Female Athletes’ Dilemma: Make it Safer to Say No

by Karlie S.

Sometimes, the latest sports news can be mixed up with “family stories”, when female athletes have been successful in making headlines. Marginalization and trivialization of women athletes is not something new. It has become all but a cliché to point out that their achievements are being undervalued whereas their contributions in boosting female esteem and stimulating gender equality are being ignored. But that’s the reality, for now, and possibly for the nearest future as well, unless resorting to certain compulsory means. Take the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where U.S. women athletes made themselves the biggest winner out of the 206 nations competing at the Games, headlines turned out to be like this: “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio”. The media later apologized for using the world “wife”, after remarks sparked outrage on social media platforms. But we all know that this can hardly be the end. Media will still follow the “norms” of news reporting, in particular within the sport context, by equating male as “athlete” itself, labeling them with words like “strong”, “powerful”, “fast”, “big”, and “greatest”, while portraying female as women doing sport, referring them to “unmarried”, “eye-candy”, “pregnant”, and sometimes “like a man”. Is it too difficult to make a change, or there too much reluctance to do so? Given the complexity of interests interwove in today’s economy, things can get a little bit tricky, especially for those insiders.

In fact, if we look at reports involving female athletes, which takes up only tiny amount of overall news reporting, it is easy to notice that trivialized stories are everywhere. Just think about it. How often do we see female athletes hit the “front page”?

Cooky et al. (2015) found through their 25 year longitudinal study that coverage of women’s sports hasn’t expanded–Los Angeles broadcast affiliates devote only 3.2% coverage to women’s sports whereas SportsCenter (a program run by ESPN) devote only 2%, a number has remained “remarkably(p7)” flat; 32 segments out of 934 news stories from 2014 were on women’s sports; only one out of the 145 teasers alerted the audience to an upcoming women’s sports story while only three out of 199 SportsCenter’s teasers were focused on women’s sports. What’s more, according to a 2014 Upper Midwest Emmy Award-winning documentary: Media Coverage and Female Athletes, out of all athletes, 40% are female, but they receive only 4% of all sport media coverage. Likewise, Billings and Young (2015) found that during 2013 and 2014, women’s sports were aired less than 1% in Sports Center and Fox Sports Live.

Despite all the efforts of encouraging females’ participation in sport, women’s sports coverage hasn’t kept up. Even though in some cases, they make it onto the front page, what the audience saw was often a beautiful woman, with a big smile and a suggestive posture, hardly reminding you of her athleticism. While magazine coverage is no exception, large institutions are “selling” female athletes not only in a more provocative manner, but also adding “family stories”. And seemingly, media agencies tend to shift gears from describing female athletes as sexual objects to portraying them as mothers, wives, girlfriends, and caregivers (Cooky et al., 2015; Messner, 2010)

But that’s not the whole story. When it comes to female athletes’ cover page shooting, there is a larger possibility of sharing that cover shot with a male athlete, depicting female athletes in a sexually objectifying pose. One study noted that out of the 35 female included covers, only 18 featured the female as the primary or sole image (Weber & Carini, 2013).

Media never failed us in using this stunt. As “weaker” and “less important” constitute female athletes’ role, the media makes no small effort in cementing it as a social norm.

However, should they be the only one to blame? When economic interests make the call, what we’ve seen cannot be judged with simply “right” or “wrong”, especially in an era when new media stimulates the evolution of communication, fostering an insatiable desire for entertainment and news consumption. Everyone is an insider——For either sports TV or magazines, the tail wags the dog. While viewers’ appetite leads the coverage, media improve revenues by give whatever images viewers want. The more coverage or airtime given to men’s sports, the more male followers will subscribe, and they will be more willing to buy magazines if the cover girl looks pretty, sexy, and attractive. And if that cover girls happens to be a female athlete, even better. At least, this is how the most media is sorted out. While for those who made it to a cover page, be it sole image or partnered with a male athlete, they get the money, which might play a significant part in keeping her athletic career funded, especially considering that female athletes’ wages are remarkably low compared to their male counterpart. A reporter from CNN noted that “The average salary for a WNBA player is $72,000, which doesn’t include bonuses and benefits, while the average salary for an NBA player is around $5 million, or about 70 times what the average female basketball player makes.” With that being said, it’s even impossible for female athletes to get high quality training, not to mention to blow audience’s mind with a fabulous performance.

