Gender Equity In Sport

by Leanne W.

Gender equity in a sporting environment is resources, programs and decision-making being fair to both male and female genders and also identifies any imbalances in the benefits they receive. Sport is an area that we see many issues with gender inequity. The gender pay gap is seen heavily in sports among other areas. Female athletes are often paid way less than their male counterparts when participating in the same sport. This requires many female athletes to also try and balance full or part time jobs while they also have vigorous training schedules and family lives as well.

Basketball is a increasingly popular sport in North America. Players in the WNBA get paid way less than NBA players no matter what experience or skill level. The highest paid player in the WNBA still makes less than the lowest paid player in the NBA by thousands of dollars. In 2015 the US women’s soccer team just won a gold medal at the world cup and received only 2 million dollars compared the men’s team who came in 16th place and received 9 million. At major sporting events such as tennis tournaments female events often have lower paying prize money for the winners often the price differing by as much as thousands of dollars. Female athletes are fighting for change, as they deserve to make the same amount of money for playing the exact same sport in the exact same event. Although we have seen small changes to increase the amount of money female athletes make, we still have a long way to go until both genders are making equal amounts.

Another area of sport where we see gender inequity is sports media coverage. The Olympics is one of the only international events where we see women’s events advertised and broadcasted just as much as the men’s events. On regular sport broadcasting stations such as ESPN, less than 1 percent of all coverage is coverage of female sport, and we do not see female analysts only female reporters who are often very pretty. When turning on the TV casually and turning to the sports channels, you will never stumble upon a women’s event by accident it will always be male events as female events are not played at prime television hours. They are often played mid-afternoon during the weekdays when most individuals are still at work or early on weekend mornings when most people would still be asleep.

In 2018 the first female college gymnastics meet was televised on the ESPN network showing UCLA competing against University of Kentucky. These are the two top rated college gymnastics teams in the United States. Although ESPN broadcasted the event, it was broadcasted mid-afternoon and it was not properly advertised so it had a low viewer rating. Male college sports are a huge part of sporting coverage and have been broadcasted for years. The most common sports to see televised are national leagues such as the NFL, NHL, MLB and many others. This leads many to wonder if women’s sports even have national leagues as we never have the opportunity to view them

The gender inequities in sport lead to young girls not having proper role models in sports and this is a main factor that we see adolescent girls dropping out of sport at young ages. If our sporting systems had equal pay and equal coverage, we would see a boom in female grass root and competitive participation for girls of all ages as these young girls could see female athletes succeeding and develop positive role models in sport. Currently, young girls are not encouraged as heavily as their male counter parts to participate in sport, as being a female athlete is not currently a viable career path due to the wage gap. Many families believe sport is not important for young girls as they are most likely unfamiliar with female sport themselves, as they are not often exposed to it. If a young girl or her parents believes she cannot make a future out of something she loves, the likelihood of her continuing is very slim and she will shift her focus towards activities that are more beneficial for her future.



Why do we have gender-specific bicycles?

by Aaron C.

If you ride bicycles, whether for sport, leisure or travel, then you are probably well aware of marketing tactics that are used in the sales of bicycles, just like the sales of all other sporting goods which is creating a specific product for each gender. At one point in time, when bicycles were starting to become more popular after the world wars, women’s bicycles were very easy to identify because they featured a huge sloping top tube so a lady could saddle up on the bicycle without having her outfit get bunched up. These bikes also came in “prettier” colors than the men’s bikes (Allatt, 2018). Choosing the right bicycle may become difficult if you are worried about the stereotypes that may come with owning a certain women’s or men’s bike. There are numerous reasons that is limiting participants in cycling such as choice, but also comments made from other drivers, safety concerns, and the societal norms that may look as cycling as a children’s activity rather than a fitness activity (Emond, Tang, & Handy, 2009). This post is concerned with the marketing that happens with bicycles, which is a growing market so every possible edge or tactic is used to push product at the consumer.

In the modern era, women and men’s bicycles are built, shaped, and put together with the same parts, so essentially they are the same bicycle with the same build quality. The only real difference is the paint job and name that they give the different bikes. It is not only the bicycles but also the parts as well with women-specific seats, handlebars, grips etc. This topic speaks to me because I am an avid mountain biker, I have 3 bicycles that all range from a basic fat bike to a downhill race bike, my girlfriend just recently purchased a new bicycle. Her bicycle is identical to the men’s version with the same part-list, the only difference was a more feminine color and a higher price.It is a women’s specific all-mountain bike but the geometry is almost identical the as the men’s version except for a few odd specifications. (The bicycle was purchased second hand at a much lower retail price)

The price difference in gender-specific bicycles should not exist just like gender-specific bicycles should also not exist. The women specific prices are usually much higher than the male counterparts. Everyone prefers different geometry and the way a bicycle handles so separating bicycles based on gender is ridiculous and weakens the bicycle market rather than strengthening it. This could be one of the reasons associated with why women are less likely to ride bicycles (Allat, 2018). Just like we have learned in class, women/girls are dropping out or not participating in sport/leisure at a much higher rate than males. If you were to go on, a mountain bike newsfeed, you would find it filled with articles about males mostly with the odd (maybe 1 out of 15) articles containing female riders or races. This also shows the lack of media attention being received as well but that’s a topic for another post. The reason that gender-specific bicycles should abound, not only to help grow cycling as a sport for females, is because the consumer demographic is changing; women’s bikes might lose potential male buyers as well as the high-end-seeking female buyers because of lacking technology. Often the latest features and build designs are built on the standard mountain bicycles, then brought over a year or two after to the gender-specific frames and bicycles. I know of many people who ride “women’s” bicycles who are males, having a bicycle fit you and your body shape is all that matters, not the color or the name. A good fit is a key to comfort and performance. I dislike the women’s specific label because body shapes vary. Just because the bicycle is marketed as a woman’s bicycle does not mean it is ridden by a woman. It’s ridden by someone it fits. My mother uses my old mountain bike since it is comfortable for her. This shows how it is simply just marketing tactics used to separate bicycles into two classes.

