Fit Is A Female Problem

By Kelsie P.

In today’s society, women are still facing a number of injustices, including treatment within the fitness industry. ‘Fit’ women are painted to have slim figures, doused with makeup and their hair done just so, with little to no clothing on. Although this may be the norm for some, for many active women this depiction has no relation to their personal experience. Women are told to be skinny, but not TOO skinny – to work on muscle tone, but don’t become TOO bulky – be strong, but NOT STRONGER than the MEN – and numerous other contradictory idealisms set out by the media. Ladies face inequality not only in the expectations of their physiques and physical abilities, but in the funding, sponsorship and coverage of professional women athletes/teams. The struggle to find a professional women’s match or competition is endless, and if you do happen to stumble upon the rare channel providing the airtime, you can be certain the athlete’s competing are being paid a small fraction of their male counterparts’ salary.

CrossFit is constantly under scrutiny in the media about one thing or another. Amongst the hate and ‘short comings’ people love to find about the sport, the positive promotion of strong women and gender equality tends to become lost. CrossFit exemplifies the respect and proper treatment that should be given to women in sport and how competitions should be carried out, considering the time we live in.

CrossFit embraces the saying ‘strong is beautiful’ to the fullest. Marketing around females in the sport, both professional and amateur, focus on the abilities of the athletes as opposed to their overall aesthetic. Unfortunately, due to the negative conditioning thrust upon females at a young age, women are constantly underestimating what they can achieve physically. In this sport, there is no fear of women becoming ‘too strong’ and are encouraged to explore the lengths to which their bodies can carry them. Instead of promoting what a women looks like, CrossFit takes the angle of ‘look at what this body can do’. Sure, confidence can stem from how a person perceives their attractiveness, but confidence through achieving something through hard work and perseverance is that much more meaningful. An ‘ideal body’ may not be able to do a muscle up or snatch 130 pounds, but a strong, confident and healthy woman can. Once a woman buys into the idea that their bodies aren’t limited to vanity, they become vessels for unlimited fitness potential. They become less concerned with obtaining a certain shape, and more concerned with becoming as fit as they can be. (How CrossFit Might Be Promoting Gender Equality, 2015) Women CrossFit athletes, who are sponsored by companies in addition to CrossFit HQ, like Nike and Reebok, are often depicted doing sports specific movements and showing off their muscles. When these female athletes are interviewed, the focus of the questions rarely strays from the scope of the sport, leaving questions about relationships and clothing preferences left behind.

CrossFit doesn’t adhere to norms that have been established in the sporting world. CrossFit is a considerably new sport, gaining popularity by the day, meaning it has a clean slate to promote equality and turn their cheek to sexist ways. This can be shown as a primary example through the proceedings of the CrossFit games. This past July, the 10th annual CrossFit Games took place in Carson, California and displayed numerous efforts and aspects of gender impartiality throughout. In this competition, both mens’ and womens’ events were given equal broadcast airtime. Both genders, in the individual event, were awarded the same amount of prize money for the ‘Fittest Man on Earth’ and ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’; as well as those placing within the top 10 respectively (amount decreasing with position). Men and women were challenged with the exact same workouts and got to compete within the same arena, in front of well-mixed crowd. In the team event, each team consisted of 2 men and 2 women joining forces to compete co-ed. Additionally, the event commenters, media team, judges and coaches involved a proportionately blended population of both genders. (Is CrossFit Games Coverage Sexist?, 2013) The examples explored above are virtually unheard of in the sports broadcast/organizational industry outside of the up and coming sport of CrossFit.

Katrin Davidsdottir, ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’ for the consecutive 2015/2016 CrossFit Games, perfectly summarizes what the sport of CrossFit is about through saying,

In CrossFit, both men and women are told they can do anything. You want to achieve a muscle up? You can. You want to set a personal record with your back squats? Go for it. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, it matters what you’re made of. We’re all athletes competing in the same sport, with the same goal: To become stronger, healthier and better people.” (Davidsdottir, 2016)

CrossFit is a sport where women and men are revered equally and females are valued for their ability, not appearance. The sporting world, as well as the professional/everyday world, should take lead from CrossFit and learn what it means to eliminate discrimination and promote women in a positive way.

