By Brittany C.
When you are growing up, something as simple as going to the store to buy clothes can be a confusing experience. You go in with your parents and they say, “Go have a look and pick something out”. So off you go through the store and you come across a bright blue t-shirt with a cool red car on the front. Your parents come around the corner and you point to the shirt with a big smile on your face, but your mother frowns and says “ Sweetie, why don’t we look for something in the girls’ section?” This isn’t a personal experience per say, but it’s something that I’m sure has happened to many young kids throughout their lives. The clothes we wear and they sections we buy them in define us. As young impressionable children who are still trying to figure out the world, we are socialized to shop in one part of the store, the men’s section or the women’s. Masculinity vs Femininity – our world today still enforces the difference between the two. This can also be found in the sporting goods stores of today. The participation of women in sport has increased from the past, and in the Olympics this year there were more women on the Canadian Olympic team than men. However, women still struggle to find what they need in a sports store without having to go to the men’s section.
I read an article about women’s rise in snowboarding which discussed female otherness and male superiority (Thorpe, 2005). This otherness and outsider feelings were caused by the media’s portrayal of the sport and the companies who supported the sport as a masculine dominant industry. When women first broke into the snowboarding scene, they had a hard time fitting in. It wasn’t until the first women’s clothing company was created that the participation of females in the sport started to increase. The author also pointed out that men created sport and for men which is 100% true. However, we have come a long way for women’s participation and success in sports. I believe a part of the participation increase was due to the fact that gear for the sport became available in the women’s section at the store. It was no longer seen as crossing the feminine line to do the sport as you could get everything you need in the women’s section. But not everything you might need for other sports can be found in the women’s section.
Attached is a picture I took recently in a sports store. It shows a rack at a store clearly labeled “Men’s” with hockey Canada jerseys hung on it.
Why is a national team jersey labeled as Men’s? There is a National Women’s hockey team and their jerseys are the exact same as the men. If we take a step back from the specifics of what the jersey actually is, we can see a different picture being painted. It’s a hockey jersey. It is something that represents a love for a sport, love for something that unites people, men and women, across our country. Hockey is a very masculine sport and women who are involved can be seen as so. If you ask most women who play hockey how they feel about the pink slim fitting jerseys that are found in the women’s section, they would tell you that they would rather not wear a jersey than wear that. Female participation in hockey has increased since I first started and we now see female hockey players as role models for younger girls. For those younger girls to get a jersey like their female role models wear, they have to venture to the other side of the store into the men’s section. Couldn’t we just have a shared sports attire section for both men and women, take the gender aspect out of it because both men and women participate in sport?
Thorpe, H. (2005) Jibbing the gender order: Females in the Snowboarding Culture, Sport in Society, 8(1), 76-100.