Women’s Oppression in Sport

By Brandon B.

In class we have discussed that women are seen as the weaker sex, that it is their responsibility to take care of a child because they are more nurturing then males are. That the way women and men are represented in western civilization are sex symbols, stay-at-home moms, and that they are supposed to be subservient to men, and males are supposed to be seen as the money maker, the overall supplier, and this masculine emotionless being. Because of old traditions being placed on women to be confined to the house and keep it clean, they have no time to have leisure time when they are oppressed.

“Women in sport. These words mean different things to different people. For some they are a contradiction in terms. For others they are evidence and cause for celebration of women’s achievements in a progressive and equitable age” (Dewar, 1991). This quote seems like the perfect example of how both sides of the continuum are seen. Traditionally, men do not synonymize women and sport. It is usually men that are seen with the word sport, mainly because there are so many male dominant sports that the most popular.

In the NHL (National Hockey League), one of the most popular professional leagues, Manon Rheaume was the only female to play in a traditionally male dominant sport (Rutherford, 2017). She only got to play one period in one pre-season game for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and was invited back the next pre-season, but did not make the team. She put the stamp on the NHL that it is not just a men’s game.

Fast forward to 2014, and Shannon Szabados is suiting up for the Edmonton Oilers for a practice (Mertz, n.d.). Shannon was welcomed by players and fans alike with even Twitter wanting her to join the team if Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth could not make it to the next game. Global News reported that within 30 minutes that request for Szabados to play was retweeted 444 times. Unfortunately, Szabados did not get to play and instead Edmonton had a University of Alberta Golden Bears goalie be the back-up for their next game. In these instances, why are women not given the opportunity to compete against men. Both female goaltenders have played for team Canada, Szabados received a gold, and Rheaume received a silver. The opportunities are there. However, these teams are doing everything in their power to play hard and promote the game at the same time. Their view is most likely one that is saying women might get hurt in the process. These tend to be older white males, that do not want to see the sport differ from what they have seen and what they are seeing now.

In Dewar’s (1991) article, she speaks about the problem of letting the facts speak for themselves, which she disagrees with, because the “facts” are apparently all you need to know about a person, which is untrue. There are adversities and issues that must be overcome to be the person everyone is today, but in female athlete’s cases, is that ever spoken about? No. What is shared or cover is how much hard work they put into training or their family and support networks. These are the feel-good moments for the media.

Media oppresses women by determining what questions to ask and the odd requests that they make. For example, when Roger Federer won the Australian open on January 28th all the websites featuring the Australian open only displayed Roger Federer, and very limited material on the female singles winner, Caroline Wozniacki. Sport is a male dominated event, where the only places/sports females will be featured in are ones which are graceful or beautiful such as gymnastics or figure skating. Those sports, however, come the issue that what they wear is highly sexualized and leaves little for the stereotypical male mind to think about. This may be one of the reason why viewings of Olympic beach volleyball are so high. The camera angles the media chooses – for example, to show viewers of backsides of players in what is essentially bikini bottoms – exploits women. Any attempt to change uniform in the highest sporting stage will result in a fine. In our current world, where we are trying to be as inclusive, supportive, and understanding, we instead place limitations, barriers, and other obstacles in order to keep things the exact same year after year.

Unfortunately, unless there is change in a managerial position, places like the NHL, or the IOC (International Olympic Committee), will continue their simplistic ways to keep women engaging in a sport in a strictly feminine way. Women should be able to play in the same league as men and get paid the exact same amount as their male counterparts. In an instance where both men and women compete in the same stage, women should be allowed to compete in the same events as men. For example, women are not allowed to compete in Nordic Combined, which is Ski jumping and Cross-country skiing together in the same event. Yet, women are allowed to compete in the individual events. For some reason women have not been permitted to compete in one event that has two separate programs.

Women in today’s world face enough scrutiny from not getting career opportunities, not being paid equally, or under-utilized and that does not make it fair, it would not be fair if the genders were swapped and males were in that position. Women need to be given opportunities to grow, be able to support their family to their extent, and not have to be singled out as inferior in a social setting. Once women are included as much as men are, real progress will be made, and issues will become a thing of the past. Women’s input is just as important if not more important than men’s.

References

Dewar, A. (1991). Incorporation of Resistance? Towards an Analysis of Women’s Responses to Sexual Oppression in Sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 26(1), 15–23.

Mertz, E. (2014, March 5). Olympian Shannon Szabados practices with Oilers. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/1189619/olympian-shannon-szabados-practices-with-oilers/

Rutherford, K. (2017, September 23). Manon Rheaume realizes her NHL debut was ‘not just another game.’ Retrieved from http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/manon-rheaume-realizes-nhl-debut-not-just-another-game/

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US Women’s Hockey – Aiming for Gold

By Cole M.