If they can get funding by just simply shooting a picture, why not? Regardless of the reasons, female athletes need money to support themselves and their family. They also need media exposure to build fan base. Audiences will purchase whatever “sports kit” is provided by the media, creating false impressions of how media portrays female athletes. And the circle goes on.

When everyone is the stakeholder, it’s hard to make change. As for media, they could just simply apology when things went wrong and at the same time enjoy higher pageviews. Even though female athletes might feel uncomfortable sometimes in the face of sexualized shooting, still, they are more likely to accept it instead of taking risks of ending their career because of lack of funding. There’s less space in the society accessible for women to fall and rebound.

You fall, you fail.

However, one thing we need to acknowledge is that we are living in a more open and quickly developing world, where people are inclined and able to create new norms, in particular through networked devices. Changes are on the way. And, if attitudes about women sports, or the way female athletes are presented in the media, still have a long way to go before we reach out to true gender equality, some strategies should be adopted in the meantime. With a certain amount of airtime devoted to women’s sports, female athletes would have opportunities to build up their own followers, fostering the development of an audience base for women’s sports, and presenting their commercial values in an athletic way. Since the money goes where audience is, the more supporters female athletes get, the more money they would possibly make, and the leadership is more likely to make change “voluntarily”. As rules of the game changed, we will make a big step further towards gender equality. At that time, it will be easier, and in many ways safer, for female athletes to say no in the face of sexualized media portrayals.


Billings, A. C., & Young, B. D. (2015). Comparing Flagship News Programs: Women’s Sport Coverage in ESPN’s SportsCenter and FOX Sports 1’s FOX Sports Live. Electronic News, 9(1), 3–16. https://doi.org/10.1177/1931243115572824

Cooky, C., Messner, M. A., & Musto, M. (2015). “It’s Dude Time!”: A Quarter Century of Excluding Women’s Sports in Televised News and Highlight Shows. Communication & Sport, 3(3), 261–287. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167479515588761

Messner, M. A. (2010). Gender in televised sports : news and highlights shows, 1989-2009. [California]: Center for Feminist Research, University of Southern California, [2010]. Retrieved from https://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/9910104196502121

Weber, J. D., & Carini, R. M. (2013). Where are the female athletes in Sports Illustrated? A content analysis of covers (2000–2011). International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48(2), 196–203. https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690211434230



“Sorry, Not Sorry”: Analyzing Female Apologetic Behaviour in Women’s Sport

by Megan C.

Femininity can be defined as a socially constructed concept that states how women should look, act, and what they should value (Hardy, 2015). Hegemonic femininity is the sociologically “correct” version of women, which includes white, heterosexual, and middle-to-high class women. Additionally, hegemonic femininity is defined by traits such as “submissiveness, dependency, concern over physical appearance and emotional ability” (Hardy, 2015, p. 155).

“The social construction of sport [is] a space where hegemonic masculinity is defined, … and sport participation [is] associated with masculine traits, such as aggression, strength, power, dominance, and violence” (Hardy, 2015, p. 155). Therefore, women who participate in sport, specifically male-dominated sport, are often labelled with masculine traits and their sexuality is questioned. Female apologetic behaviour, in sport, exists to combat the masculine and lesbian stereotypes associated with female sport participation. Female apologetic behaviour is when female athletes ‘apologize’ for participating in sport by overemphasizing their femininity through clothing choice, physical appearance, self-expression, and style of athletic play.

