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.
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/