Equestrian: The Sport Where Gender Stereotypes Have Turned

By: Andrew Connors

We commonly hear of sports like hockey, football and rugby for example, where masculinity dominates and female participation leads to negative stereotypes of participants being lesbians or butch. Equestrian is a confusing 360-degree reversal of these negative stereotypes.  Equestrian is a sport commonly stereotyped as a very feminine sport and male riders are commonly regarded as “girly men or gay.” Equestrian sports actually require extreme amounts of toughness and masculinity. Amateur equestrian events rarely feature male riders, but professional events often have more men than women. Why is this? There is little to no research answering this question. It is important to note that equestrian is the only sport where men and women compete against each other. So readers understand why I decided to blog about this topic in an attempt to raise awareness; I will give you a short background about my experiences with these stereotypes and gender issues in equestrian.

Growing up on a horse farm, I started riding horses as soon as I was old enough. Through elementary school at riding camps and competitions, there were lots of boys like myself also riding horses. As I became older and also participated in more traditional male sports, the amount of boys my age participating in equestrian dropped drastically. At this point I was commonly teased for being “gay or a girly man” by my classmates and even teammates on sports teams. The stereotypes and teasing definitely got to me, and I would commonly talk to my parents about quitting. They encouraged me to continue and I still today continue to show horses at the amateur level.

Negativity and teasing aside, I always felt tough riding horses. The danger of falling off is very real, and it is a serious work out. Equestrian requires maintenance, training, maneuvering, and over powering of a 1,500 pound animal with an unpredictable mind of its own. In the UK and other similar countries, roughly 75% of equestrian (professional and amateur combined) participants are female (McHugh, 2013). All equestrian riders must be tough and work hard. It is not an easy sport for either sex. On a positive note, statistics in the UK show that male participation is increasing.

Men dominate the Olympic equestrian podium although only 25% of participants overall are male. In the last 4 Summer Olympics 11 of the 12 Show jumping medals won have been by male riders (IOC). Who could forget Eric Lamaze winning the gold medal for Canada at the 2008 Olympics? Canadian Olympian Ian Millar holds the record for most Olympic appearances at 10. These are 2 of the most well knownequestrian competitors in Canada and the world. One question that should be asked – is this the case because the sport requires so much masculinity to become professional? The answer remains unclear.

Since equestrian participation rates are so high for females and low for men but tendencies show more men as professionals, I decided to interview and share thoughts a professional female horse rider. I asked about her thoughts and if she agreed with regards to these numbers. Melissa Hanscome is an American Quarter Horse Association professional and pointed out that in AQHA, amateur competition females strongly out number men. But in professional AQHA competition, men strongly outnumber women. I myself have noticed this trend as well as I compete as an AQHA amateur in classes with 50 competitors and I often am the only guy. But professional competitions often have more men than women. Studies actually do show that male riders are more aggressive and dominant in equestrian competition where females are found to be easier going and less aggressive (McHugh, 2013).

This is a very interesting topic to me but very difficult to find answers to the many possible further research questions. Since equestrian allows participation for both men and women to compete together, shouldn’t numbers be the same in both amateur and professional competition? Equestrian unfortunately seems to be another sport where professional ranks are male dominated. However, this differs from most sports because of the fact that men and women compete together. But this is an interesting phenomenon because the participation rates for men overall are so low and female participation is very high. Equestrian professionals and associations should look into increasing amateur male participation and encourage more amateur female riders to develop into professional competitors. I hope I have raised awareness of another gender sport and recreation issue. During the next summer Olympics or other televised equestrian you may see, observe with consideration of these numbers and thoughts.

References

International Olympic Committee Records

McHugh. A. (2013). Men, Women and Horses. Found at: http://www.equine-world.co.uk

Personal Communication: Melissa Hanscome (2014)

Aggression in sports: Females vs. Males

By Sarah H.

In sports, aggression is viewed as the ideal perfect component to a great play (Thing, 2001). When thinking about aggression, people will usually link this with men’s sports more so than women’s. Some people think that to “see a woman as aggressive is neither appropriate, nor expected. That there are carved memories that women ought to be in control of their emotions and be caring and gentle, all day long” (Thing, 2001). From being a female playing multiple sports throughout high school, I was a very aggressive player. In the sports that I played, being aggressive benefited the team and myself in the game. My coaches would always make a joke telling me to get mad at something so that I would play harder.