The media plays an important role in continuing the trend of female apologetic behaviour in sport, specifically elite level sport, because increased media exposure and sponsorships are given to female athletes who conform to society’s idealized version of hegemonic femininity. “Emphasizing femininity reinforces females’ inferior status to males’ … and ensures that they remain desirable to men” (Hardy, 2015, p. 156). This is demonstrated through the media’s portrayal and sexualisation of female Olympic beach volleyball athletes. The women’s Olympic beach volleyball uniform and television coverage of the sport places a priority on the sexualisation and physical appeal of the athletes and the sport, over the comfort and skill level of the athletes, by focusing on the athletes’ body and not the sport. This demonstrates that being stereotypically ‘attractive’ should be more important to athletes than excelling in their sport, because that is the focal point of the broadcasting.

Female athletes “are always framed by their status as both athletes and women” (Hardy, 2015, p. 156). Furthermore, men can succeed and be publicly recognized as ‘just an athlete’, while women cannot solely have an athletic identity, it must be overshadowed by either their physical appearance or caregiving abilities. For example, the Olympic gold medalist curler, Jennifer Jones’, is the skip, a dominant and authoritative position within the sport of curling. However, when portrayed by the media and in commercials the focus is directed towards her nurturing and providing roles as a wife and a mother, not her success as an athlete, which gives the illusion her athletic accomplishments are not valid and not good enough. This may be harmful, particularly to young females, as it demonstrates that girl’s/women’s athletic dreams and ambitions do not matter, because being a wife and a mom should be the primary focus in your life, your main role, and what you will be known for.

These examples demonstrate that “women are still confined to two acceptable roles, sex object or mother, both of which trivialize their athletic abilities and inherent value” (Hardy, 2015, p. 157). Advancing women’s sport today proves to be a vicious cycle; increasing media exposure, sponsorships, and viewers seems to only be possible when female athletes degrade themselves and their sport, and focus on their sexuality and the physical appeal of their sport. Thus, the importance of female athletes such as Serena Williams who pushes boundaries and demonstrates that women do not need to limit themselves to be ‘approved’ by society; women can be strong, muscular, beautiful, and successful, all at once. And Lanni Marchant who is advocating for female body image in sport, by combatting the issue that female athletes’ appearance and uniforms attract more attention than their performances.

Female apologetic behaviour is more visible in elite level sport because of commercialization and media portrayal. However, this behaviour exists in all levels of sport. Therefore, it is important for coaches and parents to emphasize the importance of physical performance and not physical appearance in young athletes. This can be achieved by selecting athletes based on their talent and not physical appearance, which is particularly important in aesthetic sports. Furthermore, coaches should allow athletes complete control over their body’s and their choice of uniform (when possible), providing it fits within the guidelines and regulations of the sport.

We cannot alter the focal point ‘sex sells’ portrayed by the media industry, however, we can choose where our money goes. We select what products we buy and what we watch both live and on television. It is important to think critically and use your voice as a consumer, to give hope for upcoming generations of female athletes that their dreams are valid, and that talent and hard work is enough to be successful.


Hardy, E. (2015). The female ‘apologetic’ behavior within Canadian women’s rugby: athlete perceptions and media influences. Sport in Society, 18(2), 155-167. doi: 10.1080/17430437.2013.854515

Female Athleticism: A Cause for Celebration

by Amanda K.

The women’s rights movement dates back to 1884 when a group of women gathered together to fight for the equality of women. Since then, women have made great strides towards equal opportunities for females around the world. Girls growing up in today’s society are experiencing a very different world compared to women who were born in the 1800’s. While the movement has brought great change to the world, women are still fighting against injustices they face on a daily basis. Although women are able to vote and be seen outside the home, they are still viewed as the inferior sex, especially in the sporting arena. Although women are able to participate in sport which wasn’t always the case, they are paid less and as a result are given less opportunities to pursue professional careers in sport. Because of the inequalities between male and female sports, females in sports are not taken as serious as competitive male athletes; basically, they viewed as less feminine women.

