I Will What I Want Campaign: “You don’t need permission when you have will”.

By Meghan Stultz (M.S.)

“Women’s apparel some day will be larger than our men’s apparel business, which is our goal,” predicted Kevin A. Plank, a former college football player who founded Under Armour 14 years ago.

For the past few years Under Armour has been on an upward journey to become one of the major name for athletic clothing companies, however they have never had as big of a success in the women’s department as they have in the men’s…but that gap is closing.

When reflecting on the company’s first attempts to go after the growing women’s athletics and leisure market in the early 2000’s, Kevin Plank commented his team’s best attempt to go after the market was to take their male clothing and “shrink it and pink it.”

After the release of their women’s pastel coloured workout clothing line was a total failure the company went back to the drawing board and came back big in the advertising world with “I Will What I Want” women’s campaign. This $15 million dollar campaign has been a hugely successful investment leading them to be named 2014 Marketer of the Year by Ad Age and recently complete their 18th consecutive quarter with more than a 20% sales growth.

So how did they change how advertisers are representing females in their ads – while keeping their advertising costs at a 1/3 compared to Nikes?

They did it by simply showing real and raw women in their element

Their digital ad’s feature emotional storytelling, that speaks to the mind and the heart simultaneously. It is relatable

The first campaign showed in late summer, Misty Copeland, currently a soloist star for the American Ballet Theatre. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA).

Misty’s Ad now has a staggering 7.6 million views on YouTube – It shows the traditional ballerina in a nontraditional way. The angles of the camera emphasis her strength in her moves – while she is wearing Under Armour apparel instead of the traditional ballerina staple, the tutu. Tied along with a narration of a rejection letter she received at the age of only 13, which pointed out all the parts of her body that are so “clearly” wrong for ballet.

The second Ad to be surfaced featured supermodel Gisele Bundchen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-V7cOestUs). Gisele is seen training with a punching bag – but this time the narration is plastered all over the walls with a live feed of social media posts. Some positive posts but mostly negative comments like “she’s not an athlete, stick to modeling sweetie or she is a has-been.”

As a female with an athletic background I think these campaigns are so powerful because it relates back to how we’ve all dealt with negativity and adversity throughout life, be it in a sport or on a social media platform.

The way Under Armour presents these advertisements with the narration reinforcing success can overcome failure creates an emotional connection for their audience to their message, ultimately making it stronger.

I was happy to have stumbled upon this video, which gives a great summary from the creators and where you can see the companies authenticity shine through – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqTl7C2LTFQ)

When commenting to Advertising Age, Senior VP, Ms. Fremar, says the insight behind “I Will What I Want” was not “you go, girl,” she said. The goal was to celebrate women “who had the physical and mental strength to tune out the external pressures and turn inward and chart their own course.”

Ms. Fremar distilled the narratives to a few words: In Ms. Copeland’s story, “will trumps fate,” she said. And for Ms. Bündchen, “will trumps noise,” she added, a reference to the unforgiving media glare on supermodels.”(Schultz, 2014).

These types of media ads get attention – and they are getting it for the right reason. They are inspiring females to not look at themselves as a female athlete but simply as an athlete that can break any barrier presented to them.

My favourite line from the clip was “You don’t need permission when you have will”.

 I have never asked permission as an athlete to go to a certain gym, try out for a certain team but have always felt the looming judgments or stereotypes because I am a girl. If I’m cut, not strong enough for the next level or too insecure I should just give up instead of challenging myself.

Now through messages like these from Under Armour, they are changing how we see females in advertising and in turn in our own personal sport worlds for the better – showing that women can face fear, criticism, and surpass the limitations that society and ourselves have put on one another. Challenging us to have the will to want what we want and to go out and achieve it at any cost!

References:
http://adage.com/article/news/marketer-year-armour/296088/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/02/07/five-smart-things-under-armour-did-to-take-on-the-sports-retail-giants/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/business/media/01adco.html?_r=1

Women’s Soccer Forced to Play 2015 World Cup on Artificial Turf

By Kayla P.

Dating back to the Ancient times, women have taken tremendous steps in fighting for an equal status in sports. However, there are still signs that the battle for equality is far from over. A prime example of this is the Women’s World Cup this summer. The event will be held all across Canada, but despite this being such a fantastic opportunity to promote women’s soccer, the focus point has been whether the games should be played on natural grass or artificial turf.