Although there is this ideal image of how females should play sports, most players said that in the play of sport, they are given an opportunity to go against the expectations of the surroundings of what it is to be female (Thing, 2001). The negative aspect of females being aggressive in sport is that their peers may refer to them as being “masculine”.

On the other hand, men tend to be more aggressive than women (Warden, Grasso, Luyben, 2009). Speaking from observations of men’s sports through school, if a guy wasn’t aggressive in a sport he would be made fun of and be referred to as a “sissy”. It is more acceptable for men to be aggressive in sports than it is for females (which I don’t think will ever change).

In one article, researchers talked about how there are many forms of aggression, one being “instrumental aggression”. It involves hurting another person, but is directly related to the play itself. Then you have “hostile aggression”, where the player has intended to injure the opponent and it is not directly related to the play itself” (Warden et al., 2009). Men have the higher rates of aggression in these categories. They are more likely to try and be violent to be viewed as “tough”. I’m not saying that females don’t have their moments when they are violent in sports, but females usually tend to use aggression as a playful phenomenon, a way of moving forward in offense (Thing, 2001).

In most sports, it doesn’t matter if it is male or female, aggression can be good. But, if players are going to be aggressive, they have to be able to control it. If they are just running around wild and end up getting a lot of fouls in a short period of time, then it is not such a good thing (Thing, 2001). Personally, I think sports are a good place to release stress and anger that is built up, as long as it doesn’t result in injury to other players. When I played, it was better for me to run harder or give a little bump to someone in the game or practice to let my anger pass, rather than going around hitting people or other things out of the sport context.

I think that people are getting better at realizing that just because a female is going to be aggressive in a sport, doesn’t mean she is masculine. Not every female is going to go with the general belief that they have to be in control of their emotions and be caring and gentle, all day long.

References

Thing, L. F. (2001). The Female Warrior: Meanings of Play-Aggressive Emotions in Sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 36, 3, 275-288.

Warden, K. B., Grasso, S. C., & Luyben, P. D. (2009). Comparisons of rates and forms of aggression among members of men’s and women’s collegiate recreational flag football teams. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 37, 3, 209-215.

Dinner with a side of sex appeal

By Ashley O.

Is it coincidence that many trendy restaurants hire only attractive waitresses? You walk into a restaurant and are seated by the hostess and told that “Lisa” will be your waitress. Are you impressed that she is slim and attractive; has a great ass and is busty; and provides great service? Take a look around and you will realize that young ladies that have these qualifications staff the restaurant. Does the team screen applicants using a selective process? Is the dress code the waitress’ choice? Let’s look at some practices of hiring and attire. A former restaurant manager of Moxie’s Classic Grill in Toronto says the first question was about their appearance: Does she have a nice ass and a decent rack? To be sure no “uglies” got an interview, front of house staff were directed to screen applicants coming through the door and mark their resumes with a “110” if they were unattractive. This is code for “do not call.” Earls Kitchen and Bar in Edmonton, well-known for its beauties serving customers, say hiring by looks isn’t something they endorse. Canada’s Human Rights Law says employers cannot discriminate when hiring based on age, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or physical disability. However, it only has jurisdiction over federally regulated organizations (Times Colonist, 2007). A case could be made for job seekers who are refused employment for being ugly. Spokespeople for both Moxie’s and Earls deny hiring for looks (Brownlee, 2011).

How sexy should servers dress? At Earls the servers wear a black mini-skirt, white tank top and one inch heels. Again, a spokesperson denies having a dress code. The Shark Club endorses a uniform that includes a black skirt no less than six inches above the knee, a cross-back tank top and knee-high black leather boots. At Smith’s Pub the uniform is simply black attire. While some female servers believe that “some skin brings in more tips” one waitress believes that she makes more tips by “dressing classy and giving good service” (Times Colonist, 2007).