On average, in professional sports, women are paid only 77% of professional male athlete’s salaries. Although this percentage varies among sports, it is consistent that males are paid higher salaries. Due to lower salaries, in order to support a comfortable lifestyle female athletes must find other sources of income to make ends meet. For some female athletes this means sexualizing their bodies by posing naked in order to make extra money on the side. Although posing naked has received negative opinion of the general population, posing naked not only benefits the wallet of the athlete, but has created a movement to accept female athletes and their body image.  Amongst these females are Gabriele Reece; a professional volleyball player who posed for playboy in 2001, Hope Solo; a professional soccer player who posed for ESPN in 2013, and Lolo Jones; Olympic track and field athlete who posed semi-nude for ESPN in 2009.

Women participating in sport challenge the image of femininity. According to the definition of femininity, females are supposed to seemingly have feminine qualities at first glance. This means having petite bodies, smelling nice, and ultimately being weak. Females who participate at the highest level of sport spend hours in the gym to build muscle in order to compete against the best athletes in the world. As a result, female athletes are considered less feminine due to their large muscles and aggressive behaviour while playing sports. Since female athletes don’t traditionally fit the feminine role they are stereotyped as “butch” or “lesbian”. Female athletes posing naked sends a message to the public demonstrating that the female athletic body type is nothing to be ashamed of but instead something to celebrate. I think this message is very important to portray to young female athlete growing up with body image issues.

Personally, growing up an elite athlete I always struggled with body image. While all my friends were very petite, I had large thighs as a result of playing soccer and figure skating. I was always self-conscious wearing shorts or finding the right pair of jeans that fit my thighs properly as well as my waist. Over the years’ companies such as Nike have brought attention to this issue with their “real women” campaign that highlights the acceptance of having big thighs, shoulders, etc. This campaign was a pivotal for me and allowed me to finally begin to accept my athletic body type instead of being ashamed of it.  Instead of trying to hide my muscles it became a cause for celebration. I think it so important for female athletes to continue to empower young female athletes in this sense to increase the acceptance of females in sport. Growing up, I wish there were more female athletes who stood for what these campaigns are standing for. As a result, females will be able to further themselves in sport and bring more positive attention to female sports.




Phys Ed Class Segregation: Positive or Negative?

By Rachel B.

We grow up spending eight years in elementary school participating in mixed gendered Phys Ed classes with our peers and being introduced to a variety of sports and activities. Why is it that as soon as we enter the next chapter into high school as more mature youth, we suddenly need to be in a segregated Phys Ed class? I remember entering grade 9 and being disappointed that my Phys Ed class was all female and that I wouldn’t be able to participate with the boys. I did not understand why our classes were segregated when they had been mixed from kindergarten until grade 8. I found the all-female class less competitive and not as enjoyable. I was used to playing sports with boys and competing against my brothers after school. The types of activities that we participated in during gym class were predominantly female influenced and typically less aggressive and not as engaging. Some of the male dominated sports that I enjoyed, such as floor hockey and dodgeball, were not a popular option amongst the girls. Girls were often conscious of their appearance and wanted to participate in something that was less vigorous so they would not be sweaty for the remainder of the day.

The high school that I attended had segregated classes for grade 9 and 10 only and then became mixed gender in grade 11 and 12. Gym class was mandatory in grade 9 and 10 and then became optional in grade 11 and 12. I do not understand the rationale behind this program decision. This approach did not encourage continued participation by many females when they reached grade 11 due to entering a mixed gender class. I remember being a minority with only a few other girls in the class in grade 11 and 12. I understand the reasoning behind segregating Phys Ed classes to help some students feel more comfortable and confident to participate in sporting activities. In class, we discussed the popular constraints faced by adolescent girls. These constraints include being too competitive, lacking confidence, issues with body image and shyness. However, none of the other classes offered in high school are segregated by gender. I think that being able to work within a gender-neutral atmosphere and participate in an active environment is critical for enhancing successful students. Having mandatory gender neutral classes starting in grade 9 may lead to an increase in continued participation during the upper grades. Although the gender segregation approach may be benefiting some, it may also be hindering others who have a competitive edge and prefer to be challenged by the opposite sex. As well, research has shown that male only team sports reinforce gender stereotypes that devalue femininity and promote sexism and misogyny (Anderson, 2008). An integrated approach allows males to become more familiar with the experiences of females, thereby influencing their view of females as worthy and competent athletes (Anderson, 2008).

