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Andreas Myers
Professor Andrea Pitts
Philosophy 2102-400
5 December 2015
The Philosophical Importance of Gender Roles & Masculinity to
Sports
The last 100 years of society has seen a dramatic shift in gender roles and stereotypes.
Through movements such as womens suffrage, LGBTQ rights and the rise of women in the
workplace, we have seen a change in the roles of men. For this paper my main goal is to examine
the changing gender roles and stereotypes in respect to that of openly gay athletes, as well as
transgender athletes. There has been a dramatic change in how the media and society views
openly gay or transgender athletes. 50 years ago athletes such as Kye Allums, a transgender
NCAA player, and Jason Collins, an openly gay NBA player; would have been persecuted with
extreme prejudice for the taboo nature of their sexual preferences. In this paper I will explain the
importance of supporting more athletes to be open about their sexuality and how this is important
to the field of philosophy. To properly see the significance of the changing roles of gender and
masculinity, I will examine three concepts on the importance of the subject matter. The concepts
that note the importance of the matter are: it allows for us to question our own view and
ideologies, it forces us to examine the meaning of masculinity and how it shows the
unnoticed changes in gender roles. In the examination of these concepts, I will use sources from
the story of Kye Allums, Jason Collins & Michael Sam, as well as readings from the Value of
Philosophy by Bertrand Russell and Euthyphro by Plato.

Traditional Gender Roles & Masculinity


In the traditional 1960s an athlete was typically heterosexual, strong and lacked any
notes of effeminacy. This gung-ho, full of machismo personality blanketed all sports institutions
from your local recreational league all the way to the Olympics. In the 1960s the popular
ideology that was enforced by ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) was that of masculinity over
femininity and a bigotry towards homosexuals, as well as transgendered people. These ISAs such
as the church, government and your social network reinforced said stereotypes and are
fundamental to analyzing the first point of contention in the examination of our own views and
ideologies.
The philosophical importance of gender roles in sports is seen in the means to which we
as a society decided that being a heterosexual athlete was the norm and that being homosexual or
transgender was unacceptable. In asking the question of the importance of changing gender roles
and masculinity in sports, we also ask the question of how did we arrive to the conclusion that
gave us the norm for acceptable gender identity and sexuality.

Changing Gender Roles in Sports


In 2010, Kye Allums became the ...first publicly transgender person to play NCAA Div.
1 college basketball. 1Allums, originally born as a female, was a starting basketball player for
George Washington University, a prestigious university known for its excellence in academics
and sports in Washington D.C. Sometime during his junior season Allum reported to his coaches
and teammates that she was a man inside a womans body thus setting a precedent for the

1 Cyd Zeigler,Kye Allums: First Transgender Man Playing NCAA Womens Basketball,

inOutsports. November 1, 2010. Accessed December 10, 2015

LGBTQ community in sports. Never before had a college athlete on a scholarship possessed the
bravery to risk forfeiting their scholarship in order to truly express himself.
The revealing of Allums true gender identity asks the question of whether or not a
transgender man should be allowed to compete in a womens league. This question although
plausible, but not possible until Allums bravery, helps to, as Bertrand Russell so deftly
states,...enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and
diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation.2. Essentially what
Russell is arguing is that the philosophical importance of researching gender roles in sports, such
as Kye Allum, allows for us to imagine possibilities that transgress societal norms. This research
is important because it is inward; it makes people question or reaffirm their personal beliefs and
ideologies. Through her bravery Kye Allum joins a group of social revolutionists in the sports
world such as Jason Collins, Michael Sam and Martina Navratilova.

Importance to Philosophy
The importance of something to philosophy is entirely subjective to that of the researcher,
but for this scenario we will use Bertrand Russells logic. From Bertrand Russells viewpoint, it
can be deduced that anything is important to philosophy as long as it ...results from a critical
examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs.2 In conducting research
on this philosophical issue; my own convictions and beliefs were tested. Growing up in the South
and from a Conservative household, one can see how it might be easy for me to react with
bigotry towards the notion of a transgender college basketball player. However, as my research
continued it became more apparent that I was able to sympathize and most importantly
emphasize with Allums plight. Although I have never felt out of place with my own gender, it is
easy to relate to Allum, because a good proportion of people struggle with their own identity at