Sources:

Davidsdottir, K. (2016, April 6). What CrossFit Can Teach Pro Sports About Gender
Equality. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from
http://motto.time.com/4279643/women-soccer-gender-discrimination-
crossfit/

How CrossFit Might Be Promoting Gender Equality. (2015, August 05). Retrieved
January 30, 2017, from
https://socialjusticetoronto.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/how-crossfit-
might-be-promoting-gender-equality/

Is CrossFit Games Coverage Sexist? (2013, July 31). Retrieved January 30, 2017,
from https://musclesonalady.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/is-crossfit-
games-coverage-sexist/

 

 

Gender Inequality: A Sports Media Perspective on Sports Media

By Meghan O.

Sports are highly valued in the world we live in. In 2014, Forbes claimed that the North American sports industry made over 60 billion dollars and projected it to climb to 73 billion by 2019. This money is made through sports merchandising, sponsors and media coverage. These industries include the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL, all of which are  dominated by a common factor: men. Sports coverage in the media is mainly centered around men rather than women’s participation. This perpetuates the traditional notion that men are strong, athletic and women are not. Studies have shown that females are more likely than males to stop participating in sports as teenagers (Kjartan, 2016). To at least some extent, this can be attributed to the absence of women as role models in sports media. With this being the case, young females are missing out on well-known benefits associated with sports participation: higher self-esteem, positive body image and lower levels of anxiety (Slater et al., 2011).

From my own observations of the media,  the exposure of female athletes in the media improves during events like the Olympic Games and World Cup Soccer. However, these events do not lead to continuous long-term exposure for female athletes. Even with the increased coverage during these times, broadcasters will target women’s appearances or even worse, their male partners. This needs to be improved on by TV companies by taking responsibility for the importance of women’s coverage. These companies should have policies in place to inform their employees of the implications of focusing on only these aspects of women. By overshadowing a woman’s athletic performance with what they are wearing or what hair accessories they are using, it gives the idea that no matter how successful their performance, they are only as good as their outfit. It seems as though no matter how well women perform and provide that “entertainment value”, the media continues to refuse to give them more air time. Male athletes continue to take up most of that time on in sports media. And it would be absurd if anyone were to comment on a male athletes outfit!

Another way to improve women’s representation in sports media is through commercials and sponsorship. There has been some progress in this area, but commercials aired with sports media still remain mainly male. This gives young males role models to look up to and aspire to be like. If young girls had the same amount of athlete role models, they could potentially be more interested in sport and consequently reap its benefits. There are also more ways people working directly in sports media need to improve. TV companies should be focused on supporting both men and women’s participation. It is, however, clear that this media has one thing in interest: money. These companies believe that they are providing for their audience by airing mainly male sporting events. I strongly believe this is a huge mistake. By not providing for the women who do have an interest in watching women’s sport leagues, they are missing out on money that could be made from this kind of coverage. If these TV companies produced a “sister” company for women’s sport coverage, it would benefit them financially, but it would also make strides to positively impact young girls.

References:

Ólafsson, K. (2006) Sports, media and stereotypes – Women and men in sports and media. Akureyri, Centre for Gender Equality.

Lopiano, D. A. (2008). Media coverage of women’s sport is important. Sport Management Resources. N.p., 2008. Web. 22

Slater, A., & Tigerrmann, M. (2011).  Gender differences in adolescent sport participation, teasing, self-objectification and body image concerns.” Journal of Adolescence 34(3), 455-463.

Lamoureux, A. (2012). How the media portrays female athletes. Retrieved from:  https://aimeelamoureux.wordpress.com/

Heitner, D. (2015). Sports industry to reach $73.5 billion by 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/10/19/sports-industry-to-reach-73-5-billion-by-2019/#6ea3e9ce1585

Hoseback Riding and How it Empowers Young Women

by Ben A.

Everybody knows that sports are often dominated by hegemonic male ideals and that women often have a hard time enjoying these sports because of those ideals. Horseback riding encompasses “male concepts, such as hierarchy, orderliness and discipline” (Forsberg & Teblius, 2011).  In a woman’s teenage years, it is essential that they can feel empowered by sport, and horseback riding is just that. For me, it is an interesting idea that this activity, which was previously looked at as a male dominated activity can empower young women and give them freedom from socially constructed ideals of what a woman is supposed to be. It is understood that young women in their teenage years want to engage in leisure activities where they can feel safe (Forsberg & Teblius).

