Thursday, July 12, 2012

sport and violence

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There are many aspects of sport that are relevant to culture and society particularly in the

areas of violence and identity. There are a variety of contrasting and conflicting opinions

as to the extent to which violence should be aloud, and encouraged in male dominated

sports. Feminists have claimed that violent instinctual urges are what causes males to

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commit these supposedly vicious acts. Also, the sport of soccer, or football, is a perfect

example to stress the emphasis on sport in Australia and Australia’s identity. There are

pressing issues of stereotypical masculinity involved.

The question of violence in sport is a heavily debated topic that has, over the years,

developed into a highly intellectual topic. Feminists are major contributors to arguments

concerning the acceptable level of violence within primarily male dominated sports. They

have claimed that masculinity contains within it an inherent biological urge to commit

acts of violence and this is fueled by contact sports. This claim appears to be based on the

assumption that all males are the same. That masculinity and violence are genetic,

instinctual elements that every man is inclined to follow. It is an attempt to “normalize”

masculinity. Such essentialisms seem to be rather contrived, after all, there many ways of

being male.

Humans should not be treated as unified entities. At a base level everyone possesses a

similar genetic make-up. However, every person is unique with different perspectives or

worldviews. Every person has a different way of dealing with situations based on life

experience. Sure, there are people out there who enjoy causing physical pain. They enjoy

violence for what it is; they revert into hunter-gatherer mode and repress the moral

boundaries placed upon them by contemporary society. This is not, however, the case

with the vast majority of contemporary sports persons. They are involved in a game

whereby strategy and quick thinking can be the difference between winning and losing.

Sure, sometimes this may mean that a rough slide tackle is appropriate, but rules and

boundaries limit excess.

The instinctual urges may still be within everyone, but in contemporary society people

are bound by rules. These rules pertain that perhaps there may be other outlets for

violence other than simply walking down the street and beating someone up. Instead,

there are violent video games with a realm of possibilities, there is a lot of angry music

out there, and, of course, there is contact sport. Perhaps professional boxers are doing

society a favour by keeping their aggression inside the ring.

Australian sport is an institution of enormous significance, particularly in relation to the construction and maintenance of gender patterns. The culture of Australian sport perpetuates ideologies which systematically oppress women and certain groups of men. This process is not always immediately obvious. For instance, the mass media naturalises domination as an inevitable consequence of the male athletes superiority, skill and strength, (Marston 15).

Sport holds an elevated position within many countries, particularly Australia. Australia’s

national identity owes much to sport. Australians take pride in their athletic ability,

particularly in their national sports. The national sports are primarily male dominated and

layered with cultural significance. It is a multicultural society which means that racial

identity within Australian sport is not easily defined. Certainly, within the sport of soccer,

many questions of race, gender, and other such important issues are relevant. Soccer is

not given the media coverage that many popular sports are given. After all soccer has the

highest junior participation rate in Australia. It has been, to an extent, associated with

ethnic minority groups, and simply doesn’t draw crowds like Aussie Rules and Cricket.

Apart from problems within management and promotion Soccer simply isn’t violent

enough for the Australian public as a spectator sport. Overseas they can appreciate the

skill involved with the beautiful game, but it is relatively new to Australia and it doesn’t

hold that initial appeal.

Australia’s national ethos involves being tough and getting in and working hard. This is

an ideology with origins in the working class that has become a national symbol.

Australia’s national identity is based on the very masculine hegemony revered by

feminists. Soccer does not fall within these boundaries, as it does not involve the

necessary physical contact. Thus, it questions our gender perspective and questions our

role within a capitalist patriarchal society. It is, therefore, an unmarketable vehicle within

Australian society, it doesn’t have the profit margin in its favour. Imagine an Australia

where soccer was the primary sporting venture. Imagine the strength of the national

soccer team. The political implications would be promising. European and South

American countries consider soccer as more than a game, but a way of life. There is layer

upon layer of cultural significance embedded within the game; it forms a global

community of supporters. It would signify a collaboration of racial groups from all walks

of life within Australia, pertaining to both male and female participants. By using soccer

as an example the complex nature of sport and its application to culture becomes


Television has played a central role on Australian television since its conception.

Actually, the first television broadcast in Australia was that of the 156 Olympics. Even

news programs place a significant emphasis on sport, and sport related stories. The

ratings prove the mass appeal of such ventures. The most popular shows on television are

consistently sport related. Whether they be actual sporting events, comedy, or

commentary shows. Although women play sport almost as much as men within Australia

women’s sports coverage on television has little to no mass appeal, and very little

coverage. In fact, in 1, women’s sports coverage catered for 1.% of the total sport on

TV. A pole that was given at the time reiterated this move, revealing that only 6% of

women wanted more sport on TV.

This leads to the next topic of observation. Seeing as the vast majority of sport on TV is

male dominated, what place do females hold as viewers of sport. Their appeal to male

sport is vastly different from the males appeal. For women it is a sexually charged

experience. They are viewing able-bodied men use their strength and bravery to perform

spectacular tasks. This presents an opportunity for women to do the very thing men have

been accused of for years. Watching or experiencing a text based on sex appeal. However

this opportunity does have its down sides. Female journalists have been accused of rating

players based on sexual appeal. However some female sports journalists claim that they

view sport from a more “human” angle, from an alternate and ultimately insightful

perspective that males should stand up and take notice of.

The concept of sport has sparked many debates from a variety of sources concerning a

number of pressing and complex issues. Violence is accepted within sport but is reverted

from chaos by rules. Australian sport is governed by strict codes of what is acceptable.

All of which are relevant and applicable to the broad field of cultural studies.


Brown, D & Hogg, R 1, Masculinity, Sport and the Swinging Arm, Polemic, vol. 4, pp. 8-87.

Clark, D 18, Australian Sports Almanac, Hardie Grant, Victoria.

Marston, G 15, ‘More than just a game’ XY men, sex, politics, Spring, p. 11.

McKee, A 001, ‘Live and Sweaty When is nudity Acceptable in Sport’, in Australian Television. A Genealogy of Great Moments, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Australia.

Patterson, K 15, Captain Socceroo, Harper Sports, Australia.

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