Not even top international women soccer players could change the mind of one of the most powerful organizations in the world (FIFA). After months of fighting, these female soccer players ran out of arguments and realized they were quickly running out of time. 84 players on 13 different national teams- called turf “substandard and dangerous, and said it was something that FIFA and the CSA would never dream of asking top men’s players to play a World Cup on”(Franson, 2014). If these organizations are going to make women play on turf, why shouldn’t men have to perform at elite levels on this same surface? Men’s soccer is played at a much faster pace than women’s, could this be why they want women’s World Cup to be played on turf, to give the women’s game more pace? Or it is because men would put up too much of a fight if they were forced to play big tournaments on turf as well? There are so many questions as to why women are being forced to play on artificial turf.

Artificial turf has been blamed for increasing injuries such as sprained ankles, concussions, turf burns, heat stroke, etc. The World Cup is a huge tournament; much like the Olympics where everyone around the world enjoys watching, and cheering on their country. In 2012, the women’s gold medal soccer match for the London Olympics was the most watched event with 4.35 million viewers, and yet still, professional women soccer players struggle to be given the respect they deserve (Vick, 2015). With that many people tuning in to watch women’s soccer, why would anyone want to see the World Cup being played on something that increases injuries and puts the participants at risk? It’s a sign that the battle for equality is far from over, despite decades of progress.

USA striker Alex Morgan believes that the recent protest against Women’s World Cup being played on artificial turf underlines why days like International Women’s Day are so important (Trehan, 2015). Women have fought for gender equality for many years, and we continue to fight for it. It has certainly come a long way and seeing that women’s sports are beginning to sell out stadiums and more and more people are starting to watch women’s sports is great to see. Women’s sports in general need to be highlighted more, and not just soccer, but for every sport. Due to the amount of support that came with the protest of the Women’s World Cup marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports (Shoalts, 2015).

References

Franson (2015). Women drop artificial turf complaint over 2015 World Cup in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/sports/soccer/2015/01/21/women-drop-artificial-turf-complaint-over-2015-world-cup-in-canada.html

Trehan (2015). USA striker Alex Morgan praises women fighting for gender equality. Retrieved from http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/12040/9749192/usa-striker-alex-morgan-praises-women-fighting-for-gender-equality

Vick (2015). FIFA: the world cup should be played on natural grass. Retrieved from https://www.coworker.org/petitions/fifa-the-world-cup-should-be-played-on-natural-grass

Shoalts (2015). Players drop legal fight over artificial turf in 2015 Women’s World Cup. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/soccer/women-withdraw-artificial-turf-complaint-over-2015-world-cup-in-canada/article22549311/

Eating Disorders in Males and Male Athletes: Their Secret Disease?

By Lucy P.

The focus of eating disorders in sports has predominantly revolved around women athletes, with males being pushed aside and therefore in danger of being missed (Baum, 2006). Perhaps this is because of the influential media demands of the idealistic woman, or the sexualisation surrounding women’s sports? As discussed in class, males are not always encouraged to express their emotions, but over exaggerate their masculinity. Reported in a recent study it showed few males report eating disorders or find other excuses for them as opposed to what they really are (Nelson, 2014). It is unfortunate that men still feel isolated to conform to such a specific stereotype, despite the numerous resources for health, emotions and equality.

Growing up in today’s generation, there are so many stereotypical pressures to live up to it becomes impossible to satisfy society. Males, and specifically male athletes feel obliged to live up to the masculine, strong and powerful ideology that has been created for a ‘real man’.

These stereotypes are embedded in boys from a young age. They are taught to be ‘rough and tough’, whereas in reality, it is only oppressing emotions and acceptance of their individuality. Unfortunately, the culture we are surrounded by does not think there are barriers to be broken in male sports, but yet, male athletes would still rather suffer in silence, and question their denial of eating disorders with things such as, is there something wrong with me? Does it mean I am girly? Is this affecting my masculinity? (Nelson, 2014).

I don’t think anyone who has participated in sports can deny the physical and mental demands of an elite/professional athlete. Continuously being surrounded by coaches or parents telling you that you can do better or work harder; opponents that can still somehow beat you. It becomes almost second nature to believe that the sacrifice to be the best athlete will outweigh any struggle along the way. This now, common mentality is perpetuating eating disorders as normality to meet weighs in, fitness testing and body conditioning regulations. A study stated that males are more susceptible in comparison to their counterparts, as women are naturally lighter and smaller, therefore male athletes have to go to greater lengths to achieve their goal weight or body image (Baum, 2006).