For young girls, there are many societal pressures to adhere what a woman is socially constructed supposed to be. In the article “The riding school as a site for gender identity construction among Swedish teenage girls”, riding offers a place for young women to be free of all societal pressures to conform. The young women who were interviewed mention that their riding friends consider themselves a “non-bothering gang”. They were not afraid to let their hair down and wear old clothes to the stable because they knew that they would not be judged. It is amazing to see a sport where women feel free to be who they are and not feel pressures to conform.

When I was younger, I participated competitively in track and field. On the outside, track may seem like a sport where there cannot be many pressures to conform of what it is meant to be a “track star”. That assumption would be wrong. There usually was always a new pair of shoes on the market that all of the good athletes would have and you just felt like to be included you had to have the same. The same went for clothing; many of the ‘good’ athletes would wear the most outlandish clothing and there was a pressure there to conform. I think this can relate back to the culture of horseback riding for young women as the adverse; in the stable there is only one goal, and that is to get the work done, and to do this it does not matter what you look like. The girls do not have to conform to the stereotypical body norms to be a rider.

In an ideal world sport would be a place where all genders can be free. Sport could be a place where your ability was not judged by the clothes you wore. I believe we are moving in the right direction as we see more and more accomplished women in sport being publicized in the media. It is great to see young girls being empowered by horseback riding which many years ago was dominated by men. Hopefully one day in sports, ability will only be judged by who somebody is as a person and not their gender, sex, age, or material holdings.

Forsberg, L., & Tebelius, U. (2011). The riding school as a site for gender identity construction among Swedish teenage girls. World Leisure Journal, 53(1), 42-56.

The Girl Behind the Gun

By Taylor H.

Walking through the woods in a bright orange vest and a gun in hand is not commonly known as an activity that women participate in. I will never forget the day that I tracked down my first animal and pulled the trigger for the very first time. I experienced a variety of emotions that day. At first, I was overwhelmed by excitement and adrenaline, which then turned into feelings of achievement as I was extremely proud of myself for accomplishing something that most women do not have the opportunity to do.

So why is it that the word ‘hunter’ is often associated with men? Why is it that more men are involved in hunting than women? Is it because of the stereotype that girls are kind hearted and could not hurt a fly? Is it because we are taught that men are responsible for providing for their families? For many years now women have been integrating themselves into the world by challenging the typical gender roles and stepping out of their comfort zones.

Hunting is an activity that traces back to when the cavemen walked earth. The culture of hunting is known as a hegemonic masculine sport (Keogh, 2006). In the past, men would go on hunting trips to bring back meat and fur to keep their families fed and warm. Meanwhile the wives were assigned the responsibilities of gathering berries and looking after the children. To this day, it is still common for the man to go to work while the woman stays home to care for the children.

A study has shown that there are three types of constraints that decrease the likelihood that a woman will hunt. The first one is referred to as intrapersonal. Some women believe that they do not hunt because they have never been taught to do so. The second factor is referred to as interpersonal constraints. Some women believe that they do not take part in hunting because they are afraid of what others may think or say. And the final factor is structural constraints. Some women may not be able to take part in hunting due to certain domestic responsibilities such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children (Keogh, 2006).

Women may have their battles in this male dominated activity, but over the years it has slowly become an activity that women are taking part in. The data have shown that female hunters have increased by 3%, and that hunting gear is 30% directed towards women now (Keogh, 2006). Many of the women who do take part say that they do it for their family, by bringing home healthy food. They also explain that they make it a family activity by bringing their children along. Furthermore, some women participate for the social aspect of it. When explaining why they hunt, some women explain that they do it because it makes them feel powerful and in control. They also feel proud when someone sees them dressed in camo and ready to go into the woods (Keogh, 2006).

The confidence that myself and other women receive knowing that we can engage in an activity that is mostly engaged in by men, is huge. Just because I may wear heels and paint my nails does not make me any less capable of pulling a trigger and supplying food for my family.

Reference

Keogh, S. (2006). Pink camouflage: Reshaping the gendered nature of hunting in the twenty-first century. Society & Leisure 39(3), 1-20.

Female Rugby Players: Resisting Gender Stereotypes

by Danielle A.

Sport has always been something that has been a significant part of my life and has shaped my identification and personality in countless ways. Growing up, I played just about every sport that I could find the time for; but one sport in particular that has had my heart since I first picked up the ball is rugby. Luckily, I am still engaged in this sport by playing for the team here at UNB, as well as coaching during the high school season.

