In today’s world, it’s easy to assume that if girls wanted to participate in sports, they’d simply do it. However, the real issue is often not the desire to play sports but the invisible obstacles that hinder their opportunity. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation,
“Girls in immigrant families report lower rates of sport participation than boys in similar families since many immigrant parents hold traditional attitudes towards gender roles. Female children of immigrant parents may be less likely to participate in sport, as immigrant parents tend to have negative attitudes towards their daughters’ sport participation.”
Gender roles significantly impact women and girls within the Latino community, and
unfortunately, show no sign of stopping. Can you name five Latina athletes off the top of your head? The New York Times states,
“Experts cite social pressures and ethnic and cultural traditions that often shape girls’ attitudes about femininity, competition and aggression as factors discouraging Hispanic girls, and to some degree African-American girls, from participation in athletics.”
Julio Pabon, president of Latino Sports Ventures, a sports marketing firm in the Bronx that represents Latin athletes, said Hispanic families tend to have an old-fashioned sensibility about men’s and women’s roles that reach across the region, generation, class, and subgroups within the population. Pabon goes on to say,
”If you have three siblings in the house all about the same ages, 17, 16, 14, the girl is doing more chores than the guys. It’s the girl at home doing the cooking while mom is out working; the girl who is taking care of the sick grandmother or aunt.”
As claimed by the report, Gender Norms: A Key to Improving Outcomes Among Young Latinas,
“Traditional feminine norms that teach the importance of caretaking, self-sacrifice, and self-denial encourage girls to subordinate their own health and take care of younger siblings or infirm elders — meanwhile ignoring signals of pain and illness in their own bodies and delaying medical attention.”
So if exercise offers a variety of health benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, early death, and more then why isn’t it prioritized for Latina women and girls?
The first step is recognizing the issue and raising awareness about the importance of sport participation in Latino communities by addressing implicit and explicit biases towards Latina women and girls. Second, by making a conscious effort to place high importance on physical activity for everyone within the Latino community. Third, by creating equitable opportunities that consider the influence gender roles can have on decision making. This includes hiring a diverse teaching and coaching staff, in order to support women and girls adequately.
We at GoodSport believe in SeeHer.com’s mission, If you can see her, you can be her, no matter what family you are born into. We hope that girls can see themselves as they truly are with all of their potential.
We want to leave you with three incredible Latina athletes you ought to know:
Idalys Ortiz is a Cuban judoka. She’s competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics and brought home a medal every time.
Mariana Pajón is a Colombian cyclist, two-time Olympic gold medalist and BMX World Champion.
Sisleide do Amor Lima is a Brazilian footballer and coach who played as an attacking midfielder. She is a former member of the Brazil women’s national football team.
Staurowsky, E. J., Watanabe, N., Cooper, J., Cooky, C., Lough, N., Paule-Koba, A., Pharr, Williams, S., Cummings, S., Issokson-Silver, K., & Snyder, M. (2020). Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women. New York, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.
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