Almost a year after the United States Women’s Ice Hockey team won their case for annual salaries against Hockey USA with the threat of a boycott at the World Championships, they are search for a gold medal in PyeongChang. The Women’s national team also received parity with the men’s team on travel stipends, accommodations, per diems and disability insurance. Prior to the new settlement with USA Hockey, the women were awarded $6000 annually every Olympiad (4 years) along with travel expenses. USA Women’s National Team members will now receive close to 70,000$ annually along with all the same benefits and insurance as the men’s team (Angell & Raphael, 2017).

The next generation of Women’s Team USA can thank the current members of the team for the headway they made and road they paved. Not only will they benefit from annual salaries, allowing them to train full time without the distraction of employment or financial burden, they have also created an optimal training and developmental pathway. The new gender equity deal also aims at more publicity and marketing for the women’s program along with developmental camps and teams for women starting at younger ages, similar to men’s programs (Larkin, 2015).

With annual salaries, a bigger travel budget, better marketing and publicity what barriers are there to stop this juggernaut from capturing gold at PyeongChang? With three straight gold medals at the ¾ Nations Cup and four straight gold’s World Championships, the only gold drought the American’s are in, is at the Olympics.

Since their inception in 2008 the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) have been the home for most Canadian and American Olympians with the exception of some of the younger players still playing NCAA Division 1 in he United States. As a relatively new league, the NWHL it has had its ups and downs and in 2015 raised the league salary cap to $270,000 per team. This equals out to an average of $15 000 per player on an 18-player roster (Larkin, 2015). Facing financial difficulties in 2017, the NWHL was forced to reduce salaries, while the CWHL finally implemented pay to their players with a salary cap of $100,000 per team which equals out to $2000-10,000 per player (Sportsnet,2017).

While the top players (NWHL), which tend to be Olympians, have salaries up to $25 000 this is still not a sustainable living salary, especially to those training for the Olympics. But in perspective, the women who play on the American National Olympic Team will earn $70,000 from Hockey USA along with their salaries from their NWHL which would leave most players earning in the range of $80,000 to $100,000 before endorsements and royalties from jersey sales (Larkin, 2015).

While an Olympic Gold is about the only International medal these American women don’t have in their trophy case at this moment, the wait shouldn’t be long. With their only real competition coming from the Canadians north of the boarder that have fended off four straight Olympic Gold medals, the new annual salaries may be the key to defeating the Canadians. What these annual salaries have done for the American women is allowed them to focus all their time needed to train and practice for competition while eliminating the previous barriers of cost and employment.

Their status of being on the National team is considered their employment and allowed them to focus all their time needed on hockey or training for national events including the Olympics. While the Canadian women still hold on to their four consecutive Olympic Gold medals, those who play in the CWHL are not given respectable annual salaries and have to find employment elsewhere in order to put a roof over their heads, feed their families and all the while still trying to find the time needed to train and keep their status as an Olympic athlete.

This pay gap between the American and Canadian women has pushed the American’s into a professional athlete culture similar to the National Hockey League (NHL) and it’s players. While there is still a large monetary gap between NHL and the American women, their training routines, specialized programs, training facilities have allowed them to commit or dedicate all the necessary time needed to prepare for international competition while removing the previous barriers.

Almost a year after the American women have received annual salaries, many Americans are looking for and expecting a gold medal from their nation’s women. With the gold medal game set for February 22nd, the US Women’s team has set their goal of hearing their National anthem sung that day with a gold medal around their necks.

References

Larkin, Matt, (September, 2015). And The Highest Payed Player In Women’s Hockey Is. The Hockey News. Retrieved from http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/and-the-highest-paid-player-in-womens-hockey-is.

Sportsnet Staff, (September, 2017). CWHL Announces It Will Pay It’s Players In 2017-18. Sportsnet. Retrieved From http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/cwhl-announces-will-pay-players-2017-18.

Angell, I, & Raphael, T.J. (March, 2017). The US National Women’s Team Went After Equal Pay And Fair Treatment – And Won. PRI Sports. Retrieved from https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-03-30/us-womens-national-hockey-team-went-after-equal-pay-and-fair-treatment-and-won.

Training Behind Enemy Lines: Canada’s Elite Female Hockey Players Choosing NCAA Over U-Sport

By Alex E.