In class, we’ve discussed factors around gender inequality in sport, and during these discussions I’ve brought up multiple examples about rugby. I’ve not only brought these examples to attention because I’m a female rugby player, but I also feel that women’s rugby displays a strong example of women pushing back against the stereotypical actions and expected behaviors that surround them. These are stereotypes such as being gentle, appearing dainty, and being physically weak compared to their male counterparts. Playing rugby totally rejects these stereotypes and women are able to freely display qualities and actions that, historically speaking, would only be performed by men.

Rugby seems to be the only contact sport (that I can think of) that both men and women’s rules are gender inclusive, meaning that both sexes abide by the same rules of the game. Whereas in hockey, women are not allowed to body check while men are. But interestingly, if it so happens a woman is playing on a men’s hockey team, body checking is still allowed. I’ve recently read an article that focused on a study of university women rugby players. It stated that because men and women have the same rules to play by “it was a source of pride” for the women ruggers to be ‘equal’ to the men (Ezzel, 2009). It seemed that the women in this study felt empowered by the fact that the rules were the same, and I can absolutely agree with them as I feel also a sense of pride from this.

Another interesting point from this article that highlighted gender inequality within sport was that sports that are played by both sexes generally do not follow the same set of rules for the game/competition “male athletes, and men’s style of play, are the standard in those sports played by both men and women, good play and good athletes are defined by the men’s game” (Ezzel, 2009). I find this a little offensive, but it definitely is the truth. Most women’s sports (with the exception of rugby) have little to no physical component, and show limited aggression because ‘that isn’t how women are supposed to act’, while men’s sport are granted with the acceptance (and I also believe encouragement) of extreme physicality and aggression, to support the hegemonic masculinity image/qualities men are supposed to display. And from an entertainment perspective, the physicality and aggression is what people want to watch, which is why I think men’s ‘style of play’ is generally the standard of good play and displays the best athletes within the sport.

Although I think the concepts of gender inequality within sport, at all levels, is gathering attention from the athletes, the media, as well as scholars, I still see a large gap that exists. I am hopeful that overtime this gap will close, but in the meantime I will be participating in a sport that allows me to show my athleticism and aggression while resisting the typical female stereotypes.

Reference:

Ezzel, M. (2009). “Barbie Dolls” on the Pitch: Identity Work, Defensive Othering, and Inequality in Women’s Rugby. Social Problems, 56(1), 111-131.

The Importance of Male Athletes in Cheerleading

by Janelle H.

Long since the days of cheering other athletes to victory, cheerleaders no longer sit on the sidelines. Performing flawless dances, powerful gymnastic passes and creative lifts and tosses, cheerleading has become one of the most exciting up and coming sports. The biggest news in cheerleading is that in December 2016, cheerleading was given provisional status as an Olympic sport. This news has turned the cheerleading world upside down. Normally the largest competition is held in Orlando, Florida every year and now, cheerleaders may finally have a chance to show their talents on the Olympic stage. If the petition to make cheerleading an official Olympic sport is approved, then Canada will be looking for Olympians, and since teams are often comprised of as many as 25 people, we will need a lot of them.

Any cheerleader will be able to tell you that the best teams are the teams that have an even mix of male and female participants. Although central Canada is doing fairly well at finding male athletes, more rural areas are having a hard time. Unfortunately New Brunswick is one the places in Canada struggling the hardest, with the majority of teams being all girl, and if the team is considered co-ed, it generally means there is one to two boys on the team.

This stereotype that cheerleading is a feminine sport develops early. Arguably, as early as the gender reveal. At baby showers, people tend to give male babies gifts oriented towards sports that are stereotypically male like hockey or football, whereas females receive the ballet slippers or in this case, the pom poms. Since it is more socially acceptable to encourage females to join cheerleading, they get the advantage of starting training much earlier than the male athletes that generally start in their late teenage years. Although women train longer, male athletes are almost always guaranteed a spot on a team because there is such a high demand, and so few athletes.

It is often thought that male cheerleaders are extremely feminine; however, recent research indicates that because of this stereotype, male cheerleaders generally feel, “the need to project a heterosexual image” ¹, and therefore act extra masculine. Therefore, to dispel the stereotype that male cheerleaders are overly feminine, many male cheerleaders are now some of the most masculine acting athletes. To prove themselves as masculine many male cheerleaders work hard to prove that they are the strongest or most reckless members of the team, making them assets for not only lifts but also gymnastics pass sections.

