The Double Standard in Male and Female Sports Needs to Stop!

Women athletes already struggle with decent pay and exposure compared to their male counterparts, the least we could do is let them talk their shit and celebrate as they please. 

Brought to you by
Liliana Ulloa
September 25, 2022

Whether it be yelling at or even breaking our television from home, to fighting with rival team fans at a live game, our passion for sports often induce us to act out of impulsiveness no different than athletes themselves. From players breaking gatorade jugs and equipment while throwing tantrums, to starting verbal and physical altercations, it’s not rare for heated moments to arise regardless of matches being classified as “friendly.”

Most recently, LeBron James was ejected after striking Pistons' Isaiah Stewart. But heated moments are normalized for the most part; whether it be baseball players rushing the mound after being hit from a pitch like Yasiel Puig with Madison Bumgarner, to combat sports athletes trading punches after the bell or with the opposite corner like in the Khabib vs. McGregor rematch.

Moments like these create a buzz and form part of fan-loved highlight reels. But while these moments are not necessarily approved by fans, there’s not much criticism which follows because it’s all justified by one thing: Passion for the sport. 

Yet this isn't a reality for women athletes, who constantly face backlash whenever they lose their cool and are then categorized as typical emotional messes. Tennis legend Serena Williams is no stranger to the criticisms, especially after the 2018 U.S. Open against Naomi Osaka, where Williams exploded against the umpire and ultimately lost the match.

Since the event, digital news outlets continue writing impudent headlines questioning William’s professionalism, while others take to forums to criticize her behavior. 

The answer as to why Williams’ gets articles written about her outbursts lies in acknowledging her intersectionality as both a woman and an African American. With internalized sexist and racist sentiments deeply rooted in society, it’s no question why Williams gets labeled the same names used to often describe Black women. Angry, loud, aggressive and irrational. 

A caricature created by cartoonist Mark Knight, clearly depicted Williams with the usual racist features of racist Jim Crow-era cartoons. When he was met with backlash, he stated, “I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.” Which further proves the perception society tends to have about Black women in general.

While there’s video compilations of various heated moments in sports’ history, none of them project the disapproval of Williams' “RAGING AT UMPIRES” compilations. When male athletes and even coaches getting angry is just another day in male sports, Williams on the other hand, was expected to apologize for her disorderly conduct.

Yet even her apology—which came in the form of an essay—was heavily criticized by the media, who claimed it wasn’t a full apology to her opponent if she still justified her actions. 

In the world of combat sports, two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields faces a similar experience. Though she’s become two-division undisputed champion within only 11 matches, her accomplishments are rarely acknowledged.

The former Olympian constantly faces criticism through social media due to her outspoken nature, trash-talk and over-confident nature. The same combat fans who rush to her post to call her “cocky,” are the same fans who worship Mayweather and Connor McGregor’s arrogance as a personality trait. In men, it’s passion and confidence, but in women, it’s typical emotional outrage and cockiness. 

But not only do women face criticism in the way they speak up or stand up for themselves in heated situations, but also in their victories and celebrations. 

In the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup match between the U.S and England, forward Alex Morgan celebrated her goal by pretending to sip a cup of tea with her pinky finger in the air. Similar criticism followed as the celebration was deemed disrespectful by some fans and media outlets. 

The team was labeled as cocky and childish, and then once again accused of “excessive celebrating” with their victory over Thailand. Excessive celebrating. The team was also called “classless” when no apology came from the events, as if that were more important than celebrating their monumental win even more. 

Men playing as bowling pins, taking their shorts off, forming a human bicycle and even pretending to be a dog peeing on the opposition’s goal are all fun and games, but God forbid a woman pretends to sip tea. 

While it can be difficult to unlearn societal norms, it’s important we deconstruct any sexist bias internalized within ourselves. Next time you’re outraged at a woman athlete, genuinely ask yourself if you would have the same response if it were your favorite male athlete in their shoes.

Women athletes already struggle with decent pay and exposure compared to their male counterparts, the least we could do is let them talk their shit and celebrate as they please.