some point. It is in this sympathy and empathy that Russells point is made clear, that point
addressing the humanistic questioning that society can endure when attempting to analyze
another persons situation. The changing gender roles in sports is important as it uses the widely
viewed medium of NCAA and professional sports to make people question and self examine
their own standpoints.
In 2013, Jason Collins, a Center for the Brooklyn Nets, told the sports world that he was a
gay man. Jason Collins statement potentially shocked many people as the stereotype for
homosexuals has usually been that they are effeminate and emasculated. This was a culture
shock to many as according to NBA commissioner David Stern, ...Jason [had] been a widely
respected player and teammate throughout his career2 American societys prejudices and
stereotypes of gay men were challenged with Jason Collins coming out. Jason Collins
homosexuality also changed what masculinity in sports means. No longer would gay men be
forced to fall under the stigma of weakness or effeminacy; a gay man in the NBA was a
beneficial deviant in the norm.

Plato & Michael Sam


In his work on an event surrounding Socrates called Euthyphro; Plato recants a discussion in
which Socrates argues upon the foundation of somethings piety. Socrates argues that ...
[Something] is dear to the gods because it is first loved of them, not loved of them because it is
dear to them.3 In laymans terms, Socrates is asking the question of whether something is loved
because it was first or is first because it is loved. This question can be applied in the situation of
masculinity in sports and particularly Michael Sam.
2 "Jason Collins Says He's Gay," in ESPN, April 30, 2013. Accessed December 7, 2015.
3 Benjamin Jowett, comp. Euthyphro. Champaign, Ill.: (Project Gutenberg, 199), 3.

Michael Sam was a Defensive End for the University of Missouris football team when he came
out as gay. Much like Jason Collins, Michael Sams was surprising due to his large build and
aggressive play style as the South Eastern Conference (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year.
Michael Sams sexuality was shocking but welcomed by his Mizzou teammates and had little
impact on his game performance. In fact Michael Sam continued to have a prolific day at the
National Football League (NFL) Combine and had a short stint with the St. Louis Rams, Dallas
Cowboys and the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Socrates line of questioning directly relates to Michael Sam and the changing gender
roles of our world. If we follow Socrates methodology, we would arrive to the question of is
something masculine because it is not effeminate or is something effeminate because it's not
masculine? Michael Sam challenged this norm by being a gay man and not possessing the
qualities that society has associated with being homosexual. Michael Sams openness is
important to this matters philosophical nature, because once again it has us questioning our
prejudices and beliefs.

Objections
Homosexuality and gender identity disorder have been taboo topics that tend to bring out
the very worst in people who are steadfast in their religious or moral convictions. Now while I
respect the right to peoples differing opinion; these opinions must be addressed as they are
potential detractors.
To some people such as staunch Conservatives, the idea of promoting an open door
policy in regards to gay or transgender athletes may seem appalling. Objectors might say that it
is blasphemous to stress the philosophical importance of combating bigotry and exclusion in the

sports arena. There is a backwards and retrogressive mentality surrounding the topic of my paper
that drives people to enforce Dont ask, Dont tell policies in ISAs such as sports or school.
This same backwards thinking would form the objection that openly gay and transgender athletes
have no philosophical benefit to society.

Addressing Objections
My response to the objectors would be that the significance of gay athletes and
transgender athletes is important to defining our own beliefs. By analyzing and promoting gay
and transgendered athletes, we as a society can search the chasms of our own soul and perhaps
find the root or seed of our own prejudices. These same roots and seeds that have caused
centuries of distrust and the fratricide of each other in areas such as Rwanda or Kosovo. If we set
aside our own strong opinions and are receptive to change perhaps we can see the importance of
social martyrs like Kye Allum and Jason Collins.

Conclusion
The importance of viewing changing gender roles and sexuality is immense and its
ripples of social justice have no end. The stories of Kye Allum, Jason Collins and Michael Sam
should undoubtedly serve as a reminder of the progress we have made and the progress we shall
continue to make should we respect the philosophical importance of this progress. The
philosophical benefit of gay and transgender athletes is not seen at the end result, but rather in
the journey in which we derived these results and what questions this journey made us ask.

Bibliography

"Jason Collins Says He's Gay." ESPN. April 30, 2013. Accessed December 7, 2015.
Jowett, Benjamin, comp. Euthyphro. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg, 199. 3.
Russell, Bertrand. "CHAPTER XV : THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY." In The Problems of
Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Zeigler, Cyd. "Kye Allums: First Transgender Man Playing NCAA Women's Basketball."
Outsports. November 1, 2010. Accessed December 10, 2015