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Gender Equality in Professional Sports: why CrossFit leads the way.

Want to see some gender equality in action? Let’s be honest: professional sport isn’t usually the arena for pioneering social and cultural change. Take US soccer: two months ago five top female players filed a federal wage discrimination complaint after revelations that male counterparts were earning four times the ladies’ salary. Though the pay gap in international football / soccer is extreme, its existence is fairly standard. At the time of writing (May 2016) there remain major gender pay gaps in many professional sports including golf, basketball, and cricket (links to further reading below). Even in sports such as tennis, where the pay for major championship wins is now equal across genders, female players are still exposed to the kind of sexist attitudes worthy of an ancient orangutan, in this case Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Ray Moore, who suggested “women should “get down on their knees” and thank Roger Federer for making tennis so popular and thus (by inference) making female players richer! Yeah. We know. It’s preposterous. That’s why, with all that negativity and gender inequality around, we thought it was time to celebrate the ways in which (our favorite sport) CrossFit offers a totally new paradigm for attitudes towards female athletes at all levels of the sport. 

 

AT COMPETITION LEVEL: EQUAL PAY AND COVERAGE

Anybody who has watched a CrossFit competition live will have noticed: the arena remains as full for women’s heats as it does for men’s. Why? Because CrossFit contests are all about the drama; the heroic demonstrations of strength, endurance and determination. Given equal pay and opportunities, lo and behold (forgive us a little sarcasm…), female athletes are just as capable of all three things as men. Turns out these women have put in just as many hours of training, given just as much blood, sweat and tears to their preparation and are just as badass on the day. Then there’s their physicality: take a look at the average female competitive CrossFitter’s physique and we think you’ll agree that the sport does a lot to shake up the stereotypical notions of what a female athlete ought to look and be like, offering young women a broader range of options when it comes to their aspirations and behavior. Next up, the pay: male and female CrossFit Games winners get the exact same amount of prize money and that has always been the case. (The first CrossFit Games to include prize money was in 2010: $25,000 for each winner.) Male and female athletes face the same level of challenge and thanks to ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, they get the same amount of media coverage and that includes the team event - it’s rare to see men and women competing together, but CrossFit also offers us that. To sum it up: we think that, in an environment where men and women are so rarely treated equally, CrossFit competitions foster mutual respect. What’s more, this mutual respect has the trickle-down effect of inspiring future generations to develop unbiased opinions of male versus female athletic ability. 

 

IN THE BOX: THE INS AND OUTS OF CROSSFIT

You only have to spend a little time in the average CrossFit box to notice it: members are all treated like athletes (and named as such), whatever their current ability. CrossFit requires its athletes to develop capability over broad domains… This means that every CrossFitters has to hone a range of skills; the broader that range the less likely it is that any specific body type will have an advantage. Similarly, it's a sport where muscle is appreciated for what it can do, what it took to build and athletes tend to focus on performance rather than pleasing others with their physique. Why? Because CrossFit is a sport centered around the realization of potential and dedicated coaches recognize that adherence to outdated notions of stereotypes will only stunt an athlete’s growth, not to mention crush their self-esteem. At its heart, CrossFit is meritocratic and on a recreational level it remains unisex; athletes are encouraged to lift together, WOD together and mobilize together, whether male, female, transgender or gender non-binary. The prevailing attitude is this: we don’t care where you’re from or what you believe. ‘Just so long as you respect your fellow athletes and listen to your coach, you’re welcome. Now get on with your workout and stop wasting our time talking about gender differences… 

Further Reading: 

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/21/prize-money-row-major-sports-compare-men-and-women

http://espn.go.com/espnw/sports/article/15160220/big-gap-earnings-men-women-professional-golfers

http://europe.newsweek.com/womens-soccer-suit-underscores-sports-gender-pay-gap-443137?rm=eu

Tagged with: Crossfit gender equality

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