When I was at a restaurant in Halifax I realized that the all the servers were females and the attire they were wearing was tight black V-neck shirts and tight black pants. Noticing this, I realized a lot of restaurants hire pretty females as servers and hostesses. Friends, couples and families frequently use their leisure time to visit a restaurant where they can enjoy a meal without concern for meal preparation. Some restaurants even claim to be family restaurants and the image of the “ideal” waitress is presented to the families. Much like what we discussed in class about media and how females are portrayed, we see similar portrayal in restaurants. The restaurant industry is sexually objectifying women by presenting their servers dressed provocatively to obtain business and tips. I think the restaurant industry has gone too far in their hiring techniques and hiring should be done solely on the professional qualifications of the individual as opposed to appearance. What are restaurants really selling – sex appeal or your dinner? While I chose to explore the restaurant servers, I am well aware that other leisure service industries require their employees to dress in a manner designed to attract consumers.


References:

Times Colonist – Victoria. (2007, August 7). Peterscu on Fashion: How sexy should servers dress? Retrieved from: http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=1bc4974a-515e-4326-8b40-2e02b19f8a84&sponsor

Brownlee, K. (2011, March 22). ‘Uglies need not apply. Retrieved from: http://www.torontosun.com/life/2011/03/17/17656191.html

Gendered Language: Men versus Girls

By Emily M.

Being in an all female sport, I have been subjected to a lot of insulting comments. “Oh look at those synchronized swimmers, wearing all that makeup and dancing in the water, aren’t they cute.” Just because it is a female sport, people tend to take the athleticism out of it. They do not see that we throw two, 120 pound women completely out of the water, not using the bottom of the pool, might I add. All they focus on is how pretty and delicate all these female swimmers are.

There are many ways that the media trivializes women’s participation in sport. One-way is by gender marking. Female events are listed as “women’s athletic events” and men’s are just “athletic events,” marking women as the “other” category. Another way media and the commentators minimize women’s athletics, is by calling females athletes girls, ladies, and women; however, men are consistently referred to as men. The word girl implies immaturity, and the word lady implies helplessness, elegance and lack of athletic abilities. Commentators use this type of language during female sporting events and this demeans women’s sport. You would never hear a commentator say, “oh these boys are really doing a good job”, no you would not hear that. They would refer to them as men, strong men or athletic men, never boys. There should not be this gender stereotype that women are delicate or non athletic. Elite female athletes train just as much as male elite athletes, so they should be treated as such. Men tend to be called by their last names and women by their first names. When commentators call female athletes by their first names, it reinforces an already existing negative attitude about female athletes. It diminishes their professionalism in comparison to men.

Commentators tend to focus on how women athletes appear rather than on how they perform. They discuss their outfits or their makeup. One of my competitions was televised a few years ago, and the commentators did not mention how strong the athletes were or focus on the extreme cardio it takes to swim through a routine. They said things like “what a beautiful splash” “look at the elegance and grace”, “look at the gorgeous makeup”. These comments were completely stereotypical. What it conveyed to me was that women are not supposed to be athletic; they are not supposed to have strong muscles or a competitive side. This gender-biased language reinforces stereotypical feminine gender roles, and undermines women’s involvement in sport as well as their achievements. The commentators are coming to terms with the fact that women are increasingly participating in sport and they are increasing their coverage. However women still have to be in a certain box, they cannot be compared to male athletes. They cannot have commentary that emphasizes their athletic abilities and strengths.

When commentating women’s sports, they tend to minimize the females strengths by pairing it with a demeaning word, such as “she’s a strong girl”. Positive comments followed by demeaning comments. This is in line with the gender roles we grow up with. As children we are constantly told women are delicate, passive, and focus on their looks. Men are aggressive, athletic, and macho. Although women’s participation rates are going up in sport, they are still not being recognized as true athletes. Female athletes are still expected to be feminine and are viewed as caring more about how they appear rather then how they perform in their sport.

Women have come a long way in the sporting context. Originally, it was exclusively a man’s world. However now you see women participation rates increase significantly. Seeing all these elite female athletes really motivates women to reach for their goals. However the stereotypical language used towards women in sport, is still a huge barrier. Women should be taken seriously in the sporting world. It is not about their outfits or their makeup; it is about their achievements.