In an age where we’re all more comfortable in our own skin and owning our own personal style, I think it might be time to hang up the preconceived notions of what men and women need or want in bicycles or any other sporting equipment for that matter; start making bikes that everyone can and will want to ride; and label them by something other than gender. Cycling needs to grow as a sport and restraining the growth because of a marketing tactic is in no way benefitting the sport or even cycling as a form of transportation.


Allatt, A. (2018, January 21). What is stopping women from cycling? Retrieved March 19, 2018, from

Emond, C., Tang, W., & Handy, S. (2009). Explaining gender difference in bicycling behavior. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2125), 16-25.

The Women’s Mountain Bikes Scam (Why You Should Not Buy a Womens Mountain Bike). (2016, October 18). Retrieved March 19, 2018, from

Just strong.

By Sydney S.

Women’s athletic ability has been underestimated for decades. Although the amount of respect for women in sports has increased, we still have a long road ahead of us. Today we can look back and cringe at some of the things that were said or happened regarding women in sport. We can laugh at how absurd some of these things were and know that if they were to be said today they would not be accepted as they were at the time.

“I’ll tell you why I’ll win. She’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability.” – Bobby Riggs before losing to Billie Jean King

“Women’s menstrual cycles make them too emotionally unstable to participate in the sport.” –  British Boxing Board of Control

Although the disrespect and disregard towards women in sport is not as striking as shown in the quotes above, it is still present. Women are still underestimated and objectified in the world of athletics. They are underpaid and under represented in the media. However, there is one sporting event that does not conform to these norms. This sport shows us that women can perform as well as or better than men. This sport does not require that their athletes look pretty or pose naked for the media. This sport pays their top male and female athletes the exact same as well as receives equal airtime on ESPN (Davidsdottir, 2016). This is something that can not be said for nearly any sport. This sport is CrossFit.

CrossFit was once thought to be a fitness craze but is now the daily fitness regimen for members of over 13,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide. In my opinion, it is here to stay. Greg Glassman created CrossFit to improve fitness. He defined fitness as increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. This definition is not dependent on your gender and neither are the methods of improving it. Which is why every day males and females walk into CrossFit gyms and suffer through the same workouts together.

In a CrossFit gym there is no “girls room” filled with pink dumbbells, yoga mats and exercise balls. It has been found that the lack of such sexed spatial divisions pushes the boundaries of gender norms (Knapp, 2015). It challenges the gender normative bodily practices seen in “global gyms”. The women are not subjected to only cardio, they lift with the men. They are not worried about what anyone might say if they leave the stereotypical Stairmaster and start deadlifting or squatting a barbell. In CrossFit gyms women do not shy away from lifting heavy, and in my experience some of the women end up lifting more than the men. A CrossFit gym is a safe and empowering space for women. No stranger walks up to them and makes a remark about their body. No one tells them they shouldn’t lift weights because it will make them bulky and, of course, men don’t like that. In a CrossFit gym, women are not told they are strong for a girl, they are told they are strong. Just strong.

Another reason that CrossFit varies from other gyms is its purpose. The majority of people attending a CrossFit gym regularly are not there to improve their appearance. Losing weight may have been what initially brought them to a CrossFit gym, but it isn’t what keeps them coming back. The majority of participants show up every day to improve their abilities, whether it be 15-year-old Sam’s ability to Clean and Jerk or 70-year-old Jane’s ability to stand up out of a squat. I believe this is something that many females find refreshing. There are so many impossible beauty and fitness standards for females today. Magazines scream out words like: tone, slim, fast, sexy, burn and the list goes on. When women walk into a CrossFit gym, they quickly realize that their coaches are not concerned with what they look like, but rather what they can do. What Knapp found from interviewing female members of a CrossFit gym was that their thoughts towards fitness and their body changed soon after joining the gym. Their thoughts shifted from worries of being skinny or thin enough to fit the weak, fragile, feminine body that society has constructed. Now they were concerned with how strong they were becoming and how fast they were moving.

CrossFit is a sport that puts men and women on an even playing field. Knapp found that men’s beliefs about women and athletics also changed when they joined a CrossFit gym. Men spoke of having an attitude that men would always out perform women until they joined the gym and then found a new respect for female athletes (Knapp, 2015).  At the highest level of competition men and women compete along side each other. If competing as an individual, women compete against women and men against men, but the workouts and movement standards are the same for both. If competing on a team your team will consist of three men and three women. As a team you will go through the workouts together and each member will have to complete the same work load as the other. For once women have an equal role as men on a coed team.

Overall, I believe that CrossFit sets an excellent example of a sporting event that is gender equal. Not only do their male and female athletes receive equal media time but there is also an equal amount of male and female announcers in their media. There is also an equal amount of male and female officials or judges. CrossFit did not begin when only men were thought to be powerful superheroes and women fragile princesses in need of help. This could possibly explain why it breaks many gender norms in the world of athletics. If other sporting events would take notes from CrossFit we might be well on our way to gender equality in sports.


Knapp, B. A. (2015). Gender representation in the CrossFit Journal: A content analysis. Sport in Society, 18(6), 688-703.

Knapp, B. A. (2015). Rx’d and shirtless: An examination of gender in a CrossFit box. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 23(1), 42-53.

Davidsdottir, K. (2016, April 6). What CrossFit Can Teach Pro Sports About Gender Equality. Retrieved March 18th, 2018, from


How can you watch what isn’t there?

by Josie King

When you turn on ESPN, you can expect to see coverage of Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia, LeBron versus Curry, and any other male sports league game, but when do you expect to see coverage of women’s sports? Perhaps its during tennis season, or when the Canadian women’s hockey team is playing in the Olympics. The fact is that although female participation in sport has increased since the implementation of Title XI in 1972, the coverage and attendance of women’s sports is still at a low (Ottaway, 2016).

