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Role of Women in Sports

Throughout human history, the role of women in sports has reflected the changing status of women in society. In ancient Greece, for example, women were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games which took place once every four years. In fact, if women were caught even watching the Games, they could be "tortured and punished with death, as this was an age when life was cheap and the rule of men was total" ("Then and Now" 55). Despite such persecution, there was for a time a women's version of the Olympics called the "Heraea," after the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus (55). In the second century B.C., Roman forces conquered Greece, and women were again barred from participating in public sports events. Women were eventually restored in Roman sporting events; however, the historic evidence indicates "that women's athletics in the Roman period had more to do with public entertainment than with sport proper" (Harris 41). Thus, even when they were allowed to participate in sports, the women of the Roman period were still not taken very seriously in their efforts. This state of affairs has continued to exist down through the ages. In fact, it has only been since the early 1970's that women have been truly accepted in competitive spectator sports.

In the early 19th century, for example, both the United States and Europe were under the influence of the Victorian attitudes of the time. Victorianism maintained a rigid outlook on life in which the role of women in society was clearly limited to bearing children and caring for home and family. The stereotypical view of that time saw women as physically incapable of participating in the rough play of sports. This perception of women was strongly reinforced by both "popular literature and medical opinion" (Rader 165). Thus, through most of the 1800s, societal demands forbade women from participating in the world of sports. By the late 19th century, however, certain sporting activit...

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Role of Women in Sports. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:10, May 28, 2020, from