 

References:

Halbert, C., & Latimer, M. (1994). “Battling” gendered language: An analysis of the language used by sports commentators in a televised coed tennis competition. Sociology of Sport Journal, 11, 298-308.

Messner, M., Duncan, M., & Jensen, K. (1993). Separating the men from the girls: The gendered language of televised sports. Gender and Society, 7(1), 121-137.

#nomakeupselfie

By Victoria R.

Recent days have found many of our Facebook pages overwhelmed with “no-makeup” selfies (#nomakeupselfie). Before diving in to how I personally feel about the photo fad, let’s look into the background of this new social network trend.

The trend initially started when UK models started donating money to cancer-research for the support of their bare-faced photos. This campaign has raised over $3 million for cancer research in just two days, states CTV news. Initially the trend had nothing to do with any cancer research association, but due to all the support – the campaign was sort of adopted. From there the trend caught fire. Eventually some people weren’t even posting the photos as a breast cancer awareness activity, but just as a nomination game with friends.

(Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/no-makeup-selfie-campaign-raises-3m-for-cancer-research-in-2-days-1.1741230#ixzz2wtM2flRg)

Okay, so now you have the background. Let’s start with my list of issues with this campaign that are rooted in gender.

First, many (including myself) have taken issue with the trend, and the parallels that have been drawn between breast cancer, and going make-up free. The money raised is a great thing – that is undeniable, as it can be used towards beneficial research; however, should a women going make-up free be deemed as brave, and then compared to cancer? Most people wouldn’t even put that much thought into the “no makeup” selfies, but if we are being critical consumers, isn’t that the message that this whirlwind fad is really delivering? I can understand that the parallel is trying to underline the struggle women with breast cancer face and compare it to the struggle women face from the stereotypical expectations of beauty… but it comes off slightly trivial and in bad taste.

Also, when considering breast cancer awareness programs we have already deemed the pink ribbon as its indicator, so adding make-up (or lack thereof) to the campaign scheme is just the next step. Many women feel that breast cancer threatens to take away what many of us feel makes us feminine (our breasts), so I understand the parallel that is drawn between hyper-femininity and breast cancer awareness. However, it also goes to show that in the context of a disease (which you think would have nothing to do with gender), we still perpetuate gender stereotypes of what it represents to be a women. Aren’t there women in the world that contract breast cancer who detest the colour pink? Or the wearing of make-up? Making a campaign based on female stereotypes does not do well to serve all women.

Leaving behind the connection to breast cancer, as many Face Book users have, there are many other issues that come from these “no-make” up selfies. These selfies make for a lot of confusion, whether we choose to critically think about it or not.

Beauty, and our perception of being beautiful is a place where things get really complicated. Personally, I love make-up. Before writing this blog post I decided to look at the number of make-up products that I personally own. 7 mascaras, 5 blushes, over 20 eyeshadows, 3 foundations, 4 primers, 14 lip glosses/lip sticks, and 20+ brushes… When I counted up what I would have spent on my makeup products that I have right now, the number hovers somewhere around $700. When I look at it this way, I feel crazy! Shopping at Sephora, and purchasing make-up that I can use to create a different image of myself is a way that I truly enjoy to spend my time. I even have several make-up tutorial guides and books that I love to experiment from, it’s a hobby. I can honestly say that I use make-up because I enjoy it, but I can also admit that I am not 100% comfortable in my own skin (without makeup).For me, make-up allows me to channel all of my inner confidence by making sure that my blemishes are hidden, and any features that I love about myself are further enhanced. I feel that make-up helps my outside match my inside. Where it gets complicated for me, is that I realize that the only reason why make-up becomes an outlet for me to express myself is because I have been socialized to be interested in the art of make-up and make-up products. Shopping for makeup/putting makeup on has been an activity my mom and I have shared for a very long time. Would I feel better about my own “natural” features if I hadn’t been socialized to always be seeking improvements? I’m not sure, and I guess I’ll never know.

From a very young age the majority of women are exposed to an extreme pressure from the media, peers, and sometimes even family to conform and fit under traditional beauty norms. Not only are we expected to fit a certain mold, we are told to do so in a very clever way. The media not only provides us with examples of how we “should” appear, they also deliver the messages in a way that make us feel like we really should be interested in it for enjoyment as well.