Another source imposing influence would be the endless media demands, unrealistic body images of superhuman strong men making every headline, magazines and commercials furthermore prompting eating disorders with the need to look a certain way. It is so evident that women undergo the media’s expectations, but why is it that society thinks that men don’t experience the same social and cultural pressures? The media not only creates an image for the ‘perfect’ female, but also this fantasy that male athletes are untouchable, and god like, which promotes their physical and sexual appeal, but demoralizes any other characteristic. In an article by Jackson Katz, he highlighted a very valid point – that men do feel pressures, men have less access to more abstract forms of masculine validating power, like economic or work place authority, so the physical body and it’s potential creates a concrete means of asserting manhood. (Katz, 2011).

Societies fighting against traditional norms and becoming more accepting of equal status has been significant within the last decade, yet there are still underlying issues that go unnoticed. More so from a males perspective as there is constant review of females equality and influences. With constant resistance from male athletes, pressure from coaches and stereotypes, together they create a serious health risk that may be life threatening (NEDA, 2015). There remains significant stigma surrounding psychiatric illness in the athletic arena, and perhaps more so still among male athletes (Baum, 2006). I hope that as we continue to resist the norms and break the barriers for equality, that male pressures and influences will also be recognised as much as women’s. Because in the end, are we not all fighting to conquer the same cultural differences together? Women want to be seen as equal counterparts in sports, so why can’t men be allowed to feel the same pressures and influences of society?

References

NEDA. (2015). Athletes and Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/athletes-and-eating-disorders

Katz, J. (2011). Unexpected social pressures in males. Retrieved from http://www.wstudies.pitt.edu/blogs/msf31/unexpected-social-pressures-males

Nelson, J. (2014). Male athletes and eating disorders. Retrieved from http://globalsportsdevelopment.org/athletes-eating-disorders/

Baum, A. (2006). Eating disorders in the male athlete. Sports Medicine, 36(1), 1-6.

Trick or Treat?: Sexualization of Halloween Costumes

by Paige N.

Halloween is an event in which people engage in leisure, offering a unique opportunity to present yourself differently from everyday life. As a child, I remember dressing up in costumes such as a witch, cat and pumpkin and as I got older (I am sure others will agree too), my peers and I were still able to dress up as those characters but with “less fabric and more of a push up bra”.

Halloween: once associated with innocent children dressing up as Ghostbusters asking for candy. Now, it seems women and adolescent girls are encouraged to dress however they want as long as the outfit is associated with the prefix “sexy” or “slutty”. Originally, “sexy Halloween costumes” were something found in fetish shop windows and today, these costumes have left the shop windows and emerged in mainstream society.

This shift from “scary to sexy” can negatively impact women in the workforce. Most Halloween costumes for women are “sexy versions” of something, for example sexy fire-fighter or sexy nurse. The portrayal of almost every single occupation in a sexual light is unlikely to contribute to women being taken seriously. Over the last fifty years, the women’s movement has been a key driver to increase the status and significance of women to promote equality. These sexually suggestive costumes defeat the purpose of the women’s movement and generally depict women as “sex symbols”.

Not only are Halloween costumes of a sexual nature present for women but younger individuals too. The implication of exposure to sexualized Halloween costumes at such a young age, can encourage an obsession with one’s body image. Numerous costumes are sending deliberate messages to teens about body image, with emphasis on being a certain “body type”. For example, many outfits designed for teenagers are “short and low cut” and made for a “thin” body type. Therefore, there is pressure to be this specific body type and unavailability to wear such outfits if you are more of a full figure.

Moreover, it has become almost customary that adolescent girls wear costumes that vaguely resemble animals or figures of authority. Commonly, there is pressure for young girls to conform to dress up in a sexy outfit to fit in. From my observation, there is a considerable amount of conformity among girl groups nowadays. Many individuals might “do the same or wear the same” as their peers, as an act of acceptance within a group to reduce judgments of being “different”.

I perceive conformity to contribute towards the development of sexualized Halloween costumes. A great example is noted in the movie Mean Girls. Lindsay Lohan’s character is unaware of the “sexy Halloween costume” rule, and shows up to a party dressed as a zombie bride, complete with ugly fake teeth and a dress which covered most of her body. She was predictably out of place and remarks ” I guess in girl world, Halloween is the one night a years when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girls can say anything about it”. Popular movies like Mean Girls act as a gateway and endorsement for a sexualized nature amongst women and young girls.

