I have read many great articles by Christian men and women regarding the participation of women in the workforce, politics, and in the military. These are activities that most women didn’t participate in until fifty years ago. However, I feel there is one other major activity these writers have not addressed. For some reason, they've overlooked women’s participation in sports.
For quite a long time, women resisted the feminist call to play sports, since they just weren’t interested like men were. But this didn't sit well with the feminists; they felt this was the fault of male oppression. In the name of "equality," feminist leaders poked and prodded and pushed women to join the games, until women in droves finally succumbed to the pressure. I think this should give us strong reason to pause and consider the question, "Should women participate in sports?"
Over the years I’ve noticed that Christian parents, as much as any parents, encourage their daughters to participate in sports. This is all the rage in our public schools, especially since the passage of Title IX by the feminists. Since most Christian parents send their children to the public schools, it doesn’t surprise many of us that Christians are influenced more by the secular school culture than by the culture of the Church. Worse, the Church itself is being more heavily influenced by the culture instead of the other way around. One of the trends in schools is the participation in sports by women; therefore it shouldn’t surprise us that so many Christian daughters today participate in sports. But is this really all that bad?
For those of us who believe we should train our daughters according to Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, and other Biblical passages, my answer is "Yes, it is not good." I propose that sports greatly hinders the development of godly, Biblical, feminine character. Parents today expend extraordinary amounts of time and energy taking their daughters from one sports event to another, week after week, even to the point where it exhausts the family and family resources. The fruits we see are that today’s Christian women are often ill-prepared to be Biblically obedient wives and mothers. This brings to mind a couple of questions: "Why do we spend so much time preparing our daughters to play sports?" and "What does it prepare them for in the future?" My answer is that sports prepare women to be more like men. Instead of spending all that time preparing our daughters as the Bible directs, we are training them to be like men so they can better compete with men in traditionally masculine roles - i.e., compete with them in the workforce, in politics, in the military, and in sports.
Actually, I don’t have a problem with women playing recreational sports on an occasional basis, just with them playing competitive sports on a regular day-to-day basis. This rigorous physical and mental training tends to make women more masculine. I think it is prudent to often ask ourselves "Can a woman do this activity and retain a Biblically feminine character?" With sports I think it will be difficult in most cases. Even some of the traditionally more feminine sports like gymnastics and ice skating are now influencing women to be more masculine.
The Bible talks about women developing a quiet and gentle spirit; I think sports fosters anything but that. They instead develop a competitive and contentious spirit that will cause them to have great difficulty in their marriages. I already mentioned that the effort expended on sports will hinder the development of wifely duties around the home; even worse is when a man has to compete against his own wife in the workplace and community. Regarding contentious women, in the 1830’s Alex DeToqueville penned these prophetic words in his book Democracy in America:
"There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make of man and woman beings not only equal but alike.... It may readily be conceived, that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded; and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and disorderly women."
Today we have just this problem. We have a nation filled with weak men and disorderly women. Much of the disorderliness among women comes from feminist influences and activities like competitive sports. Weakened marriages and divorce are often the result.
Most men I know admire a woman who is reasonably healthy and fit; they are also attracted to a woman who is somewhat "soft" and cuddly. This does not mean she should be delicate like tissue paper; no, a woman should be reasonably strong, and the normal duties of life will make her that way. This is what we learn from the Proverbs 31 woman. However, if you look at pictures of female athletes who play sports or observe them on the playing fields, you will notice that many develop strong, muscular bodies. Female athletes also sneer, wince, push, and fight just like the men. I notice these things all the time in pictures in our hometown newspaper. The sneers are most obvious; they make young women very unfeminine. The masculine uniforms and sweaty bodies aren’t very attractive, either.
I also notice when driving by our public school grounds and sports fields another phenomenon taking place: the young girls are trained in sports right along with the boys. To me, this can only be degrading to the boys. In some cases, girls regularly participate on boys' sports teams, and therefore compete against the boys themselves. During the past decade, more and more girls participated in wrestling; since there were no girls' wrestling teams, they joined the boys' teams and competed against the boys. I read about one school where the boys refused to wrestle the girls and forfeited their matches; there could be no greater embarrassment to them than to lose to a girl, not to mention it likely violated their sense of masculine chivalry. So not only is female sports participation degrading the feminine nature of women, in many cases it degrades the developing masculinity in boys.