Now… back to the “no-makeup” selfie. After we have been told our entire lives to wear makeup (and be interested in makeup), some impossibly gorgeous models in the UK decide to kick off a “no-makeup” selfie campaign that makes the rest of women feel guilty for wearing makeup in the first place… Women everywhere in pursuit of social acceptance and praise are throwing their natural selfies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to receive said praise and social acceptance from peers. Comments on the pictures are stating: “You don’t need makeup,” or “Natural beauty,”… further adding to the idea that because you are a women you should be beautiful by nature… So I am supposed to love make-up and want to buy make-up, but I don’t really need it because I’m beautiful anyway? WHAT?

Campaigns like this sure help sell confusing makeup products that offer a “soft, natural look”. Too Faced even offers a makeup kit called, “The no makeup, makeup kit.” (Media scamming strikes again)

http://www.temptalia.com/too-faced-the-secret-to-no-makeup-makeup-face-palette-review-photos-swatched

An example of the “no makeup, makeup”

Putting aside the media, WE also perpetuate ideas about beauty in our everyday conversations. How often do we tell our best friend that they are beautiful when they are sitting on the couch watching a movie? Do we tell her she is beautiful when we just get done a yoga class? Or do we tell her she is beautiful when she posts a done-up “selfie” before she heads out on the town? I think many of us can admit that we are more likely to tell our friend she is beautiful when she is all glammed up. How confusing is it now that we are all being rewarded by posting our “no-makeup” selfies? Maybe we all need to take a step back and realize that confusion about beauty and our self image can stem from our words not matching our actions. If we are spreading the message that the big bad media started in the first place, then aren’t we to blame as well? (Guys, you may or may not be guilty of doing this as well – to your girl friends, girlfriend, or wife.)

I hope this post isn’t taken the wrong way. I think that letting women know their natural appearance is “good enough” is a good thing (I think deep down, it even makes me feel a little better). However, I think we need to be careful about letting beauty be used as a tool to meet an end, and the damage that can be caused for some women when this “no-makeup” campaign is forgotten in a couple weeks. I hope that it isn’t, and I hope that there is a more significant movement for more realistic advertisements and promotion of beauty products. If I am being a true critical consumer – I am not so sure that a significant, long-term shift will really happen – not unless more people become exposed to the conversations and topics that this entire blog brings forth.

It’s complicated to feel passion and enjoyment for something while also knowing that you only feel that way because of how you have developed and grown through societal norms. I don’t think I will be putting down the make-up brush any time soon, but I think it is important to be a critical consumer of beauty, and our thoughts/actions/words about it.

 

 

 

Women’s Role in Coaching and Leading in Sport- Where are all the Female Leaders?

By Julie M.

There are increasing amounts of female participants in sport over the years; in turn increasing the amount of female sports teams. With this increase one would think there would also be an increase in the amount of female coaches and leader as well, but sadly this is not the case. The world of sport in terms of coaching is still dominated by men.

Even though we are seeing women achieve excellence in sport on all levels, somewhere after the end of their athletic careers females seem to get lost in the shuffle of coaching. With the perception of male dominance of coaching and leading in sport, women are not seeing coaching as a worthwhile career option. It is also the view of some men that women do not fit the role of leader in sport even if they were an excellent athlete. These views do create some discrimination went it comes to female coaches.

Having females in a leadership role gives female athletes a role model and someone then can relate to. Young girls need to have more positive female influences in there life. Having a male coach of a female team may sends the message that the opportunities are limited for girl in sport and that they are restricted to athletes only.

You see this inequality at every level of sport, form high school to the Olympics. There should be more women at least coaching female teams. This is not to say man cannot coach female teams, but in terms of the sporting world being dominated by men, there needs to be a place to start. I think that a female coaching female teams is a good place to start in establishing some equality.

We also need to see a change in the way women coach, women are seen as genteel and delicate, therefore only seen coaching sports that are more artistic. For example in the 2014 Olympics figure skating had both men and women coaching, and the highly successful women’s hockey team had a man as the head coach. There is definitely a double standard when it comes to what women can coach. Men can coach both the artistic and aggressive sports, where women are limited to the artistic side of sport.