In addition, these kind of messages sent early to children will only further perpetuate the message that the media sends i.e. both emphasis of thinness and sexuality. Another example I found in an article by the guardian goes to show how the “sexy little girl” has become insistently present in the media. The article describes an acquaintance on Halloween with a five year old girl, wearing a tube top, miniskirt, platform shoes and eye shadow shouting “im a Bratz”. Related to the concept of sexualized clothing, this example displays how influential everyday toys directly impact younger individuals, and a “toys” contribution toward the sexual nature of Halloween Costumes.

The University of Texas have undertaken studies related to how a sexualized body image negatively effects young adolescent girls. Research suggests 10-15 year old girls with higher levels of internalized sexualization (belief to be sexually attractive), achieve lower grades at school than their peers. Related to this study, Halloween costume choices for girls may reflect a damaging preoccupation with being sexually attractive. For example, boys have multiple costume options ranging from scary, funny, nerdy and powerful, whereas girls are limited in scope and increasingly sexualized with features such a fitted bodess , short skirts and heels. Wearing a sexy costume may not negatively affect a girls development, but continued exposure to sex messages can lead to decreased self esteem, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and depression.

These problems are serious and just because something is sold and displayed in a store, should not be perceived as the norm when it comes to body image, sexiness or fashionability. Halloween should be an opportunity for people to show off their creativity and not be a time when women feel they SHOULD wear sexy costumes but be the one night a year when women/ girls break from this.

References:

Goodin, S.M., Denburg, A.V., Mumen, S.K., & Smolak, L. (2011). Putting on sexiness: A content analysis of the presence of sexualizing characteristics in girls’ clothing. Journal of Sex Roles, 65(1-2), pp. 1-12.

The Guardian (2015). Women. Lost youth: turning young girls into sex symbols. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/18/lost-youth-young-girls

The Guardian (2015). Halloween. Why are Halloween costumes so ‘slutty’? Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/oct/20/halloween-costumes-slutty-sexy-witch-women-creativity-boob

The University of Texas (2014). Sexualized body image has negative effect on young adolescent girls. Retrieved from http://www.utexas.edu/news/2014/10/29/body-image-adolescent-girls/
Valley (2014). The link between Halloween costumes and body image. Retrieved from http://www.valleymagazinepsu.com

Article-Buzz (n.d.).Fashion. Sexy Halloween costumes advocate healthy body image. Retrieved from http://www.article-buzz.com/Article/Sexy-Halloween-Costumes-Advocate-Healthy-Body-Image/326548#.VQcwZe9_n4h

The Body Image Therapy Center (2014). Sexualization of girls’ halloween costumes. Retrieved from http://thebodyimagecenter.com/news-blogs/body-image/sexualization-girls-halloween-costumes/

A Man’s Territory: The Gym

By Jessica D.

By now, many know the health benefits associated with being physically active: avoiding heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, and the list goes on. Exercise participation and barriers to physical activity have been widely researched for many decades. Some of the most commonly reported barriers to physical activity include lack of time, lack of enjoyment, lack of social support and lack of past exercise behavior (Trost et al., 2002). However, are we neglecting the fact that intimidation exhibited by male counterparts in a gym environment may account for a large quota of female dropout in physical activity?

The Health Survey for England (Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2011) reported that only 29% of the UK women were achieving recommended levels of physical activity compared to 39% of males. In a study done by Pridgeon and Grogan (2012) whom observed exercise adherence and dropout, all non-adheres were conscious of the presence of others while exercising at the gym. Moreover, when it comes to the way girls dress or the weight they are going to add while doing their bench press at the gym, the presence of males plays a highly influential role.

Traditional public perceptions of a male are expected to be strong, independent, and athletic, whereas females are deemed to be the “weaker sex”. When these gender norms are violated either at the gym or in a sport context, it is common for labels to be given (i.e. “she must be a lesbian”). For this reason, females are left feeling vulnerable in a gym setting, thus, discouraging them from pushing themselves to become in great physical condition, and to most certainly not exceed the condition of their male counterparts.

