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Vol. 4, No. 1 = No. 8 (2001 Winter)

The Institutionalization of a Gender Biased Sport Value System

  • Robert B. Everhart
  • Cynthia Lee A. Pemberton
June 19, 2017


To develop tougher males while controlling wild ones, some school administrators experimented with an innovative plan. They co-opted the rough-and-tumble games boys played during recess and in their free time, and made these part of the official curriculum. (Sadker & Sadker, 1994, pp. 214-215)

Sport has been a part of the "...official school program..." since the mid-1800s, and was originally incorporated into the curriculum to serve as " important line of defense..." against the potential feminization of American males by a growing female teaching profession (Sadker & Sadker, 1994, p. 213). As a part of the curriculum, sport provided opportunities for physical fitness and competition, as well as a medium through which valued socio-cultural life skills could be learned and practiced. Grounded in ideals of masculinity, sport, more than any other part of the educational curriculum has been, and continues to be, a gender issue.

This paper will explore how school sport has served to institutionalize a gender specific and gender biased sport value system. First the socio-cultural context in which school sport emerged, and its history and evolution will be reviewed. Next the differential impact which school sport has on females and males will be examined. The paper concludes that the development of school sport has, over time, marginalized and devalued women's sport, and the women who participate. It is suggested that because of this, sport participation by women and girls has actually been suppressed.