Segregated gym class also becomes a problem for those adolescents who do not identify with a specific gender. A binary model may not meet the leisure needs for members of the LGBTQ community. As Phys Ed is a compulsory course, having to choose one specific gender may discourage members of the LGBTQ community from participating. The outcome will result in these students making a choice as to whether they will show up for class or enrol in the future. Therefore, they potentially miss opportunities to engage in physical activity and learn team building and sport and recreation related skills. Gender identity is shifting to a fluid approach and gender segregated classes will become a much bigger and challenging issue as we redefine gender. Not all adolescents are gender conforming. Their gender expression is not consistent with the cultural norms expected for that gender; boys should be masculine and girls should be feminine. They view gender as a spectrum and consider themselves to be non-binary. An integrated gender neutral Phys Ed program would be much more inclusive and less discriminatory for this population.


Anderson, E. (2008). “I Used to Think Women Were Weak”: Orthodox Masculinity, Gender   Segregation, and Sport. Sociological Forum, 23(2), 257-280.

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

Aggression in sports: Females vs. Males

By Sarah H.

In sports, aggression is viewed as the ideal perfect component to a great play (Thing, 2001). When thinking about aggression, people will usually link this with men’s sports more so than women’s. Some people think that to “see a woman as aggressive is neither appropriate, nor expected. That there are carved memories that women ought to be in control of their emotions and be caring and gentle, all day long” (Thing, 2001). From being a female playing multiple sports throughout high school, I was a very aggressive player. In the sports that I played, being aggressive benefited the team and myself in the game. My coaches would always make a joke telling me to get mad at something so that I would play harder.

Although there is this ideal image of how females should play sports, most players said that in the play of sport, they are given an opportunity to go against the expectations of the surroundings of what it is to be female (Thing, 2001). The negative aspect of females being aggressive in sport is that their peers may refer to them as being “masculine”.

On the other hand, men tend to be more aggressive than women (Warden, Grasso, Luyben, 2009). Speaking from observations of men’s sports through school, if a guy wasn’t aggressive in a sport he would be made fun of and be referred to as a “sissy”. It is more acceptable for men to be aggressive in sports than it is for females (which I don’t think will ever change).

In one article, researchers talked about how there are many forms of aggression, one being “instrumental aggression”. It involves hurting another person, but is directly related to the play itself. Then you have “hostile aggression”, where the player has intended to injure the opponent and it is not directly related to the play itself” (Warden et al., 2009). Men have the higher rates of aggression in these categories. They are more likely to try and be violent to be viewed as “tough”. I’m not saying that females don’t have their moments when they are violent in sports, but females usually tend to use aggression as a playful phenomenon, a way of moving forward in offense (Thing, 2001).

In most sports, it doesn’t matter if it is male or female, aggression can be good. But, if players are going to be aggressive, they have to be able to control it. If they are just running around wild and end up getting a lot of fouls in a short period of time, then it is not such a good thing (Thing, 2001). Personally, I think sports are a good place to release stress and anger that is built up, as long as it doesn’t result in injury to other players. When I played, it was better for me to run harder or give a little bump to someone in the game or practice to let my anger pass, rather than going around hitting people or other things out of the sport context.

I think that people are getting better at realizing that just because a female is going to be aggressive in a sport, doesn’t mean she is masculine. Not every female is going to go with the general belief that they have to be in control of their emotions and be caring and gentle, all day long.


Thing, L. F. (2001). The Female Warrior: Meanings of Play-Aggressive Emotions in Sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 36, 3, 275-288.

Warden, K. B., Grasso, S. C., & Luyben, P. D. (2009). Comparisons of rates and forms of aggression among members of men’s and women’s collegiate recreational flag football teams. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 37, 3, 209-215.

Dinner with a side of sex appeal

By Ashley O.