There could be multiple reasons why people aren’t watching women’s sports, it can all be traced back to the dominance of sport as a masculine activity and the construction of gender roles. Sports have, and continue to be dominated by the narrative that participating in these activities is proof of one’s masculinity, an arena where femininity is looked down upon and criticized. Although blatant sexism in sports coverage such as this quote from a sportswriter in 1936, “It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it,” it has not disappeared completely. In fact, comments like this one, “The vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…. The baggy uniforms don’t help,” taken from Bill Simmons, an HBO sports personality in 2006, showcase how female athletes are often not talked about by their physical ability but their physical appearance (Ottaway, 2016).

Apart from discouraging comments about female athletes, there is also a lack of coverage of women’s sports which leads to the most obvious question, how can you watch something that isn’t there? In a study by USC researchers published in 2017, the research focused on decades worth of affiliate networks in the LA area, and their coverage time of women’s sports (Chaffee, 2017). The study found that these networks devoted only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports, which was actually a decrease by 1.8 percent in 1989 (Chaffee, 2017). The study also found that SportsCenter, one of the world’s largest viewed sports networks averaged only 77 seconds of airtime to female athlete stories, almost 50 percent less than male athlete’s stories (Chaffee, 2017). Once again, how can we watch women’s sports when they are nowhere close to having the same coverage of men’s?

Looking at the bigger picture, we come to the question of why aren’t we seeing equal coverage? One of the main arguments I can think of is that there aren’t as many leagues for females as there are for males, however, this is because the support for female leagues is not as aggressive as those for males. In fact, sport fans of both sexes prefer men’s sports to women’s (Tierney, 2003). But why is this? As mentioned above, it could be because sports have traditionally been a male dominated institution thought of as a building masculinity. And because of this masculine idea of sport, we see less coverage of women’s sports, and that coverage is usually lackluster and short, the only time we see coverage of women’s sports as inspired is when they are portrayed in idealistic feminine positions such as caring teammates, mothers, and spouses (Chaffee, 2016). But why does this cycle continue to happen? If women are now involved in sports at all levels, why does coverage remain low? Is it because we, as a society, still believe in the gender roles, and idea that women should not be the least bit ‘masculine’ or perhaps show their tough and competitive side? Or is it because people simply do not enjoy watching unenthusiastic coverage of sports?

It’s hard to determine one root cause for the lack of people watching women’s sports because there is perhaps too many that are woven together into a cycle we cannot seem to break. If we look at the disparity between sports both sexes play such as soccer and basketball, popularity of male teams is evident in coverage because men are said to be faster, stronger, and more athletic, attributes needed for those particular sports. For women, popular sporting events watched are tennis, gymnastics and ice skating, all events involving grace and beauty. The fact of the matter is, we continue, as viewers, to fall for this cycle that is completely gendered, one that makes us see certain sports as appropriate for female athletes. This cycle continues because the coverage of a specific sport that is deemed feminine is higher in production value and airtime than those considered more masculine such as basketball. We unknowingly view these sports and become reinforced to the concept of gender, and which sporting arena each gender belongs (Bodenner, 2015).  I truly hope the day comes that the audience chooses to watch sports solely based on talent, no matter the sex.


Bodenner, Chris. (2015)  ‘Why Aren’t Women’s Sports as Big as Men’s?’ Retrieved from

Chaffee, Ian. (2017) ‘Forget about sexism: Now TV coverage of women’s sports is just plain boring’

Retrieved from

Ottaway, Amanda. (2018) ‘Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports?’

Retrieved from



Female Image in Sport

by Mackenzie M.

The image women display in sport is often considered negative by fans, society, and other athletes. Women in general face sexism, lack of opportunity, stereotypes, and social expectations. Women in sport face all the same issues with the addition of a constant internal battle regarding what they are willing to sacrifice and compromise in order to further their competitive career. It is well known that female athletes tend to pose in magazines for campaigns or products in order to receive adequate financial compensation in their athletic profession; however, this leaves them open to sexual objectification and shifts the focus from their chosen sport to their physical appearance. Unlike men, women are rarely pictured in a manner that involves the sport they compete in. In the few photos women are featured in a sport context, the pictures are highly sexualized with the intention of making the athlete sexy and appealing.

Many would argue that if women wanted to be taken seriously in sport, they would not subject themselves to this kind of publicity; however, sports leagues do not pay women a tenth of what they pay their male athletes. This leads to women looking for other compensation options, which involves posing nude or in minimal clothing a majority of the time. One study declared “when sportswomen were given a choice regarding self-representation, they emphasized their physical power, strength, and athleticism” (Kane, LaVoie, & Fink, 2013, p.273). Some of the ways women modify their appearance involves maintaining a feminine appearance, avoiding aggressive behaviour, and establishing a heterosexual reputation (Davis-Delano, Polock, and Vose, 2009). Female athletes are aware that these elements can further their career, lead to endorsements, and increase their publicity; therefore, they expose themselves in this way. Anna Kournikova and Danica Patrick are two talented athletes that have benefitted from their physical appearance. Being physically appealing has garnered them more public support and more attention. Other female athletes are criticized for their overly muscular physique and displaying more masculine behaviour. Women are considered either too muscular for a female athlete or too thin to play competitively.

Sexuality also plays a role in the image female athletes portray to the world. Many women feel they must act especially feminine in order to avoid being called butch or gay. As a society, we make assumptions regarding the sexuality of individuals based on their body or image and female athletes are no strangers to these presumptions. Female athletes are more captivating to the public when they exhibit heterosexual actions. One opinion is that negative outcomes for women can be minimized if women adhere to hegemonic femininity (Butler, 1990). This version consists of “submissiveness, dependency, concern over physical appearance and emotional ability” (Hardy, 2015, p.155). It is also stated that in sports with a male majority, women have a higher chance of being labelled with masculine attributes. Simply participating in sport regardless of physique automatically subjects women’s image to evaluation. Despite their objectives to become great athletes, their task also includes looking desirable to the audience, in particular men, in order to be relevant in sport discussion. The need to focus so much time and attention on femininity becomes a deterrence for many female athletes; therefore, their desire to participate decreases. Unfortunately, our society is so obsessed with image, and as a result it has directly affected female participation in sport.