Leadership in sport is to not only teach younger generations about skills in their given sport but to also teach them about skills that will help them in life such as team work or communication skills. Would it not also be important to teach them about gender equality as well, and what better way to demonstrate that than by having gender equality when it comes to coaching and leading in sport.

Reference:

Massengale, D., & Lough, N. (2010). Women leaders in sport: Where’s the gender equity? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 81(4), 6-8. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215758633?accountid=14611

The Double Standard

by Hannah M.

Women’s equality in sport has come a long way in recent years. We are beginning to recognize women as athletes who are strong and competitive. We are seeing women’s sport on television more than ever before and recognizing their athletic ability. This may be true, but why do women still feel the need to sell sexiness? Can’t women just be good at their sport and not need to be concerned about their physical appearances?

In class we viewed a video that analyzed this issue in more detail. The video points out that the women who are most successful in sport, tend to be very beautiful as well. If you were to flip through a sports magazine, you will find many of the women athletes in revealing clothing, if they are wearing clothing at all. The double standard placed on women athletes to be both good at their sport and sell their beauty is very evident in the media. It is rare to see an elite female athlete who can get the sponsorship she needs just by being good at sport.

In the article “Medals aren’t enough: Women Olympians still have to sell sexiness” by TIME magazine, we read that women athletes have this immense pressure during the Olympics to get the sponsorship needed for their training. According to Keven Adler, there is a very evident double standard for women athletes. He says in the article that “For male athletes, it’s primarily about their performance. And for female athletes it’s definitely as much about their looks as it is about their performance.” The article continues to demonstrate this double standard by pointing out that women in all sports feel this pressure. For instance, there are makeup seminars for rookie WNBA players to ensure that these women get the sponsorship they need to play. We never expect a man to spend hours before a game applying hair gel and covering blemishes just to get proper sponsorship. We rely on their athletic ability and talent.

Another article from the 2012 summer Olympics talked about women’s beach volleyball, and the bikini issue. There was controversy initially about whether the women should wear more due to the colder weather, but it was decided that they would wear their usual bikini attire. The athletes were okay with this decision, many saying that is how they are most comfortable when playing. The major issue came up during the games when the media coverage of the event became nearly all about the bikinis instead of the women who play it. They focused on the way these women looked in the bikinis, publishing articles like “Olympic Beach Volleyball: Great Bodies, Bikinis and More”, forgetting to really cover the actual sport itself.

The campaign “Strong is the new sexy” has a great idea behind it. It’s empowering women to be strong and muscular, not worrying about having a muscular body. In the past, a muscular body was stereotypically a male ideal. This campaign has changed the minds of women to see strong as sexy and healthy. My issue with the campaign is pictures like the following:

Strong is the new sexy

Why can’t we just see a strong woman wearing more reasonable gym clothes? I understand that “its the new sexy” but this photo really takes away from the campaign in my mind. It’s not just showing her strength, it’s showing a lot more than that.

References:

http://time.com/6714/medals-arent-enough-female-olympians-still-have-to-sell-sexiness-2/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-j-jackson/olympics-2012_b_1736415.html

DISCRIMINATION WITHIN WOMEN’S FOOTBALL IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

by Will J.

When researching what topic area to pick for my blog post, it was easy. Selecting gender discrimination within football (soccer) was an obvious choice for two reasons; firstly, my stereotypical love for football as an Englishman, and secondly; an opportunity to discuss a topic that maybe some, or many of you, may not be accustom with. This blog post will specifically look at the discrimination that women receive as female football participants.

A stereotype for many people to make would be that the majority of English males play football, and as a male who has lived in England all my life, I can confirm that it is an accurate stereotype. Football is by far the most popular and widespread sport in the UK.

So where do females fit in? Football is also the most popular team sport for women in England. There are 252,000 women who participate in football at least once a month, however this is only 1.2% of the women in the country. Putting this into comparison to that of males, for every twelve males who participate, only one female takes part, with only 5.6% of all club members being women (Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation, 2012).