Is it coincidence that many trendy restaurants hire only attractive waitresses? You walk into a restaurant and are seated by the hostess and told that “Lisa” will be your waitress. Are you impressed that she is slim and attractive; has a great ass and is busty; and provides great service? Take a look around and you will realize that young ladies that have these qualifications staff the restaurant. Does the team screen applicants using a selective process? Is the dress code the waitress’ choice? Let’s look at some practices of hiring and attire. A former restaurant manager of Moxie’s Classic Grill in Toronto says the first question was about their appearance: Does she have a nice ass and a decent rack? To be sure no “uglies” got an interview, front of house staff were directed to screen applicants coming through the door and mark their resumes with a “110” if they were unattractive. This is code for “do not call.” Earls Kitchen and Bar in Edmonton, well-known for its beauties serving customers, say hiring by looks isn’t something they endorse. Canada’s Human Rights Law says employers cannot discriminate when hiring based on age, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or physical disability. However, it only has jurisdiction over federally regulated organizations (Times Colonist, 2007). A case could be made for job seekers who are refused employment for being ugly. Spokespeople for both Moxie’s and Earls deny hiring for looks (Brownlee, 2011).

How sexy should servers dress? At Earls the servers wear a black mini-skirt, white tank top and one inch heels. Again, a spokesperson denies having a dress code. The Shark Club endorses a uniform that includes a black skirt no less than six inches above the knee, a cross-back tank top and knee-high black leather boots. At Smith’s Pub the uniform is simply black attire. While some female servers believe that “some skin brings in more tips” one waitress believes that she makes more tips by “dressing classy and giving good service” (Times Colonist, 2007).

When I was at a restaurant in Halifax I realized that the all the servers were females and the attire they were wearing was tight black V-neck shirts and tight black pants. Noticing this, I realized a lot of restaurants hire pretty females as servers and hostesses. Friends, couples and families frequently use their leisure time to visit a restaurant where they can enjoy a meal without concern for meal preparation. Some restaurants even claim to be family restaurants and the image of the “ideal” waitress is presented to the families. Much like what we discussed in class about media and how females are portrayed, we see similar portrayal in restaurants. The restaurant industry is sexually objectifying women by presenting their servers dressed provocatively to obtain business and tips. I think the restaurant industry has gone too far in their hiring techniques and hiring should be done solely on the professional qualifications of the individual as opposed to appearance. What are restaurants really selling – sex appeal or your dinner? While I chose to explore the restaurant servers, I am well aware that other leisure service industries require their employees to dress in a manner designed to attract consumers.


Times Colonist – Victoria. (2007, August 7). Peterscu on Fashion: How sexy should servers dress? Retrieved from: http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=1bc4974a-515e-4326-8b40-2e02b19f8a84&sponsor

Brownlee, K. (2011, March 22). ‘Uglies need not apply. Retrieved from: http://www.torontosun.com/life/2011/03/17/17656191.html


By Victoria R.

Recent days have found many of our Facebook pages overwhelmed with “no-makeup” selfies (#nomakeupselfie). Before diving in to how I personally feel about the photo fad, let’s look into the background of this new social network trend.

The trend initially started when UK models started donating money to cancer-research for the support of their bare-faced photos. This campaign has raised over $3 million for cancer research in just two days, states CTV news. Initially the trend had nothing to do with any cancer research association, but due to all the support – the campaign was sort of adopted. From there the trend caught fire. Eventually some people weren’t even posting the photos as a breast cancer awareness activity, but just as a nomination game with friends.

(Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/no-makeup-selfie-campaign-raises-3m-for-cancer-research-in-2-days-1.1741230#ixzz2wtM2flRg)

Okay, so now you have the background. Let’s start with my list of issues with this campaign that are rooted in gender.

First, many (including myself) have taken issue with the trend, and the parallels that have been drawn between breast cancer, and going make-up free. The money raised is a great thing – that is undeniable, as it can be used towards beneficial research; however, should a women going make-up free be deemed as brave, and then compared to cancer? Most people wouldn’t even put that much thought into the “no makeup” selfies, but if we are being critical consumers, isn’t that the message that this whirlwind fad is really delivering? I can understand that the parallel is trying to underline the struggle women with breast cancer face and compare it to the struggle women face from the stereotypical expectations of beauty… but it comes off slightly trivial and in bad taste.

