Barriers Girls Face in Sport Participation

By Andrea D.

Participating in physical activity is an important part of being healthy – it helps with physical, mental, social, and emotional health. So, encouraging physical activity and reducing barriers is something that we as a society should be trying to do. I would like to discuss some of the barriers that girls face in regards to physical activity and then some of the things that we as a society can do to help. I chose to specifically discuss girls because they generally have a lower participation rate in sports and it is when we are young that we learn the basic skills that are used throughout a variety of sports which sets us up for being physically active for our entire lives.

Some barriers come from lack of opportunities – this can come from less girls teams in certain sports to less opportunities for sports in rural areas. There are economic barriers – boys teams often get more sponsors and funds meaning that for more expensive sports, there are more barriers that girls teams face. Also as youth get older, there are less recreational-level sports, and some girls identify this as a barrier as they don’t want to play or don’t make the team for a more competitive level.

One article cited three main self perceived barriers to physical activity, but the one I would like to focus on was about gender roles and the social acceptability of participating¹ which is important because sports are very gendered. For example, it is more socially acceptable for girls to participate in sports like swimming, dance, cheer leading, and gymnastics than it is for boys. Just like it is more acceptable for boys to participate in sports like hockey, rugby, martial arts, baseball. An example of this is found here at UNB – we are only now creating a women’s hockey team despite an interest from the students; and this is Canada, a country that is known for its love of hockey. If we are not willing to give women their own hockey team, then who will.  This leads to girls facing bullying, a lack of support, and feeling left out when they do try to participate in certain sports. This negative environment is not one that is good for fostering a positive environment that encourages girls to do their best in sports.

So what can we as a society do to help? First of all, we need to make sure that there are enough opportunities to become active in sports including making sure there are girls teams and that they have the funding they need.  Advertising is also important – if girls don’t know about the opportunities they have, then they can’t participate. Keep recreational level sports for adolescents gives more chances for those who are taking up a new sport and those who don’t feel comfortable with a highly competitive environment.  Lastly, we need to support all the youth who want to join sports and encourage any interest in sports and physical activity, so following anti-bullying and discrimination policies is important. So let’s work together to create a sport environment that everyone is welcome at and help improve their health.

 

¹Fisette, J. L. (2013). ‘Are you listening?’: adolescent girls voice how they negotiate self-identified barriers to their success and survival in physical education. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 18, 2, 184-203.

 

 

The Supermom Era

By Amanda Blackmore

There is a new superhero in town and she does not wear a cape, have invisibility powers, or produce webbing out of her wrists. She does, however, perform seemingly impossible tasks without asking for any recognition. She is your mother. Women with children have reached a new level of busy and there is no end in sight. What does this mean for future generations? Will our generation’s daughters be as run-off-their-feet as our mothers are?

Generally, the percentage of women participating in the work force has increased for the past thirty years reaching 59.3% in 2008 (StatCan, 2014). In other words, our mothers are more likely to be a part of the work force now than our grandmothers were in their day. Furthermore, the employment rate of women with children under 16 who are living at home has increased from 39.1% in 1976 to 72.9% in 2009 (StatCan, 2014). It is also known that, generally, women are the primary caregivers in the family when the family includes a heterosexual couple. A generation of supermoms has appeared because women are now expected to work outside the home and continue to be the primary caregiver at home.

This seems like an unreasonable expectation. When I was growing up, my mother stayed home with me and my three siblings and she was busy enough simply taking care of all the unpaid work associated with running a household like caregiving, making meals, and cleaning. I cannot imagine how our household would have survived without her around every day if she were to have had a full time job outside the home. However, we see that employment rates for women with children are increasing. Women are now taking on the role of both caregiver and wage-earner, and thus we have the supermom.

The supermom is portrayed in commercials and television shows as the norm and the ideal parent. The media tells young women that being a good mother means being a supermom. She must be able to handle all household tasks perfectly, and she must also be able to hold down a full time job. To further express this ideal, men in commercials and some television sitcoms are portrayed as idiots who cannot adequately handle house work or caring for children, especially after coming home after a long day of work. These male characters encourage women to believe that they must do it all.

With this new supermom construct, women’s leisure time is taking a major hit. When a mother is expected to make supper, do all the housework, and put the kids to bed all after she has returned from work, how does she find any leisure time for herself? Leisure time has so many psychological and physical health benefits. It is difficult to deny that most people living in the Western culture could benefit from more leisure time. So why do we pressure women to be supermoms?

It is crucial for the wellbeing of future generations of women that we give them back their leisure time and abolish the construct of the supermom. The media is full of unrealistic expectations for women, and young women are learning that they must be completely exhausted all the time to be considered a good mother. Although we cannot always control what is displayed by the media, we can think more critically about how we expect our mothers and our female peers to behave.

Consider these YouTube videos. One has a humorous take on the demands of motherhood while the other warns of actual danger associated with being a supermom.

1. Let It Go – Mom Parody
2. Go Red for Women presents: ‘Just a Little Heart Attack’

 

 

 

Rape Culture: Fear as a Barrier to Leisure Participation

Given where the discussion went on Tuesday re: social control and fear, I thought I would reblog a post that I did for my own blog back in September.

All Things Leisure

fear

For the last 24 hours, I’ve been bothered by a story I saw on the news last night. At Saint Mary’s University this week (in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), Frosh Leaders led students in a chant that glorified rape (read more here). A video was released of students reciting the chant. It was shocking to watch. Apparently, similar chants have been created in the past and there is some discussion in the news that similar messages are communicated on other campuses. Disturbing.

Since hearing the story, I have been thinking about the norms, values, and attitudes that were being communicated to new students and reinforced for returning students with that chant. I’ve been thinking about female students on that campus who may have been sexually assaulted at some point in their life or who already had anxiety or fear about being assaulted prior to arriving on campus (women are…

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