Historically, women’s professional hockey has been a clash of the Titans between the United States and Canada, the two powerhouse countries in the sport. Virtually every Olympic and World Championship final since the commencement of international play has featured these two teams with each besting the other on multiple occasions. Furthermore, it is a rarity for these programs to experience defeat by any other country.  With this type of rivalry, one would assume that members of these organizations would want nothing to do with the opposing country’s program. Surprisingly, this is false, as we are experiencing an ongoing epidemic of players crossing the border according to a study by Locke and Karlis (2014). Since 2014, there has been an exodus of Canada’s best and brightest up and coming hockey players to College and University programs south of the border. The decision to enter the United States is influenced by the funding of the programs themselves, the financial aid these schools provide, and the elitism of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA; The Globe and Mail, 2017). An exodus, defined as a departure or immigration of a large number of people by Merriam-Webster, is not an exaggeration as the number of Canadian female players who left the country was approximately 400 in 2014, and that number has been growing every year since. With several arguments placing the birth of ice hockey in this great nation, and with Canada known internationally as THE hockey nation, it seems very strange that our players are required to leave the country to further their hockey careers (Locke & Karlis, 2015).

It should be noted that as of 2016, around 30% of the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey players were Canadian, but this is due to personal choice and not lack of opportunity (CBC Sports, 2018). There are a plethora of opportunities for male hockey players to take them on the path to professional hockey. Elite leagues start at a young age and are available to the players until they are of the age to join professional associations if they are skilled enough to do so. In most cases, male university hockey players have come up through these leagues and have made the conscious decision to delay an education for a couple of years with the possibility of becoming a professional. When this does not occur, they enrol in an institution that allows them to continue playing while they earn a degree.  The female experience is very different from the male experience. Although the elite leagues at younger ages are open to both males and females, there comes the point in time, usually near the end of high school, where these leagues are no longer a viable option, and the female players are left without an elite league to play in. Consequently, female hockey players join university hockey programs straight out of high school, being comparable to men’s Major Junior or even a semi-professional league. This can also be said of several other Collegiate sports, as National programs hand pick athletes directly from NCAA and U-Sport teams. If university hockey serves as their ticket to the Canadian National Program, it would be expected that these athletes would choose the program or school that would give them the best chance of success. Unfortunately, the NCAA appears to be the avenue for success for these women. To demonstrate the difference between men’s and women’s avenues, the rosters for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics for both men’s and women’s hockey were analyzed to see where players resided before becoming professionals. Of the 23-player roster for the men’s team, only four players were from NCAA programs; the rest were spread out across Canada in the QMJHL, OHL and WHL before being drafted to the NHL (IOC, 2010). The women’s team however only had 3 of 19 players who were not playing in the NCAA. Furthermore, 6 of the top 10 scorers in the tournament were Canadians playing in the NCAA (Locke and Karlis, 2015). This is just another example of how little women have compared to men in the Canadian sporting context at not only the elite level but at every level.

The relevance of all of this has increased in the past year, especially here at the University of New Brunswick for a couple of reasons. First, it is an Olympic year, meaning that all the issues that come with women’s hockey, not only in Canada, are put in the spotlight more so than in non-Olympic years. Second, our university is in preparation for the return of our women’s varsity hockey program, raising the question of if we will be able to be competitive and even increase the level of competition in Canada. Increasing competition is a critical concept as raising the level of play in the country is essential for keeping our best players north of the order which creates massive benefits for the nation, as outlined by Locke and Karlis (2005). First and foremost, operation budgets for university programs are comprised of both funds from the university, but also from alumni donations. If our best players are alumni of American schools, their contributions will be to another country and not our own. An exodus of players also eliminates role models for the younger players as instead of being able to watch them play every weekend like what occurs with Canada’s best male players; there is no opportunity to view the best female players. Finally, there is nationalism and enhancement of the sport lost. Now it is clear that the problem is systematic, and there is no easy fix, but something must be done. It does not seem just that our male players can thrive in the country that they grew up in and represent on the international and Olympic stage, but our female players are not given the same resources and opportunity. Even with this vast difference in development within the country, excellence and gold medals are expected of both the men’s and women’s programs. It will be interesting to see how the UNB women’s hockey team does in upcoming years as well as U-Sport women’s hockey as a collective.

 

References:

Canadians in Frozen Four happy to have chosen U.S. for hockey | CBC Sports. (2018). CBC. Retrieved from
http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/ncaa-frozen-four-canadians-1.3524061

Canadian universities have a game plan for wooing top athletes. (2017). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved
from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/canadian-university-report/canadian-universities-have-a-game-plan-for-wooing-top-athletes/article36634827/

Exodus. (2018). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exodus

IOC (2010) Men’s Ice Hockey: Team Canada Tournament Standings and Statistics.

