Main Gender Stereotypes in Sports

Main Gender Stereotypes in Sports

Although they are changing, there are still some entrenched sexist beliefs in our society. Let's review the main ones.

Although they are changing, there are still some entrenched sexist beliefs in our society. Let's review the main ones.

Preconceived ideas often affect our day-to-day lives. In reality, any stereotype is based on archetypal ideas that do not necessarily relate to reality. The world is complex and no two people are alike, so there should be no cultural barriers that prevent a person from doing what he or she wants to do.

This happens in different areas: work, schools, fashion… and also in sports. As a study by ScienceDirect reveals, gender stereotypes are a determining factor for sports participation in childhood, especially for women. This situation causes exclusions and problems for the future.

As childhood is a transcendental time for the formation of the youngest children, certain stereotypes may remain in the mind unconsciously. For example, women should not practice a certain discipline because it is "unfeminine." Let's take a look at some of the main stereotypes in sport.

Gender stereotypes in sports

The aforementioned study showed how certain sports are still associated with certain genders. In general, boys at the school stage were slightly more interested in practicing a discipline, with 51.5% participation. Women, however, did so at 48.5%, so the difference is not so great.

The interesting question begins when we start to see which sports are more associated with one gender than the other. For example, the highest participation rates in boys appeared in contact sports, such as soccer (91.3%), field hockey (88.9%), rugby (66.7%), or handball (72.6%).

Girls, on the other hand, were more interested in artistic disciplines, such as rhythmic gymnastics (98.8%), artistic gymnastics (81.8%), or sports with little contact between opponents, such as volleyball (94.6%). This difference in the sports chosen can be explained by a decisive factor: contact and force were always "negative" among women.


From an early age, boys are encouraged to compete to see who is more powerful, as this is a toxic trait of masculinity. Hence the interest in contact sports: if a boy does not want to play soccer, he will probably be accused of "not being a man". Conversely, if a girl wants to play, for example, soccer, she will be "unfeminine" because she is willing to hit or fight like "a man."

Another study published in Plos One indicates that, in general, girls are less active than boys in sports. Generally, a girl has more difficulty integrating into mixed disciplines, especially because the boys themselves do not accept them. On the other hand, a boy who is interested in a sport where girls predominate will generally be better received than the other way around.

As we mentioned, strength activities have always been associated with men. However, there are women who are interested in this discipline… and who do it wonderfully. One example is Morghan King: a U.S. Olympic athlete who is dedicated to weightlifting, but also to inspire other women to exercise their freedoms and practice strength sports.

Through her social networks, she shows that weightlifting does not have to be a necessarily masculine activity. These platforms are a great tool to demystify many of these ideas and stereotypes. As massive visibility is acquired, it manages to break those prejudices and more and more women are encouraged to practice new disciplines.

The clearest example today is soccer. According to CNBC, 2020 was the year when women's soccer set an audience record. Previously, many women were fans of a certain soccer team, but their roles remained as simple fans: the soccer community itself did not seem to accept that women also play this sport, which is almost always associated with men.

However, as time went by, many more girls started to play soccer as amateurs. At the same time, they began to watch a lot of women's soccer to learn from the professional players, not only because they were interested in the discipline, but also to support a cultural change that would make women's soccer become more and more popular.

In short, gender stereotypes in sports start from our earliest childhood and can come to condition us. However, society is beginning to break with these sexist ideas and it is being understood that sports have no gender, but that anyone can practice what he or she likes the most.  

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