Discrimination of women who participate in football occurs often through stereotyping females who participate as “butch lesbians”. This discrimination is often forged through previous gender roles. During the 40’s and 50’s women were portrayed as being fragile and were expected to fulfill the role of homemaker, whilst the male was out at work. Relating these gender roles and stereotypes to sport, women’s bodies in the 1900’s were regarded as “delicate”, and because of their muscle build, beauty and expectation of genteelness, they were advised to refrain from participating in physical activity as it was believe this would lead to ill health and it was seen as un-lady like. However, this perspective is also still reflected in this day and age by some people.

As football is regarded as a masculine sport, similarly to when females wear their hair short, or dress in the fashion of men, and in this case play sport, women who play are stereotypically regarded as being lesbian (Caudwell, 1999). Female footballers are specifically discriminated against because of the notion that football is predominantly heterosexually masculine, and still holds a very male outlook. Therefore, women who participate are portray as masculine and homosexual, creating a butch lesbian stereotype. The lack of media and general popularity of women’s football may also be linked to the image of women’s football being a ‘lesbian sport’. This image is also a deterrent for young girls and their parents who may not want to be (or their daughters to be) associated with this image. It has also been suggested that keeping the status quo of having women’s football seen as a taboo and as a ‘lesbian sport’, is a way of keeping professional players from ‘coming out’, and maintaining the ideology of heterosexual male participation (Wagg, 2004).

Further Reading:

Caudwell, J. (November 01, 1999). Women’s Football in the United Kingdom: Theorizing Gender and Unpacking the Butch Lesbian Image. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 23(4), 390-402.

Wagg, S. (2004). British football and social exclusion. London: Routledge.

Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. (October 2012). Football Factsheet: football is the most popular team sport for women. Thefa.com. Retrieved March 14th, 2014, from http://www.thefa.com

Society Putting the “Gay” in “Gay Athlete”

Meagan F.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that children become involved in physical activity to promote healthy practices for life. The benefits to sport participation have been referenced repeatedly; physical health, socialization to build strong relationships, problem solving skills, etc. Most athletes see sport as a way of life and feel comfortable within that specific environment while enjoying the experience with teammates, coaches and friends. For some gay athletes, it can be more of a challenge to share this same experience. For instance, what if that athlete is not openly gay? Furthermore, what if this athlete wants to be open, but does not have to courage to do so because of the stereotypes or lack of role models within the athletic field? I’ve taken information based on personal reflection, as well as multiple published articles to further explore the mindset of a homosexual athlete.

Megan Rapinoe, an openly gay US Olympic soccer player, believes that many sports still possess a certain “taboo” when it comes to gay athletes, and that there is actually a significant difference in acceptance depending on gender. “I feel like sports in general are still homophobic in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” she said. Still, she added, “In female sports, if you’re gay, most likely your team knows it pretty quickly. It’s very open and widely supported. For males, it’s not that way at all. It’s sad”(Wong, 2012). Rapinoe also delivers her input in regards to the current media attention surrounding Michael Sam, an openly gay NFL prospect. “It seems silly and even embarrassing to listen to people who say Sam being gay is a distraction to the team. There are many more things going on within a team that are much more of a distraction than one team member’s sexual orientation. I applaud Sam and his bravery” (Rapinoe, 2014).

When looking at male athletics, rugby could be considered as one of the most masculine, physically demanding sports in the world. In 2009, a famous Welsh rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out while still being at the top of his game; maintaining one of the leading positions for the league. Relating to what Rapinoe mentioned in her statement, Thomas felt the pressure of being outcasted by his teammates and fans if deciding to become an openly gay male in a very masculine sport. To cover up his lifestyle, Thomas said that he consciously avoided being seen as gay by overcompensating with straight stereotypes (hitting on multiple women, eventually marrying a woman, drinking the most beer, going out of his way to do more masculine activities rather than feminine ones). Thomas describes the pressure of hiding so extreme, that it one day became too much, resulting in him telling his coach. “It was my coach. He knew that I couldn’t go through this alone anymore and encouraged me to tell my teammates.” Afterwards, a number of Thomas’s teammates came up to show their support saying, “You’re still the same Gareth Thomas” (Doward, 2009). Thomas also advocates other gay athletes to come out in their own time, mentioning that the power professional athletes have on the world is important to the younger generation.