Locke, M., & Karlis, G. (2015). Canadian Women’s Hockey: Concerns and Concerns. The Sport Journal.
http://dx.doi.org/10.17682/sportjournal/2015.020

Gender Fan Support and Media in Sport

by Nicola S.

Female University student-athletes put in the same amount of dedication, commitment, time, and determination as male athletes, so why is it that we are still seeing a difference in the amount of fans at both games. I witness this divide every year as I play on the UNB Women’s Soccer team. Our games are right before the men’s game, and it is clear to see the trend of fans filling the bleachers near the end of our game in order to see the men’s game kickoff. Of course, being a female athlete, I can say I am very used to not having a huge fan base compared to the men’s team, but that does not mean I am not affected by it. Balish, Deaner, and Lombardo (2016) record that from 1995 to 2011, the German men’s national soccer team attracted six times as many TV viewers as the women’s national team did. Several studies have been done providing reasons why fans may prefer to watch men play sports rather than women, and in my opinion, media coverage plays a huge role in this trend.

Historical View of Gender Roles

The traditional view of gender roles from decades ago has produced the portrayal of sport as being ‘masculine’ in today’s society. Discussed in lecture and seen throughout research, are two key words: sex and gender. Sex refers to the biological differences of males and females. However, it is the word gender that causes a greater debate. It refers to society’s expectations of what it means to be considered a female or a male, and due to historical phenomenon, what is means to be therefore feminine or masculine. In a sporting context, gender differences are made even clearer as females are portrayed in a way of beauty rather than athleticism. Articles have consistently broadcast that men in sports, living up to expectations, are accustomed to showing fans their “strength, athleticism, competitiveness, risk, and excitement, ” and females just aren’t biologically built for it. Of course, there are statistics proving that men do become physically stronger than women. At age thirteen there is a shift such that by age 15, boys are around 12 percent stronger than girls in their lower body and 23 percent stronger in their upper body. Research indicates that by age 17, boys are 50 percent stronger than girls in lower body strength (Kelley, 2017). It is these statistics that have shaped why our society defines sport as ‘masculine’ and is why people are more attracted to watching men play a ‘man’s game’. This stereotype between masculinity and sports is, and will be, tough to crack as people are so indulged in such statistics.

Media Coverage Among Female and Male Sport

Although the evolution over the last four decades of women’s sport has been exceptional, the media coverage has not. Media is a system that is so powerful to everyone who is a part of it and can create a ripple effect of feelings towards whatever it is portraying. Media does not necessarily reflect reality; it constructs it and strongly influences our beliefs, values and attitudes concerning ourselves, others, and the world around us. That being said, Ottaway (2016) declares that about 90% of sports editors are men. If the majority of people broadcasting these sport stories, pictures, news’ articles are men, then the majority of media will have men as the focus of display. As previously mentioned, the historical view of males and females has dominated into the 20th century and media is only making it worse. It is an unfortunate trend because the money goes where the audience is, which only continues this downward cycle. Ottaway (2016) reviews some quotes broadcasted in the media for the world to see:

“It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it.” Sportswriter Paul Gallico, 1936

“Well, the vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…. The baggy uniforms don’t help.” –Bill Simmons, HBO sports personality, circa 2006

“Women’s sports in general are not worth watching.” –Sports Illustrated contributor Andy Benoit on Twitter, 2015

From 1936 to 2015, the media has proven to continue to display the division between males and females and further discourage women from engaging in competitive sports. The lack of media coverage for women’s sport has lowered the desire for people to watch women play, which happens at all levels of sport.

Lack of Fans

In my personal experience, as I previously mentioned, there is a clear difference in fans at our soccer games compared to the men’s games. I have heard several people say, “The men’s game is just more fun to watch.” This is a common theme among University sports. Their game is perceived as being faster, more aggressive, and more exciting and therefore more ‘worth the watch.’ However, I believe it is this notion of sport as a ‘man’s game’ constructed decades ago that is still affecting even University female sporting events today. This stereotype will not change overnight, however with a shift in media coverage towards publishing an equal number of men and women in sport, change will begin to occur. Again, media is the core of changing perspectives and can easily do so with its power. As soon as the connection between sport and masculinity disappears, it will be a level playing field. This will without a doubt increase the number of fans and therefore switch the direction of this trend towards gender equality in sport.

References

Balish, S. A., Deaner, R. O., & Lombardo, M. P. (2016) Sex Differences in Sports Interest and Motivation: An Evolutionary Perspective. Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences. Vol. 10, No. 2, 73–97

Kelley, C. (2017, Sept 11th). How Gender Stereotypes Affect Athlete Development. US Lacrosse Magazine.

Ottaway, A. (2016). Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports? The Nation.