Sport in its purest form encompasses athletic ability, skill, and performance; however, as a society we have corrupted it and altered its primary focus to appearance whether on or off the field. In today’s sport, the trend consists of the most popular and successful athletes being the most attractive; however, in men’s sport appearance is rarely correlated with the success of their career. For women, success in sport is not only dependent on the hours they commit to training or the skills they develop, but on how the world sees them. Their careers can often be at the mercy of public opinion. This also sends a negative message to young girls who often look up to female athletes. They are left with the concept that beauty is necessary to be successful in sport and that athleticism, talent, and hard work come second. Women in sport should have the opportunity be seen as strong, capable, talented athletes while also being allowed to display a feminine or masculine image. “Samantha, a basketball player, chose to be photographed in a dress while standing in the gym as a way to combine her athletic and female identities” (Kane et al., p.273).

Image should be irrelevant in sport. As someone who played competitive hockey growing up, I quickly became a fan of watching the sport on TV and going to live games. The enjoyment I received from the sport was from witnessing teams go head to head to outperform one another in aggressive competition. My interest in hockey was not contingent on the attractiveness of the male athletes on either team, it was based on the amazing skill they possessed. Women are also fierce athletes who unfortunately have to deal with their skills being constantly overshadowed by their physical appearance. Attention does not always get paid to the best hockey, soccer, or rugby player, it is often directed to the athlete with the complete package. The athletes with a certain image that can sell merchandise or promote companies are the ones consistently talked about and supported. While playing girls hockey, I also witnessed the assumptions girls made about other girls in regard to their appearance. They would judge players on other teams based on how long their hair was, the clothes they wore, and how aggressive they were. Unfortunately, men are not the only ones who use image to attribute certain characteristics to individuals, women are also guilty of this. As athlete’s women endure endless scrutiny and face stereotypes; therefore, they must support each other and the decisions they make in their athletic career in order to break down the image barriers they face and redirect the focus of female sport.


Davis, L.R., Pollock, A., Vose, J.E. (2009). Apologetic behavior among female athletes: A new questionnaire and initial results. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 44(2-3), 131-150. DOI:

Hardy, E. (2015) The female ‘apologetic’ behaviour within Canadian women’s rugby: Athlete perceptions and media influences. Sport in Society,18(2), 155-167. DOI: 10.1080/17430437.2013.854515

Kane, M.J., LaVoi, N.M., Fink, J.S. (2013) Exploring elite female athletes’ interpretations of sport media images: A window into the construction of social identity and “selling sex” in women’s sports. Communication & Sport, 1(3), 269-298. DOI: 10.1177/2167479512473585

Model or Role Model

By Kendra U.

In the book Women, Media and Sport (1994), there is a section that focuses solely on reflecting gender values. Pamela Creedon’s purpose throughout this chapter is to expand insights on how the playing fields in sports (rinks, fields, courts) serve as a metaphor for gender values. She states that “at the most fundamental level, gender influences which games or activities are defined as ‘real’ sports” (Creedon, 1994).  The media will choose which sporting events they want broadcasted for the world to see. A majority of the time it is men documented and they are the ones categorized as ‘real’ athletes performing in ‘real’ sports. Media can make or break a sport or an athlete and I believe this statement is highly influenced by one’s gender in the sport environment.

Being a male is a privilege in the sport setting; they get opportunities that women do not. Women are not granted access to play professional sports that are broadcasted on television such as football, baseball, or hockey in the elite-level leagues that men do. This is most likely due to the fact that society perceives women as less qualified, powerful or physical than men (Creedon, 1994). Don’t get me wrong, women do have access to sports. Most of the time they have a place to play any sport that a woman chooses to pursue, however, not to the extent that men do. Since the beginning of organized sport, it was designed by and for white, middle class men. Still today, a sport must be appealing to men for it to be effective. It is assumed that male sports have mostly male spectators; while most women’s sports must be attractive for men and women spectators in order to be successful (Dworkin & Messner, 2002).

Male athletes get paid a significant amount to play sports on television, regardless of how good they are, or how often they play. Cristiano Ronaldo is a professional soccer player who has a salary of $58 million with an endorsement income of $35 million, meaning he has a total income of $93 million. Jason Spezza is a third line National Hockey League player for the Dallas Stars, meaning he does not play as often as most players and his salary income is $7.5 million. Keeping those salaries in mind, let’s looks at Serena Williams, an American professional tennis player who was the highest paid female athlete in 2017. Her salary was $8 million with $19 million coming from endorsements adding to a total income of $27 million. She was ranked number one in singles on eight separate occasions and her salary is a seventh of the ‘best’ male athlete. Thinking about these statistics is insane!

Most women athletes get paid much more from participating in commercials, posing in magazines or partaking in advertisements than just earning a salary from playing their sport. In short, you could say that female athletes must be a part time model aside from their great athletic abilities to survive in a sport career. With that being said, would a less attractive female athlete be able to make a living from sport? Most likely no, because they would not be chosen to be in those magazines and advertisements. If you are a professional male athlete, there is a high chance that you are very well known in the public eye.  If you are a professional women athlete you have to be very well known by the public; women need media to be a successful athlete and make a living out of their sport.

So, let’s get this straight, men are able to play professional sports that get broadcasted on television daily, do not have to worry about their appearance to succeed, while getting paid an outstanding amount that can provide for their families and much more. Women, on the other hand, can be excellent at their chosen sport, train and play as much as men do, while they are rewarded with little to no television broadcasting, extremely low salary compared to male athletes, cannot survive financially to support their family and must have part time jobs on the side. Women need to put way more effort and plea into their sport to get half of the benefits men do.

