Did You Remember to Label Your Woman Today?

By Sarah M.

I assume the title of this article spiked some interest, maybe you laughed and thought, “Wow Sarah, what an insult” or maybe you thought, “That is so true, women are labelled on a constant basis”. Either way, I assume there was some sort of shock factor in reading the bold headliner.

 I just want to say first of all, that I do realize that men are also victims in being labelled and we have to move on from doing this as well. I, however, am going to focus specifically on women being labelled which really hit home when I viewed a Pantene advertisement. In this video, a woman is “selfish” for working long hours because she is not home spending time with her children. A man is “dedicated” for working long hours so he may provide for his family.

Aside from the advertisement trying to sell their product for women’s hair, it really raises a good point on gender bias and how women are labelled in comparison to men who may be completing the same tasks. I also like that the advertisement does not lead the viewer to think that men are the ones labelling females, often times females will label other females in negative ways. A #WHIPIT movement was created encouraging women to be empowered, shine boldly, and defy labels and stereotypes which should always be encouraged until labels no longer exist.

Although this is a broad issue that happens to all women, one specific example I can think of is how this happens in sport. There is first of all the issue that “athletes” are seen as primarily male. A population of fourth- and fifth-grade girls were interviewed and “of those interviewed, 41% made direct statements supporting a posture that associated the term athlete with being male” (Lebel, 2009, p.149). Maybe this comes from the stigmatization that women are too fragile and should be at home taking care of their family.

If a girl wears stereotypical “boy” clothes and is sporty, she is, at times, called a lesbian. I still see this happening sometimes to my hockey- or rugby-playing girlfriends; why else would they be so into sports unless they want to be a male or like women, right? I can even remember once saying, “I wouldn’t mind learning how to play football”, and jokingly some friends said, “You must be a lesbian”. Ridiculous, I know, but although they were joking, it is a thought various people have and it is a label that should not be present. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, but just as a woman would not want to be labeled as bossy, I do not believe a woman would want a certain stigma to surround her solely due to the fact that she plays sports.

One of the articles I have read stated, “as long as the lesbian label is taken as an insult, the label maintains its power to intimidate” (Sartore, 2009, p.299). It is true that we can only be offended by what we choose to be offended about, but does this make it okay to label women playing sports as something they are not or to even label at all? If we ignore it, then is it okay? I do not believe it is okay to label someone based on their gender, race, sexual preference etc., so it is crucial that we take a stand against these stigmas. The #WHIPIT movement by Pantene is an awesome example of women taking a stand, and I believe it will help to empower women to rise above their labels. Little by little, differences will be made. I guess it’s up to each individual how they will tackle it.

Further reading:

Lebel, K., and Danylchuk, K. (2009). Generation Y’s Perceptions of Women’s Sport in the Media, 2, 146-163.

Sartore, M., and Cunningham, G. (2009). The Lesbian Stigma in the Sport Context: Implications for Women of Every Sexual Orientation, 3, 289-305.

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2 responses

  1. Great job Sarah!
    I really liked the opening to your blog, definitely caught my attention. I 100% agree that more often it is women who are oppressing women rather then men doing it. The #WHIPIT movement is a great idea to get women to empower themselves and for women to realize that we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways and we should not succumb to discrimination and stereotypes.
    Emily Mallett

  2. Wow! I had never seen that advertisement before! I found it quite compelling. I feel as though I, too, am guilty of placing these labels on women sometimes. It was good to be reminded that women place labels on other women as much as or perhaps more than men place labels on women. I am glad that you noted, as well, that the same types of labels and discriminations are placed on men. I believe we can sometimes place too little emphasis on male oppression.

    I also found it interesting that the research shows that many young girls associated being an athlete with being male, perhaps without even realizing they were making this association. In addition to the frailty myth that you mentioned, one reason they may have made this assumption is that children likely see far more male athletes in the media than female athletes, especially on television. And even if these young girls were exposed to female athletes on television, as we discussed in class, the female athlete is usually hypersexualized and not portrayed actually participating in her sport. Therefore, the connection being made between female and “athlete” is not as strong as the association being made between male and “athlete”.

    – Amanda B.

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