Although I am no stranger to the gym, the thought of working out next to sweaty guys huffing, puffing, and grunting as they try to bench press hundreds of pounds always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Take the weight room at the Currie Centre, for example. It has become the norm for women to breeze past the room simply because of the male dominated environment that has been created. For many years, I did the exact same thing myself. I felt as though the glares and stares I was receiving while lifting, at times, as much weight as some of the men in the room were making me feel as though I did not belong in that space. However, being a fitness enthusiast, and being well aware of the health benefits associated with adhering to a weight-training program, I did not let the intimidation of male bodies in the room drive me away. I really enjoyed this post “8 Reasons Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights” : number 7 which caught my eye in particular, mentions how “you’ll feel empowered” and that lifting weights is associated with a boost in self-esteem.

While both men and women work out in contemporary gyms, popular conceptions of the gym as a masculine institution continue. That being said, many alternatives need to be considered for women who do not adhere to gym participation as the result of male intimidation. Women-only gyms, exercising partners, and comfortable clothing, to name a few, are good examples of ways to boost a women’s self-esteem and self-efficacy while at the gym. In the end, shouldn’t we be working towards creating a more accepting gym environment? Don’t women have every right to flaunt their muscly arms and toned legs too?

References

Trost, S.G., et al., 2002. Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 34 (12), 1996–2001. doi: 10.1097/ 00005768–200212000–00020.

Health and Social Care Information Centre 2011. Health Survey for England – 2008: physical activity and fitness. Available from: http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/hse08physicalactivity [Accessed January 2011].

Pridgeon, L., & Grogan, S. (2012). Understanding exercise adherence and dropout: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of men and women’s accounts of gym attendance and non-attendance. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 4(3), 382-399.

“You Throw Like a Girl:’’ The Effect Stereotypes Have on Women in Sport

by Cassie S.

From the beginning of a little girl playing peewee sports all the way to a young adult playing at a professional level, women are always stereotyped by society. They are viewed as the weaker sex and they are valued more on the physical appearance of the body and less on their actual performance. These stereotypes come from the traditional gender roles that have been created by today’s society. The stereotypes that young children are exposed to at such a young age and are raised into believing can have a huge impact on their athletic performance. Much research has been done on the correlation between stereotype threats and the under performance of female athletes.

A stereotype threat occurs when a person performs worse at a task due to extra pressure that is added because of a negative stereotype associated with their group’s performance (Hively & El-Alayli, 2014.) Women often underperform at an athletic task when thinking about gender stereotypes related to athleticism. When females begin to think about the negative stereotypes related to their gender and sport, it causes them to worry an extra amount about their performance. If they perform poorly, it would only (falsely) verify the negative stereotype associated with their group. This extra amount of worry leads to a large gain of pressure which leads to a poor performance.

These negative beliefs are preventing women from performing to their full potential in sport. Hively and El-Alaylo (2014) compared female athletes’ performance against that of male athletes under two circumstances: when a stereotype reminder was present and when the threat of a default stereotype was specifically removed. The study consisted of both male and female basketball and tennis athletes who performed at an elite level. All athletes were asked to perform two athletic tasks within their sport. At random, the participants were either told that there was a gender difference in performance or that there was no gender difference in performance on the tasks.

Results from this study determined two things: When participants were told gender affects task performance, women performed worse than men and when told there was no gender difference, women and men performed equally well. Results of this study show just how powerful these negative stereotypes associated with women and sport can be. Women have come this far in sport, yet still struggle with the stereotypes that society continues to attach to their sex. The facts are that women CAN throw and catch, kick and score goals. It is hard enough for women to breakthrough in sport without the extra pressure added to their performance due to these stereotype threats.

I believe that a great way for women to overcome the barriers that they face with stereotype threats is to look up to some of the amazing athletic female role models in sport today. For example, Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch is an amazing role model for any girl to look up to. She makes boys wish they could throw or run ‘’like a girl.’’ She is one of the best pitchers in softball history and an all around amazing softball player. You can watch the links below to see Jennie and Team USA in action!

http://larrybrownsports.com/everything-else/jennie-finch-blew-fastballs-by-adrian-peterson/235957

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPO1jWLZZrA

Although Jennie has retired from her softball career, she still continues to run camps and coach teams. She is still providing guidance, inspiration and motivation to girls of all ages to work hard to accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams. There are so many other positive female athletes in sport today that provide hundreds of examples of how strong females can be in the sport world today.

When someone tells me that I throw like a girl I don’t take it as an insult, I take it as a compliment. Throwing like a girl, to me, means throwing like Jennie Finch, which is something any female or male should be extremely proud of. Girls can perform just as well as boys in any sport, regardless of any stereotypes associated with their gender.