After gaining all of this knowledge, what can society do to improve these limitations that women athletes suffer? Firstly, from a young age, we can teach and inform children on gender equality. Parents could show no difference in toys or games that their kids play with at home. Coaches, recreational leaders or teachers in gym class should also do the same as they interact with children growing up. Along with teaching children, school systems should also provide the same opportunities for boys and girl; offer the same sports, uniforms, travel money, practice facilities and scholarships that boys have usually received much more than girls in the previous generations.  If children grow up believing that girls and boys deserve the same opportunities, there should be no surprises when it actually does happen in the future.

Lastly, I believe society and the media, needs to put more superiority and pride on women’s sport. People make such a big deal over men’s sport which is why they are the ones get broadcasted all of the time. If the public puts more focus and attention towards women’s sport it could be more successful, leading to women striving financially, solely through their athletic abilities regardless of all the other factors that currently make a woman a successful athlete. This could be done by perhaps having a women’s Stanley cup to fight for each year, or offering a Vince Lombardi trophy for women who play football. Having these big events for women would draw much more attention to female sports and ultimately lead to the media wanting to document it. If women can get more awareness, praise and commendation on their sports, they too, just like men, can be a role model rather than a model to succeed in sport.


Creedon, P. J. (1994). Women, Media and Sport: Challenging Gender Values. Sage. Retrieved from:

Scraton, S., & Flintoff, A. (2002). Gender and Sport: A Reader. Routledge. Retrieved from:


Single-Parent Families: Barriers To Participation in Physical Activity and Leisure

By: Natalie G.

Single-parent families are more common in today’s contemporary society than ever before. As we all know as kinesiology students, physical activity and leisure are important in our daily lives and foster many benefits. We, as students, take the time out of our week to go to the gym to workout or engage in a sport/leisure activity despite all of the workloads we have. However, in single-parent families, the barriers are far greater which prevents them from engaging in physical activity to receive the benefits and socially connect through leisure. In class, we have gone over the challenges single-parent families face and they are economic challenges, parental conflict, less parental supervision of children, and less time for household tasks, child care tasks, and personal leisure (Shannon-McCallum, 2018). From a personal perspective, I grew up in a single-parent home as an only child and my mother never engaged in leisure activities due to financial issues, lack of time, unmotivated, supervision issues, and many more. Results of her not engaging in physical activity or leisure have increased her risks of health issues and lessened our social connectedness as a family.

As a class, we looked into considering family. We need to consider family, especially single-parent families because family is a location/context in which we enjoy leisure, it is often the most important social agent as family transmits attitudes, values, behaviour, and culture from one generation to another, and children are taught and reproduce gender roles (Shannon-McCallum, 2018). Families play a large influence on children on whether they are going to engage in physical activity/leisure activities or not. Children will develop values and attitudes towards leisure and sport and are likely to reproduce their family gender roles from their own parents. Therefore, is it important for parents (particularly single-parent families) to engage in physical activity and leisure by possibly removing or decreasing their barriers to participate, and remodel for their children.

Digging deeper into this topic, an article by Azar, Naughton, and Joseph (2009) explored physical activity and social connectedness in single-parent families. They found that single-parent families have more challenges than dual-parent families. “Often single-parents report less perceived social support, fewer connections with friends and families and lower levels of social engagement than parents in ‘coupled’ families” (Azar et al., 2009, p. 2). Through the study, a program at the YMCA (Active Families Project) was developed for families (parents) to engage in physical activity, reduce their barriers, and build a better social network with others. The results found that the single parents had reduced barriers, stronger social networks, and supervision. The program at the YMCA found a threefold in the results. The first one was the number of perceived barriers to physical activity decreased over time. The second one was improved social connections with friends and family by more conversations over the phone and more visits. The third one was increased physical activity through the single-parents and their children (Azar et al., 2018).

Growing up, if there was a program in my community willing to help out families at the time, my mother would have been more engaged in her leisure pursuits and our social connectedness would have been greater. She felt that her lack of time due to work and supervision issues was the main factor as to why she did not engage in physical activity or her leisure pursuits. Programs at the YMCA that focus on families are important because this gives parents the opportunities to engage in leisure and sports activities, by removing the barriers and create stronger social networks. Single-parents need programs in their community like this to receive the benefits of physical activity and social networking, and to feel that their barriers are not as heavy as dual-parent families. Additionally, single-parents have to want the help from programs and others, to reduce their barriers. Throughout the study, 20 participants were unable to be contacted, 11 of them withdrew, and 3 loss interests (Azar et al., 2009); thus, parents have to want the help to be committed to reducing their barriers to increase their physical activity and leisure. Although this study was just a project, the benefits are similar to a real program that wants to help out local families.

Looking more into single-parent mothers versus single-parent fathers, the barriers are still similar. Beginning with single-parent mothers, “Single mothers are often the primary or sole income provider for the family and spend nearly as much time with their children as married mothers (Kendig & Bianchi, 2008), potentially leaving less time for engaging in physical activity” (Dlugonski & Motl, 2014, p. 2). To bring back my personal experience with a single-parent mother, she was also considered low income, which had an impact on her physical activity and leisure. “Low-income single mothers reported feeling fatigued and stressed because of work-family conflicts in a qualitative study (Son & Bauer, 2010) and these feelings might further impact motivation to participate in physical activity” (Dlygonski & Motl, 2014, p.2). Due to her low-income salary, this had an impact on her participation in leisure and sports due to fees and equipment costs, which resulted in her motivation to be absent to participate in physical activity.

On the contrary, single-parent fathers also have the same barriers to their physical activity and leisure. Although there is not much research on single-parent fathers, they experience the same barriers. They are the providers of their children and may have issues with supervision and financial costs, which can result in lack of participation in physical activity and their leisure pursuits. They are consumed in taking their children to their sports and leisure activities every week; they struggle to find time for their own physical activity, which can create a large barrier.