In conclusion, this notion that cheerleading is a feminine sport must be dispelled. Regardless of how male cheerleaders act, they are an asset to all teams. Urban areas have realised this and are doing a great job of encouraging male participation, but here in New Brunswick, we are failing. With provisional status as an Olympic sport, cheerleading can open up a world of opportunity for male athletes. So next time you are headed to a baby shower for a baby boy, be different, give him the pom poms. Who knows, you may be creating an Olympian.

¹ Bemiller, M. (2005). Men who cheer. Sociological Focus, 38(3), 205-222. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.hil.unb.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy.hil.unb.ca/docview/60021165?accountid=14611

Judge them by their Success

By Robbie P.

As our class is gender, sport and leisure, I thought I would choose a topic which could hopefully create some discussion for everyone. Homosexuality is a topic which is widely discussed and abused globally. Many people use terms in a derogatory manner, often either implying that someone is a homosexual or their perceived action is viewed as being homosexual. It is not uncommon for words to be thrown around a professional sport clubs change room. I’m going to be focusing on the difficulties that homosexual football (soccer) players face in their change room, and why they are so afraid of letting their voices be heard. Whilst I am fully aware that it happens in other sports, this is my topic of interest and so my examples will derive from this sport.

I would like to address that football is a working class sport, loved and played by all. It’s the easiest and cheapest sport to play by a distance, with limited resources needed to play. The participation rates for males and females globally, are making it the world’s leading recreational sport by a distance.  Other sports like American football are largely watched and played, but only in one country, football is global. It is a sport which is accepting of all people, yet sadly there are some bad apples, like in every sport, which cannot accept certain people. An example of anti-homosexual behaviour came from a Brazilian judge, way back in 2007, who said “football was a virile masculine sport and not a homosexual one”. Okay, we have a few issue here. Firstly, as a soccer player myself it’s not a masculine sport, and I’ll be the first to admit that. There’s to much diving and rolling around to even consider that, it’s almost like play-acting (the irony is, it’s mostly Brazilians who do so!!). I’m not saying it’s not physically demanding, but it’s not comparable to rugby where they fly for each other. Secondly, the number of women playing soccer in the North American continent is unbelievable, and their Nationals teams are far more successful than their men’s. The third thing I’d like to mention is that a person’s talent should not be judged on their gender. It should be judged on their talent and success.

The most recent footballers to open up about their homosexuality was former male German international Thomas Hitzlsperger in 2014, and Casey Stoney, former Team GB captain at the 2012 London Olympics. Both athletes openly admitted, only after retiring from the sport. These athletes show that hegemony is not seamless and that there is a possibility of softening hegemonic masculinity in the sporting realm. The first ever player to publicize his affection to the same sex whilst playing, was English footballer Justin Fashanu. He took so much criticism from team-mates and managers at the time, but eventually committed suicide at the age of 37. A young male had accused him of sexual assault, which drove him to take his own life (article included in references). I am all for professional athletes coming out and revealing whether they are attracted to members of the same sex. I feel like it will include more people in the sport and opens a number of gates for more participants to feel welcome. I have included a link to comments made by Preston North End goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard (formerly of Manchester United), as his support for the LGBTQ community. He talks about the culture in the footballing world, how it would be accepted by the players and managers nowadays, but there are still some old school fans who would be completely against it.

One thing I am impressed with is the progress that is being made within the LGBTQ societies surrounding football, and more players are beginning to realize that change is needed. A study by Roper and Halloran (2007), looked at the views of heterosexual male and female student-athletes on homosexual male and female athletes. It was reported that the men were seemingly more negative in their views as opposed to the women. I would be interested in seeing a study of what this would look like, 10 years on, and how far we have come as a community. It’s all just a matter of who takes the big step forward and becomes only the 2nd person to openly admit to being attracted to the opposite sex, whilst they are still an active participant in the professional industry. Everyone should be judged on their success, talent and effort, no one should be judged by their sex or gender.

References and Links:

Anderson, E. (2016). Openly Gay Athletes. Gender & Society, 16(6), 860-877.

Roper, E. A., & Halloran, E. (2007). Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians Among Heterosexual Male and Female Student-Athletes. Sex Roles, 57(11), 919-928.

http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/emaga_9384_10704.pdf  (Fifa Survey)

http://www.breakingnews.ie/sport/football-needs-gay-hero-says-manchester-united-goalkeeper-575849.html (Anders Lindegaard)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/167715.stm (Justin Fashanu)