf of Maria Pepe (a young baseball player in New Jersey), LLB was forced to allow girls onto its teams.

The possibility of young boys and girls playing baseball together would seem to create quite a possibility of exposing what sport sociologist Mary Jo Kane has referred to as a continuum of athletic ability wherein “many women routinely outperform many men and, in some cases, women outperform most—if not all—men in a variety of sports and physical skills/activities” (1995, p. 193). However, rather than embrace this opportunity, Little League officials created softball leagues — a decision that has worked to maintain Little League Baseball as a largely sex-segregated institution. While many might argue that sex segregation is necessary for the benefit (protection) of women, this example demonstrates how it is often men’s interests that are protected by sex-segregation in sport.

References:

  • Kane, M. J. (1995). Resistance/transformation of the oppositional binary: Exposing sport as a continuum. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 19(2), 191 -218.
  • McDonagh, E., & Pappano, L. (2008). Playing with the boys: Why separate is not equal in sports. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Messner, M. A. (2009). It’s all for the kids: Gender, families, and youth sports. Berkeley: University of California Press.