In relation to the Gender, Leisure, and Sport course, this topic is significant. I believe it is important to provide support to the single-parent families considering they are more common in today’s society. Single-parent mother and fathers have a lot more responsibilities than dual parent families. Therefore, it is important for organizations to provide programs in place for local families to create those opportunities for them to engage in physical activity and leisure and reduce those barriers. Single-parents also have to want the help offered by the organizations to create opportunities for themselves. Many benefits are fostered when single-parents barriers are reduced such as their perceived barriers to physical activity decreases, improved social connections, and increased physical activity levels (Azar et al., 2009).


Azar, D., Naughton, G. A. & Joseph, C.W. (2009). Physical activity and social connectedness in single-parent families. Leisure Studies, 28(3), 349-358

Shannon-McCallum, C. (2018). Lecture 9 – Family and Leisure(I)_Cole. In Lecture at UNB.

Dlugonski, D. & Motl, R. (2014). Social cognitive correlates of physical activity among single-parent mothers with young children. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 637-641

Female Athletes’ Dilemma: Make it Safer to Say No

by Karlie S.

Sometimes, the latest sports news can be mixed up with “family stories”, when female athletes have been successful in making headlines. Marginalization and trivialization of women athletes is not something new. It has become all but a cliché to point out that their achievements are being undervalued whereas their contributions in boosting female esteem and stimulating gender equality are being ignored. But that’s the reality, for now, and possibly for the nearest future as well, unless resorting to certain compulsory means. Take the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where U.S. women athletes made themselves the biggest winner out of the 206 nations competing at the Games, headlines turned out to be like this: “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio”. The media later apologized for using the world “wife”, after remarks sparked outrage on social media platforms. But we all know that this can hardly be the end. Media will still follow the “norms” of news reporting, in particular within the sport context, by equating male as “athlete” itself, labeling them with words like “strong”, “powerful”, “fast”, “big”, and “greatest”, while portraying female as women doing sport, referring them to “unmarried”, “eye-candy”, “pregnant”, and sometimes “like a man”. Is it too difficult to make a change, or there too much reluctance to do so? Given the complexity of interests interwove in today’s economy, things can get a little bit tricky, especially for those insiders.

In fact, if we look at reports involving female athletes, which takes up only tiny amount of overall news reporting, it is easy to notice that trivialized stories are everywhere. Just think about it. How often do we see female athletes hit the “front page”?

Cooky et al. (2015) found through their 25 year longitudinal study that coverage of women’s sports hasn’t expanded–Los Angeles broadcast affiliates devote only 3.2% coverage to women’s sports whereas SportsCenter (a program run by ESPN) devote only 2%, a number has remained “remarkably(p7)” flat; 32 segments out of 934 news stories from 2014 were on women’s sports; only one out of the 145 teasers alerted the audience to an upcoming women’s sports story while only three out of 199 SportsCenter’s teasers were focused on women’s sports. What’s more, according to a 2014 Upper Midwest Emmy Award-winning documentary: Media Coverage and Female Athletes, out of all athletes, 40% are female, but they receive only 4% of all sport media coverage. Likewise, Billings and Young (2015) found that during 2013 and 2014, women’s sports were aired less than 1% in Sports Center and Fox Sports Live.

Despite all the efforts of encouraging females’ participation in sport, women’s sports coverage hasn’t kept up. Even though in some cases, they make it onto the front page, what the audience saw was often a beautiful woman, with a big smile and a suggestive posture, hardly reminding you of her athleticism. While magazine coverage is no exception, large institutions are “selling” female athletes not only in a more provocative manner, but also adding “family stories”. And seemingly, media agencies tend to shift gears from describing female athletes as sexual objects to portraying them as mothers, wives, girlfriends, and caregivers (Cooky et al., 2015; Messner, 2010)

But that’s not the whole story. When it comes to female athletes’ cover page shooting, there is a larger possibility of sharing that cover shot with a male athlete, depicting female athletes in a sexually objectifying pose. One study noted that out of the 35 female included covers, only 18 featured the female as the primary or sole image (Weber & Carini, 2013).

Media never failed us in using this stunt. As “weaker” and “less important” constitute female athletes’ role, the media makes no small effort in cementing it as a social norm.

However, should they be the only one to blame? When economic interests make the call, what we’ve seen cannot be judged with simply “right” or “wrong”, especially in an era when new media stimulates the evolution of communication, fostering an insatiable desire for entertainment and news consumption. Everyone is an insider——For either sports TV or magazines, the tail wags the dog. While viewers’ appetite leads the coverage, media improve revenues by give whatever images viewers want. The more coverage or airtime given to men’s sports, the more male followers will subscribe, and they will be more willing to buy magazines if the cover girl looks pretty, sexy, and attractive. And if that cover girls happens to be a female athlete, even better. At least, this is how the most media is sorted out. While for those who made it to a cover page, be it sole image or partnered with a male athlete, they get the money, which might play a significant part in keeping her athletic career funded, especially considering that female athletes’ wages are remarkably low compared to their male counterpart. A reporter from CNN noted that “The average salary for a WNBA player is $72,000, which doesn’t include bonuses and benefits, while the average salary for an NBA player is around $5 million, or about 70 times what the average female basketball player makes.” With that being said, it’s even impossible for female athletes to get high quality training, not to mention to blow audience’s mind with a fabulous performance.

If they can get funding by just simply shooting a picture, why not? Regardless of the reasons, female athletes need money to support themselves and their family. They also need media exposure to build fan base. Audiences will purchase whatever “sports kit” is provided by the media, creating false impressions of how media portrays female athletes. And the circle goes on.

When everyone is the stakeholder, it’s hard to make change. As for media, they could just simply apology when things went wrong and at the same time enjoy higher pageviews. Even though female athletes might feel uncomfortable sometimes in the face of sexualized shooting, still, they are more likely to accept it instead of taking risks of ending their career because of lack of funding. There’s less space in the society accessible for women to fall and rebound.