Ellen DeGeneres interviews Gareth Thomas and he talks about his experience.

Obviously, stories and experiences differ based on the individual. With more and more athletes becoming comfortable enough with themselves, and perhaps a shift in cultural acceptance, this gives younger athletes a base to go off of. As pioneering gay athletes, they are not only standing up for themselves, but also for the rights and lifestyles of other gay/lesbian athletes around the world. It is tough enough to be stuck in the limbo of coming to terms with yourself, but to obtain the courage to express this with those you are closest to is a whole other level. Fear is learned, and the way society chooses to portray homosexuals either in film, television or news definitely alters how we fear. Society puts the “gay” in gay athlete, and until it is more comfortable for athletes and fans to accept life as it is, regardless of sexual orientation, we will continue to see “gay athletes” as just that; the “gay” athlete. Living with this label may have its burdens, but also holds empowerment to know that you are creating a conversation.

References:

Doward, Jamie. (2009). Gay Activists Praise Rugby Star Gareth Thomas’s Decision Coming Out.   The Guardian.

Rapinoe, Megan. (2014). If Your Team Can’t Handle A Gay Player? Get Out. The Advocate.

Wong, Curtis M. (2012). Megan Rapinoe Comes Out. Huffington Post Website.

DEAN BRODY – PULLING FOR NON-STEREOTYPICAL GIRL

by Lori M.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Dean Brody is a country music artist. I’ve seen him in concert a couple of times, the most recent being this last month here at the Aitken Center (Fredericton, NB). You’re probably wondering what in the world this has to do with gender, sport and leisure. Well, his song “Canadian Girls” touches on all three of these topics. In this song, he drives at the idea that women from Canada are different – they’re not the stereotypical girls you might find in the rest of the world, and he sees this as a good thing. Obviously this is a big generalization and not every girl in Canada would find what he talks about in the song applicable to them, but I’d like to take a few minutes to break down what he’s saying, and even further, the messages that the music video for the song promote (I’ve provided the link below).

The first lyrics you hear are “she grew up watching hockey with her daddy on Saturday night, he taught her how to tie her skates, her brothers taught her how to fight”. One of the main things that Brody advocates for through this song, is the promotion of women’s hockey. During his concert, the last song he played was Canadian Girls, and he came out wearing a Hayley Wickenheiser Team Canada Jersey. He does this frequently at his shows, and can also be seen wearing it in the music video for the song. He has sung the National Anthem at women’s hockey events like the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, and states “in our house, it doesn’t matter if it’s the men’s or women’s team, they’re both as equally as big of a deal to watch those games” (Lipscombe, 2013). He says that he drew much of his inspiration for this song from his wife and his daughter. His wife played hockey growing up, and Brody said he plans to buy a pair of skates for his daughter in the near future (Lipscombe, 2013).

In the video for Canadian Girls, although we do see a girl playing hockey, this isn’t the only positive message being sent. Throughout the duration of the video, the idea is that females can do and be whatever they want – they don’t need to fit into the frame that society sometimes tries to put them in. We see a girl snowboarding, fishing, and even a women in the military, paired with the lyric “she’d give her life for the red and white”. A wide range of careers women have chosen are displayed though real life examples in this video, including: an entrepreneur, mechanic, yoga instructor, recycling technician, engineer, chef, mom, various types of artists, photographer, part time athlete, acrobat, and a machinist. Some of these we might not see as all that “abnormal”, but some definitely challenge society to see women in a different light.

So what does all this mean? From my perspective as a women who sometimes likes to go against the grain, this song (as cheesy as it may sound) is an encouragement to me and definitely one of my favorites. It reached number one on the CMT top 20 countdown (Lipscombe, 2013), so I’d say there are a few other women out there who appreciate it too. We’ve talked about women’s oppression and some of the challenges that we can be faced a lot in our class, and there is just something about these messages of encouragement being put out there to the public though a song from a male artist – I think it’s pretty significant.

 dean brody

References

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvuHQkwMRmo&feature=kp

Lipscombe, K. (2013, 03 31). O canada!: Dean brody . Retrieved from http://www.hockeycanada.ca/en-ca/news/country-musician-dean-brody-to-kick-off-womens-worlds