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More Women Are Competing With Men

December 08, 1985|Associated Press

NEW YORK — An increasing number of younger women are choosing to engage in athletic competition with men, according to a sports survey released Wednesday, and most women "disagree that participation in sports diminishes femininity."

The survey also says:

--Athletic women now appear to participate in co-educational sports-fitness activities at least as frequently as they do single-sex activities.

--Young girls who play mostly with boys or mixed gender groups are much more likely to sustain a lifelong interest in sports.

--Playmate activities, not parents, exert the greatest direct influence on the sports interest of young girls.

The survey was commissioned by the Miller Brewing Co. in cooperation with the Women's Sports Foundation. Eight-page questionnaires were sent at random to 7,000 members of the foundation, all of whom subscribe to Women's Sports and Fitness Magazine. There were 1,682 replies, a 24% response rate.

Of those who responded, 71% participated in varsity athletic competition at the high school level, 54% at the college level.

The report indicates that "athletic women under the age of 25 are clearly more comfortable participating in sports with men than is the previous generation," according to a release accompanying the survey.

Further, "eight out of 10 athletic women prefer to compete in sports with others of the same skill level, regardless of gender. More important, 53% of younger women (25 and under) actually compete with members of the opposite sex when seeking similar skill levels, compared to only 35% of women 38 and older."

Among young women, the survey reports, 63% agree with gender separation in sports compared to 76% of those 38 and older. And 94% of those responding disagreed that femininity is diminished by participating in sports. Seventy-three percent of the respondents agree that girls should be allowed to play contact sports.

Several dilemmas remain, according to the report.

"One is that, regardless of the disappearance of the personal concern that sports and femininity are incompatible, a social concern remains: most women feel that they are too often compelled to choose between being athletic and being feminine. A second preoccupation for most women sports enthusiasts is that men are often threatened by losing to a women.

"Despite their openness to coed activities as a means of skill enhancement, therefore," the report said, "athletic women continue to experience discomfort and pay such a high price for their efforts that their behavior can best be considered a pattern of 'reluctant engagement.' "

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