Men and women in sport: can they be equal?
Team GB recently announced they are likely to have more female athletes than male participants at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, which will be a historic moment for women in sport.
But as much as this reflects their participation in a wide range of events, it doesn’t explain if there are differences in rules.
For some sports, it is argued women are not biologically able to produce the same power as men, and are given their own event. This is most commonly seen in sports like athletics and swimming, where the differences in speed between both genders is represented by world, Olympic and championship records, which men hold the fastest times for.
But most of the events in both sports are the same. In athletics, the only differences in Olympic events are the hurdles – where men compete over 110m and women over 100m – the men’s decathlon and the women’s heptathlon, and women not having a 50k race walk.
And it’s even better news for swimming, where the only event women don’t compete in is the 1500m freestyle. But this is set to change in Tokyo, as the IOC announced its addition to the women’s competition.
It seems physical differences can mean unfair competitions if men and women participated against each other, but this is not always the case.
Along with mixed events becoming increasingly popular in sports including swimming, athletics and diving, there are mental sports where women could compete with the men, but don’t.
In snooker, women have their own tournaments, but for many years people have questioned why they cannot compete against men. Reanne Evans, an 11-time world champion in the women’s event, was invited to the main world championships in 2017, and historically won her first round qualifying match, before losing in the next round. Despite this, many female players are yet to appear in the main draw of a ranking tournament.
Sport has come a long way in representing both genders equally, but many sportsmen are asking for even more change. If they receive enough support from governing bodies, more events will be added in future competitions.
Animation by Alysia Georgiades