You fall, you fail.

However, one thing we need to acknowledge is that we are living in a more open and quickly developing world, where people are inclined and able to create new norms, in particular through networked devices. Changes are on the way. And, if attitudes about women sports, or the way female athletes are presented in the media, still have a long way to go before we reach out to true gender equality, some strategies should be adopted in the meantime. With a certain amount of airtime devoted to women’s sports, female athletes would have opportunities to build up their own followers, fostering the development of an audience base for women’s sports, and presenting their commercial values in an athletic way. Since the money goes where audience is, the more supporters female athletes get, the more money they would possibly make, and the leadership is more likely to make change “voluntarily”. As rules of the game changed, we will make a big step further towards gender equality. At that time, it will be easier, and in many ways safer, for female athletes to say no in the face of sexualized media portrayals.


Billings, A. C., & Young, B. D. (2015). Comparing Flagship News Programs: Women’s Sport Coverage in ESPN’s SportsCenter and FOX Sports 1’s FOX Sports Live. Electronic News, 9(1), 3–16.

Cooky, C., Messner, M. A., & Musto, M. (2015). “It’s Dude Time!”: A Quarter Century of Excluding Women’s Sports in Televised News and Highlight Shows. Communication & Sport, 3(3), 261–287.

Messner, M. A. (2010). Gender in televised sports : news and highlights shows, 1989-2009. [California]: Center for Feminist Research, University of Southern California, [2010]. Retrieved from

Weber, J. D., & Carini, R. M. (2013). Where are the female athletes in Sports Illustrated? A content analysis of covers (2000–2011). International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48(2), 196–203.


Media’s Negative Portrayal of Women in Sport

By Ryan L.

“Despite the tremendous increase in female participation, many have argued that sport as an institution continues to perpetuate male dominance in society” (Darvin & Sagas, 2017, p.178). Although much progress has been made over the last century in portraying women as legitimate athletes in a variety of sports, there are still many ways in which we continue to marginalize them. The sports media industry, in particular, plays a significant role in the continued negative portrayal of female athletes. Whether it be through objectification, the use of sexist language, or even through the hiring of woman for sports television networks, the media continues to emphasize the masculinity of sport as a whole, while preserving the femininity of female athletes.

It is a well-known fact that men’s sport receives significantly more media coverage than their female counterparts; what often falls under the radar, however, is the difference in the quality of media coverage between males and females. “An investigation of the production–reception relationship for women’s events found that these broadcasts contained fewer camera angles, fewer special effects, and fewer shot types than comparable men’s events” (Darvin & Sagas, 2017, p.181). Due to the lack of effort to provide quality coverage of female sport in the media, viewers may be less likely to find female sports as exciting as male sports, which may contribute to the large gender differences in media coverage. In addition to this, female athletes often receive more media attention for their physical appearance, rather than for their physical abilities. Regardless of how far woman may deviate from the typical gender stereotypes in sport, they continue to be objectified. Take former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, for example. As a mixed martial artist, she possesses a number of “masculine” characteristics that are opposite of what society expects a female athlete to possess: aggressive, strong, powerful, and muscular. Despite her “manliness”, she can still be seen posing in a bikini on the cover of the popular Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. This type of objectification of female athletes in the media tends to mislead society into believing that in order for a female to succeed in the sports world, they must not only perform at a high level, but also look good while doing so. Along with the quality and type of media coverage that female athletes receive, the use of gendered language has also led society to portray sport as a male-dominated domain.

Although it may seem to be a minor detail when looking at the various factors contributing to media’s negative portrayal of women in sport, the language used in sports media can significantly impact the way we see sport. Fink (2015) used the term “gender marking” when reviewing the differences in media coverage between males and females; this refers to the “verbal and visual presentation of male athletes and men’s sport as being the norm, while rendering female athletes and women’s competitions secondary status” (p.333). Much of the language seen in today’s sports is gender marked; for example, the use of the word “Women’s” tends to be included for female sports leagues, while the word “Men’s” is often omitted in male sports (e.g., Woman’s National Basketball Association vs. National Basketball Association). Although it may go unnoticed, this type of language assumes that men’s leagues are the standard, while woman’s leagues come second. The use of gender-marked language can also be seen in sports commentary, where we often hear the term “female athlete” as opposed to “athlete”. Weiller and Higgs (1999) observed gender differences in media coverage of a men’s and a woman’s golf event, and found that gendered language was used 36 times in the woman’s event as opposed to just 8 times in the men’s event. As long as the media continues to imply that sport is a male domain through the language that they use, woman will continue to be limited in their opportunities to be respected as athletes. When looking at sports television networks specifically, female sportscasters generally play different roles than their male colleagues, which can also contribute to the negative portrayal of woman in the sport’s world.

As an avid sports watcher, I can recall very few times where I have seen a woman as a sports analyst; instead, they are usually responsible for recapping sporting events or interviewing athletes. Rather than being hired for their knowledge of sports and their ability to dissect different sports plays, females seem to be hired for their physical appearance and their ability to present news stories. Questioning the credibility of woman in the sports broadcasting field could potentially carry over to the actual sports setting, where woman may feel as though they are not as capable as men to excel in sports. Based on recent studies, evidence suggests that women are actually just as capable, if not more capable than men in their ability to present and dissect sporting events. Harris (2012) explored females’ credibility when commenting on male and female sporting events, specifically basketball; results found that both men and woman categorized as high sports watchers gave the female sportscaster higher dynamism and qualification ratings than the male sportscaster. If sports television networks can move towards a more equal distribution of male and female sportscasters, then viewers may begin to see that females are just as knowledgeable in the area of sports as men are, and may therefore shift society’s perception of sport as being more for males.

