Monday, October 24, 2005

The curious nature of mixed gender competition

OK--I am finally going to do it. I am going to bring up the issue of mixed gender competition. Of course I am doing it in a very safe way by focusing on two particular examples I observed this weekend. I don't want to explode this discussion too much so soon.
So there was crap on TV this weekend which actually allowed me to get some work done but still in those moments when I was ready for a break I was flipping through the channels for some salvation (but not the kind found on BCTV). The Travel Channel had a poker tournament on. It was a women's tournament. Why is there women's poker? I have seen some mixed gender poker on ESPN but I am left wondering why, more often than not it seems, there is a separation of the genders in the game of poker. Seems like it plays on a pretty antiquated notion that women are not as smart as men since poker does not involve physical strength (the usual reason for separating the sexes). Is there something I, a non-poker player, am missing here about the nature of the game that would contribute to the need for sex segregation?
I found this especially interesting as it was juxtaposed in my flipping series with a promo for motorcycle drag racing (excuse my lack of proficiency in the drag racing lexicon) which pitted a male rider against a female rider. How is it that mixed gender drag racing is acceptable but mixed gender poker is more anomalous than common?


Amateur said...

I'm not all that knowledgeable about poker (which obviously is not a sport, but I will let that pass). However, women do play against men in the big tournaments (e.g. Tiffany Williamson finished 15th in the latest World Series of Poker event). The events are dominated by men, it is true; whether that is due to some innate gender difference in poker skill or just the vast difference in participation is unclear.

They might have "women-only" tournaments in the hope that this is a more effective way of marketing poker to women.

As for the bigger issue: do you think that mixed-gender competition is a good thing, or a bad thing? In the vast majority of sports, women would suffer an immense disadvantage in competition. I do not think that this would be to the benefit of women's sports.

ken said...

Yes, I know poker is not a sport (and yet it gets more air time on ESPN than any women's sport) which was part of the initial observation that this non-sport segregates often (for whatever reasons) yet something like drag racing which is considered a sport does not.
As for my feelings about mixed gender competition well I was basically shying away from any large pronouncements about the issue by hiding behind these two specific examples.
Honestly, I am not an advocate of either blanket single-sex competition or all mixed-gender competition. But I do think that it is possible to adjust many sports as they currently exist to make them mixed gender. But I also think each sport should be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Amateur said...

Well then unfortunately I don't think we disagree about anything here ;-)