References:

Hively, K., & El-Alayli, A. (2014). ”You throw like a girl:” The effect of stereotype threat on women’s athletic performance and gender stereotypes. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 15, 1, 48-55.

Gender and Physical Education

By: Molly M.

In high school, many of us were given the chance to start making choices in regard to what classes we would be taking and when. For me, and probably many of you, phys. ed. class was one of these choices. I had the choice to sign up for an all girls class or a coed class. For me, this was a no brainer- all girls. Why? All my friends were doing it and everyone talked about how much fun it would be. That’s all I needed to hear. I wasn’t concerned about what exactly we would be doing in the class or how it would be different than the coed class. A lot of other girls took the class with the understanding it would be ‘easier’ than the class with the boys.

In retrospect, I question why the option even existed. We didn’t have a choice to take gender segregated biology or math class, so why phys. ed? I think there are a number of ways to look at this. On one hand, it could be argued that giving young girls, who are already self-conscious and unsure of themselves, a safer environment to experiment and learn skills for sports might give them the confidence to continue with sport throughout their lives. Another way of looking at this might be that this segregation only gives the girls negative perceptions of their own abilities. They may believe that they cannot play the same types of sports that their male counterparts can, or as well.

Research actually shows a number of significant differences between all boys and all girls classes. According the study ‘Physical Activity in High School Physical Education: Impact of Lesson Context & Class Gender Composition,’ classes made up of only male students showed much higher levels of vigorous physical activity than in the classes of only females. The boys spent about 21.9% of the class in a state of vigorous physical activity while the girls only spent 12.9% of their time in this state. Boys also spent much of their class time actually engaging in game play compared to girls. Some of the explanations for these gaps include the nature of the activities and the teachers. It has been suggested that in order to combat this, teachers need more professional development in order to understand the different interests that male and female students might have.

It seems that although there may be some legitimate reasons young girls may benefit from gender specific classes, there are also some serious drawbacks. What do you think about this? Should we continue on with separate classes or push for coed classes? What is best for everyone?

Smith, N.J., Lounsbery, M.A., & McKenzie, T.L. (2014). Physical Activity in High School Physical Education: Impact of Lesson Context & Class Gender Composition. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 11(1), 127-135.

Why is there a stereotype that gymnastics is a “woman’s sport”?

by Desiray W.

From as long as I can remember gymnastics has always been considered a “woman’s sport”. Although there are plenty of men that participate in this sport, the majority of people that participate is woman. In most cases boys usually get teased and made fun of when they are young if they are in gymnastics. Our society today is a bit more accepting of it then they were in the past. But yet we still see stereotypes. Different aspects of gymnastics may construct as “feminine” such as the leotards, apparatus and competition style. Therefore gymnastics is considered feminine because of structure and aspects of the sport itself. Although many that do not participate in the sport do not know what it takes how much hard work and dedication you have to to put in just in order to be a competitive gymnast.

The difference that many may not know is that woman’s gymnastics and men’s gymnastics is very different. Woman’s events include balance beam, uneven bars, floor and vault. While men’s gymnastics include, High bar, pommel horse, rings, Parallel bars, floor and vault. The only events that woman and men share is floor and vault which are power tumbling apparatus. Men’s gymnastics requires a tremendous amount of muscular strength, endurance, flexibility as do woman’s gymnastics. While both men and woman require strength, men’s routines focus more on displaying his strength through various holds. Women’s routines focus more on artistry and grace. Gymnastics is the sport with the most difference between the men’s and women’s competitions rather than any other sport.

Our society has been taught to think of sorts in terms of “genderedness”. Men are encouraged and taught to participate in strenuous, aggressive, competitive teams sports while woman are commonly steered towards individual aesthetically pleasing activities such as gymnastics (Schmalz & Kerstetter, 2006). When any gender goes out of their social norm of what is expected from them they often get teased by other young people their age. While we see that woman are becoming more accepted in what they would call “masculine sports” men are not near as accepted in what they call “woman’s sport”. Many male gymnasts are bullied or looked down upon by their peers, as gymnastics is largely seen as a sport traditionally “for girls”.

Studies have even proven that gymnastics is one of the hardest sports in the world it requires a tremendous amount of physical strength, flexibility, power, agility, coordination, grace, balance and control. This gender stereotype has to stop! Everyone should be able to feel comfortable participating in whatever sport they want to without being teased and labeled.

