Women in Soccer: Europe & North America

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Soccer, or football as it is known in Europe, is renowned for being the world’s most popular and fastest growing sport. Across the world multiple cultures engage in the participation of soccer. It has become a globally enjoyed activity, whether it is being played in the streets or on a pitch everyone in some way has taken to the phenomenon of soccer. Within any sport there are always areas to which improvement is needed, one area that this paper will shine light on is the opportunities women have within soccer.

Women have come far in making developments in equality in most parts of the world. However there is still a visible distinction in equality, especially when looked at within sport. Sport develops differently dependant on the culture it is situated in and the same goes for the equality and opportunity given to women. Different cultures have progressed differently and many maintain different viewpoints on women’s participation within sport. Using the structure of soccer this paper will look into how two different cultures view and carry out gender, specifically related to how their culture previously developed ideas of gender. In order to look specifically at how gender roles are a creation of culture I will contrast women’s soccer in North America versus Europe, and how the roles of females are created differently within each culture. This framework allows me to divulge into the much deeper issues of what influences gender practice, how it is performed and how ideas of gender are culturally dependant. The culture we live in influences our views and experiences of life which will be discussed further in more detail throughout the paper. Issues that I will focus on and draw examples from based on how the gender differences are created are economically, socially, and demographically. The ideas surrounding gender in women’s soccer differ in Europe to North America based on individual cultural, economical, and social influences. These influences feed into different notions of how gender is to be performed in a particular culture and to what degree women are accepted within the soccer culture. I will examine how status, privilege, and opportunity play into ideas of gender roles for female’s participation within soccer and how they differ between North America and Europe. I will also explore how soccer culture is created in different societies and how the roles of women are incorporated depending on the culture. Furthermore I will investigate how gender acceptance is created socially within soccer and how the use of soccer is different in North America versus Europe, which then produces different meanings for femininity within the sport. Using cultural, economical and social influences as examples I will explore a deeper matter of how gender is constructed within the constraints of culture; that each culture creates and gives meaning to gender in different and relative ways in relation to the cultures ideologies.

Economics influence sport in numerous ways. The financial support that a team receives can alter how successful they are through more field time, opportunities to travel to play, amount of competitions they enter, and the coaching staff they are able to afford. Privilege also plays a role in the opportunity to play sport, especially for women. According to Mangan (1999) in Europe “sporting activities developed from the end of the nineteenth century, primarily among the middle and upper classes with the provision of sports for young women being largely confined to middle-class education establishments” (p.11) and much is still true today. This demonstrates that sport was only accessible to women in Europe who were more financially competent. Soccer in North America (US specifically) “often [was] considered a second-class sport in a nation which gives clear priority to American Football” (Fan & Mangan, 2004, p.10). The popularity of soccer played a role in who was permitted to play; soccer’s popularity in...
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