At the recent summer Olympics in Greece, women’s wrestling was a new sport. There were several female wrestlers on the U.S. Olympic team; most of them received their training by wrestling with men in college, since there were no women’s teams. If you saw their pictures, they looked just like men smashing each other into the mats. Women’s handball was another sport that I’d never seen before, and the pictures I saw of the women fighting each other were sometimes grotesque. Similarly aggressive sports are women’s hockey, boxing, football, rugby, and others where oftentimes the women pretty much look and act like men. But even the less aggressive but more common sports like soccer, basketball, and softball tend to make women masculine and manly.
Some Christians might say that women should not compete in professional sports, but any other level is okay. However, professional athletes get their start somewhere. They begin in local school and community sports leagues like everyone else, and sometimes move on to college and adult leagues. Eventually, they may end up as semi-professionals or amateurs competing around the world in a variety of sports; but nonetheless, the masculinization process begins when they are young girls. The longer they play, the more likely it is that their femininity will be degraded.
Dr. Leon Podles, in his book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity has this to say about sports:
"Agonistic masculine play was the origin of civilization. In the modern world, sports are the emotional center of countless men. Sports are a traditional means to attain masculinity.... Because sports provide an initiation into masculinity, they can easily become a religion. Sports are often the way the boy puts away the soft, sheltering world of the mother and her femininity and enters the world of challenge and danger that makes him a man.... Team sports develop masculinity; they are 'the civilized substitute for war' and sublimate male aggression into channels less harmful than crime.... Sport forms character, manly straightforward character, a scorn of lying and meanness, habits of obedience and command, and fearless courage."
Dr. Podles doesn’t mention female athletes; everything he writes about concerns men, and, most particularly, the development of masculinity and manly character in men. It is my belief that participation in sports will tend to likewise build manly character in women. If one believes like Dr. Podles that sports help to prepare men for war, then I think we can conclude that the same is true for women. One of the reasons so many women today enter the armed forces (and workplace) is due to their participation in sports, which have helped prepare them for that endeavor.
In recent years, I’ve been studying the nature of Hebrew versus Greek education for our children. Most Christian home school advocates today claim that the Hebrew model for education, since it is based on the Bible, is the one we should follow as compared to the pagan, humanistic Greek model we use in our public schools. They claim that following the Greek method weakens families and hinders the development of godly character in our children. Given the great successes of home school students, it is difficult to disagree. I also know that the Greek culture had a very degrading effect upon the Hebrew culture beginning several centuries before Christ was born. So I think we should be very cautious about Greek-like influences. One good source for contemplation is the book Safely Home by Tom Eldridge. He writes:
"Can Christian young people be educated physically without teaching them to obsess on the Greek vision that athleticism equals success? The answer is a resounding yes. As Christians build a distinctively biblical vision for family life, for involvement in the community and in the church, as they dedicate themselves to a life of service, they will find that most physical training takes place within the context of godly work and service to others."
Mr. Eldridge makes the case that we don’t need sports to help train our children. Another issue he raises is nudity:
"A telltale sign of paganism is nudity. Historically, a primary means for introducing nudity into a culture has been through athletic competition which emphasizes form, movement, and the prowess of the body.... Christians should be wary of any educational process or cultural event which justify nakedness on the grounds of athletic freedom...."
It shouldn’t be a secret that women’s sports promote immodest attire. The pressure to be immodest is just one more reason women should avoid sports, and in many cases we shouldn’t even watch women’s (and sometimes men’s) sport competitions. The Apostle Paul often referred to how athletes ran races "unencumbered" (i.e. nude), because of the Greek influence in sports during his day. Based on what Mr. Eldridge writes, the question of whether or not women should participate in sports should be easy to answer.
Given that sports may very well foster pagan and humanistic attitudes, I urge parents to think deeply about this issue and about whether or not any members of their families should participate in organized sports programs. As a minimum, I hope you will agree with me that we should keep our daughters away from competitive sports and spend our time training them how to be Biblically feminine women, wives and mothers.
Photo from the site "Jesus Is Savior"