Women’s Surfing Riding Wave Towards Gender Equity

In class, we discussed the disparities between male and female athletes in regards event access, pay gaps, and the importance accorded on female athletics. This gender inequality present in the sporting world is slowly and gradually shrinking in several aspects of athletics; however, there are still many changes that need to be made.

Surfing is a male dominated, hyper-masculine sport, and culture, where women are often out-shined by male competitors breaking records and catching the public’s attention. Female surfers often compete riding smaller waves and, therefore, gain less publicity. “Biological arguments for female physical inferiority” are considered when creating regulations in competition. Due to the fact that men often outperform women in sports involving strength, they “maintain the illusion of athletic superiority” and therefore these gender disparities and regulations persist. This is something that should not be valid within the realm of sport, as it is no longer considered valid in many other realms of life.

The World Surfing League announced it is offering equal pay for male and female competitors. Women’s activism has begun to become more visible within surfing culture, advocating for more rights, as well as campaigns against sexualization of female athletes. This is now leading to changes being made in the sport at the professional level (as well as inspiring increased numbers of recreational level competitors). Often recreational sport contexts present barriers to female participation due to sexual harassment, homophobia, and abuse, so it is refreshing to see this change.

Small steps taken in sport subcultures create opportunity to further gender equality in sport as a whole. Authors emphasize the role that men should be taking in promoting women’s sport. Indeed, using influential male figures within the sport can foster support, and challenge gender stereotypes.

“Despite increasing female participation rates, sex inequality is a pervasive problem in sport.” Changes have been made in the surfing world, however gender inequality is still heavily prevalent: policy changes have helped address the more physical inequalities present, however the more social stereotypical issues (i.e. sexualization, objectification) are still widely known and alive.

FEATURED IMAGE: Female surfers are fighting for equal rights in their sport
(Damien Poullenot EPA, CC BY-ND)


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