In conclusion I believe the sport of gymnastics needs to be largely re-evaluated mainly by the portions of the sport that perpetuate stereotypes regarding the femininity of men if they are in the sport of gymnastics. Something we struggle with stereotypes not only in athletics but in everyday life as well. This blog post I have made is not only for gymnasts themselves but for coaches, peers, family and especially for parents that are too scared to put their boys in gymnastics because they think that it may cause a harder upbringing for their child being bullied for it. Remember it’s not about what others think, it’s about what you’re passionate about.

References

Schmalz, D. and Kerstetter, D. (2006). Girlie girls and manly men: Children’s stigma consciousness of gender in sports and physical activities. Journal of Leisure Research, 38(4), 536-557

The Past, Present, and Future of Yoga

By Andrea J

Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and a distinct philosophy in numerous different styles and intensities. The most common style practiced in the United States is Hatha yoga: emphasizing postures, breathing, and meditation. The combination of these practices strengthens the mind-body connection. I had the opportunity to try a yoga class last year and thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and benefits it presented. For a few years, I have had friends and family who have gone to classes and liked them. I have never found a time that fit my schedule or knew what to expect. This term, there was a class offered at UREC and I decided to try it.

Yoga has been proven to build strength, increase flexibility, and improve balance, stability, sleep and relaxation. It is truly a full-body workout that focuses on the mind-body connection as one pushes further into a pose or a specific muscle or group of muscles. Practicing yoga in addition to other forms of exercise has been suggested by studies to reduce heart rate and blood pressure as well as anxiety and depression.

Over 20 million people practice yoga, of which only 18% are men (Freytag, 2014). Yoga is thought to have originated over 5000 years ago in India to be performed by men. In the North American culture, yoga evolved from its origins to suit the needs of Hollywood celebrities and middle-class women. The practice became a more meditative style that deviated from the original practice of developing the strong minds and bodies of men (Tilin, 2012). Due to stereotypes and the evolution of yoga in the 21st century, the practice is viewed as feminine and too touchy-feely for men (Tilin, 2012). These changes lead to the stereotypes that yoga was only for women and companies utilised this to their advantage through advertising and clothing. Today, many yoga studios are trying to defeat this stereotype and show that yoga can benefit everyone through creating men-only classes or more demanding classes that emphasize what men are typically looking for in exercise and bring the practice back to its roots (Tilin, 2012).

The increasing number of males showing up in yoga classes, in recent years, is due to the new studios and classes that focus on integration and mobility of the muscles that most men build in the gym through their focus on individual muscles (Tilin, 2012). These classes are structured more around the origins of yoga and less on how the Western world has interpreted it, with a focus on the more vigorous and no non-sense styles. The most common reason for men, or anyone, not practicing yoga is that they are not flexible. Just as one goes to a gym to build strength and endurance, one can go to yoga to improve their flexibility.

There have been several pro-athletes in recent years that have begun to practice yoga for various reasons and now speak to how it has helped them improve their game. Keith Mitchell is a former NFL linebacker who now is a certified yoga instructor. With one hit, he was down and suffered a spinal contusion. Yoga was suggested as a therapy to help him regain some function and may have been the reason he was able to get back in the game. I am including the link to a video down below about his story. Other pro-athletes such as LeBron James and Tim Thomas also practice yoga in addition to their playing.

What is an athlete? An athlete is someone who surrenders himself to a greater purpose by sacrificing day in and day out in order to attain a dream. Having role models in pro-athletes that speak of the benefits of establishing a mind-body connection to improve their athletic skill has played a part in increasing the number of people and especially men who have taken up yoga. I think this is a good way to increase participation rates and promotion of a sport without the use of sexualisation. It shows that two things that are so very different can work together to create an athlete and give more meaning to their lives. Men and women have very distinct gender roles in society that dictate how they move, work, eat, and connect with others. Yoga is one example of how these roles are blurring together so that anyone can benefit from participating.

References:

Keith Mitchell and Yoga
http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-films-presents/0ap2000000259627/NFL-Films-Presents-Yoga-and-football

Tilin, A. (2012). “The Man Factor” from the Yoga Journal. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/man-factor/

Freytag, C. (2014). Why dudes should do yoga. Retrieved from http://greatist.com/fitness/men-
yoga-stereotypes