The Institutionalization of a Gender Biased Sport Value System


  • Robert B. Everhart
  • Cynthia Lee A. Pemberton



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.