In order to continue to work towards gender equality across the sports spectrum, several adjustments need to be made in the way media portrays women’s role in sport. Media outlets need to emphasize the athletic qualities of female athletes, rather than objectifying them and persuading viewers to admire their physical attractiveness instead. Sports organizations and commentators need to be aware of sexist language, and work towards using more gender-neutral language in order to move away from the notion that males are the dominant gender when it comes to sport. Females working for sports media networks need to be recognized more for their ability to analyze sport rather than their ability to simply present sports news. With media being one of, if not the largest influencer on society’s perception of sport, major changes in this domain are crucial in order to provide an equal opportunity for woman participating in sport.



Darvin, L., & Sagas, M. (2017). Objectification in Sport Media: Influences on a Future Woman’s Sporting Event. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 10(2), 178-195.

Fink, J. S. (2015). Female athletes, women’s sport, and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way, baby”? Sport Management Review (Elsevier Science), 18(3), 331-342.

Harris, K. (2012). Gender Stereotypes, Gender Segregation, and Credibility: Crossing the Lines in Sports Media. International Journal Of Sport & Society, 3(2), 137-159.

Weiller, K., & Higgs, C. (1999). Television coverage of professional golf: a focus on gender. Women In Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 8(1), 83-100.

Co-ed and same-sex sports and physical education, which one is better?

By Rachel G.

In class, we have discussed the constraints or barriers that adolescents have today when it comes to participating in sports and leisure. These constraints can become quite obvious in the physical education classes at school. In recent studies the question of whether co-ed or same sex is better for students is raised. It is still up for debate and is research is still ongoing. Is one more positive for one sex and negative for the other? Or do they both benefit in one over the other. In the following two articles, the researchers both conducted studies of young adolescences in the education system, the first was observational and the second included interviews with teachers. After reading these articles the constraints that both sexes have, are clearly present.

Mckenzie, Prochaska, Sallis, and LaMaster (2004) found that there was more “play time” in boys-only classes versus girls only. This, in turn, lead to girls also spending less time in physical activity during the lesson time. Girls tended to get more moderate-vigorous physical activity in girls-only classes. Boys, on the other hand, had the same amount in both co-ed and boys only. Girls-only classes usually spent more time on skill drills because girls generally have lower motor and sports skill levels at this age. However, with boys playing more, this could lead to boys to having greater preference for team games. Findings from previous studies indicate many girls do not prefer co-ed physical education classes, and may be at a disadvantage while participating in them. They suggested that girls-only physical education may better address some educational needs of adolescent girls, allowing educators to take the time to pay more attention to skill development. This study did acknowledge that they did not examine individual student level factor and suggested further study on classroom composition and lesson plans. They stated that the complexities of gender issues and gender equity in physical education are substantial. This also takes into consideration the varying societal expectations for behaviours in different cultural environments.

The second article by Wright (1997), interviewed numerous physical education teachers both male and female that taught co-ed and same sex classes. They found that girls in co-ed were more easily embarrassed to make a mistake and avoided physical contact with their male peers in sport situations, this lead to much more resistance from the girls compared to the boys to participate. The male students usually received more praise than girls because they participated more in co-ed settings. Female students tended to ask more questions and have longer conversation with their teacher about the lesson. With male students, it was some quick short interactions in regards to the sporting lesson. Both male and female teachers had more interpersonal interactions with female students verses male students. These same teachers also usually anticipated or assumed that female students would have a less knowledge on the sport and would need more instruction and encouragement. In most of the boys-only lessons it was clear that the teacher expected the boys to bring sufficient resources to participate in skill practices and games with less introduction or instruction. In the skills practice, which followed the explanation, where the male teachers were teaching boys, there were long pauses while the boys practiced without any commentary. The opposite would happen with girls-only practice, with much more frequent stops to explain more. Where the female and male teachers’ language seems to suggest that they were more likely to take into account the girls’ reactions, their experiences and needs; the male teachers in their talk to boys were more likely to establish what had to be done and how and then let the boys get on with their tasks. For male students who were non-compliant, it was assumed it had nothing to do with his individual identity but brought into question is masculinity. On the other hand, females who were non-complaint ironically confirmed their positioning as feminine. Usually the language of the teachers usually unconsciously positioned students in relation to cultural views on gender. This article put social relations at the center of concerns and suggested that teachers should tried to developed a better understand of their actions and language with their students.

This second article was published in 1997, I’d like to believe that the educational system has become more aware of the language they use with their male and female students. However, there are some aspects that are still prevalent today. Some of the observations stated I can clearly think back to my own high school days and relate. Both articles in the end did not say that one way of organizing the students was better than the other. It seems evident that it really comes down the individual. Some females would feel more comfortable than others to participate in co-ed sports of physical education. Coming back to the constraints of adolescent girls; body image, lack of self-confidence, shyness, over competitiveness and parental influence. At this age they are taking into consideration what society thinks women should be. Engaging in sports with other males, could be viewed as being too masculine. On the other hand, male students who don’t want engage in sport in co-ed situations could be teased or viewed to be like the girls. Male constraints include: body image, pressure to conform to masculine roles, lack of skill has no place and parental influences.

The classroom should be a place where social constructs like these are meant to be broken. The way teachers talk or treat females and males should be more equal or neutral and teachers should not make overall assumptions about either sex. It is hard to ignore the influence of outside factors such as media and parents. The classroom however should be an open-minded place where students shouldn’t be ridiculed on how they participate in certain sports. The focus of the classroom should be to encourage all students to be physically active, healthy and to teach them about different sports. In a coaching setting, again coaches need to be more conscious about the language they use with their players no matter the sex. Evidently there are benefits to both co-ed and same sex sports and recreation.  More research needs to be done, in order to possibly choose one over the other. However, I believe that it really comes down to the individual which is more beneficial.


McKenzie, T. L., Prochaska, J. J., Sallis, J. F., & LaMaster, K. J. (2004). Coeducational and Single-Sex Physical Education in Middle Schools: Impact on Physical Activity. Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport75(4), 446-449.

Wright, J. (1997). The construction of gendered contexts in single sex and co‐educational physical education lessons. Sport, Education and Society, 2(1), 55-72.