Segregated Shooting Sports

Men and women are different.  I know, big surprise, right?  I mean, I’m a big believer in women doing whatever they want to do in life, but I’ve never been feminist enough to believe that both sexes will do equally as well at every endeavor.  Oh, I get my competition on against the men in my life from time to time, but truth be told, I’m just not going to beat them at most sports.  When it comes to Olympic-level competition, however, women are rarely even given the opportunity to go head-to-head with their male counterparts.

Currently, there are only two sporting events in the Olympics that allow men and women to compete against each other, with no special concessions for the women:  Equestrian events and Sailing.  There are also a few mixed events, where a team may be composed of both sexes:  Tennis, Badminton, and Luge.  Now, I think the primary success factor in luge is just pure, all-out craziness, rather than the sex of the person engaging in such a dare-devil activity; and I’ve played tennis and badminton…badly…so I do not think of those sports as great equalizers.

But what about the shooting sports?  Well, as it stands today, there are no Olympic shooting events where men and women compete against each other head-to-head, but it has not always been that way.  When smallbore rifle competitor Margaret Thompson tied with teammate Lanny Basham for the gold at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, and the medal was subsequently awarded to Basham, the International Olympic Committee chose to change the rules and segregate men and women across the board in shooting sport events.

But should that be the case?  Shooting sports are not contact sports, nor is success in those events necessarily based upon the size or strength of the shooter.  It seems to me that when there is an opportunity for men and women to compete on a level playing field against each other, then barriers that do not naturally exist should not be unnaturally imposed.

Wall Street Journal writer, Mark Yost, makes a great case for equality within shooting sports in his recent article:  “Taking Aim at an Old Debate:   Can Female Athletes Compete Against Men?  In Shooting, Yes—But Not in the Olympics.”  Also in the article, he spotlights the Texas Christian University rifle team, the first all-women’s team to win the NCAA rifle championship back in 2010, that went 22-0 in 2011, but finished third in that year’s NCAA National Rifle Championships; and that is currently undefeated and making a run for the top spot again this year.

Collegiate shooting sports still allow men and women to compete against each other, though once competitors qualify for the Olympic Games, they must shoot only against their own gender or on mixed teams.  But while the segregation is what some believe to be “sexist” in origin, it has also allowed for a greater number of women to compete in the shooting sports by opening the field to more competitors, in general.

Another article on this topic comes from USA Shooting in USA Shooting Viewpoint:  Men vs. Women in Competitive Shooting.  Check out both stories and see if you believe that female shooters today could compete head-to-head with male shooters, as many are doing and…”Winning!”