Also, when considering breast cancer awareness programs we have already deemed the pink ribbon as its indicator, so adding make-up (or lack thereof) to the campaign scheme is just the next step. Many women feel that breast cancer threatens to take away what many of us feel makes us feminine (our breasts), so I understand the parallel that is drawn between hyper-femininity and breast cancer awareness. However, it also goes to show that in the context of a disease (which you think would have nothing to do with gender), we still perpetuate gender stereotypes of what it represents to be a women. Aren’t there women in the world that contract breast cancer who detest the colour pink? Or the wearing of make-up? Making a campaign based on female stereotypes does not do well to serve all women.

Leaving behind the connection to breast cancer, as many Face Book users have, there are many other issues that come from these “no-make” up selfies. These selfies make for a lot of confusion, whether we choose to critically think about it or not.

Beauty, and our perception of being beautiful is a place where things get really complicated. Personally, I love make-up. Before writing this blog post I decided to look at the number of make-up products that I personally own. 7 mascaras, 5 blushes, over 20 eyeshadows, 3 foundations, 4 primers, 14 lip glosses/lip sticks, and 20+ brushes… When I counted up what I would have spent on my makeup products that I have right now, the number hovers somewhere around $700. When I look at it this way, I feel crazy! Shopping at Sephora, and purchasing make-up that I can use to create a different image of myself is a way that I truly enjoy to spend my time. I even have several make-up tutorial guides and books that I love to experiment from, it’s a hobby. I can honestly say that I use make-up because I enjoy it, but I can also admit that I am not 100% comfortable in my own skin (without makeup).For me, make-up allows me to channel all of my inner confidence by making sure that my blemishes are hidden, and any features that I love about myself are further enhanced. I feel that make-up helps my outside match my inside. Where it gets complicated for me, is that I realize that the only reason why make-up becomes an outlet for me to express myself is because I have been socialized to be interested in the art of make-up and make-up products. Shopping for makeup/putting makeup on has been an activity my mom and I have shared for a very long time. Would I feel better about my own “natural” features if I hadn’t been socialized to always be seeking improvements? I’m not sure, and I guess I’ll never know.

From a very young age the majority of women are exposed to an extreme pressure from the media, peers, and sometimes even family to conform and fit under traditional beauty norms. Not only are we expected to fit a certain mold, we are told to do so in a very clever way. The media not only provides us with examples of how we “should” appear, they also deliver the messages in a way that make us feel like we really should be interested in it for enjoyment as well.

Now… back to the “no-makeup” selfie. After we have been told our entire lives to wear makeup (and be interested in makeup), some impossibly gorgeous models in the UK decide to kick off a “no-makeup” selfie campaign that makes the rest of women feel guilty for wearing makeup in the first place… Women everywhere in pursuit of social acceptance and praise are throwing their natural selfies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to receive said praise and social acceptance from peers. Comments on the pictures are stating: “You don’t need makeup,” or “Natural beauty,”… further adding to the idea that because you are a women you should be beautiful by nature… So I am supposed to love make-up and want to buy make-up, but I don’t really need it because I’m beautiful anyway? WHAT?

Campaigns like this sure help sell confusing makeup products that offer a “soft, natural look”. Too Faced even offers a makeup kit called, “The no makeup, makeup kit.” (Media scamming strikes again)


An example of the “no makeup, makeup”

Putting aside the media, WE also perpetuate ideas about beauty in our everyday conversations. How often do we tell our best friend that they are beautiful when they are sitting on the couch watching a movie? Do we tell her she is beautiful when we just get done a yoga class? Or do we tell her she is beautiful when she posts a done-up “selfie” before she heads out on the town? I think many of us can admit that we are more likely to tell our friend she is beautiful when she is all glammed up. How confusing is it now that we are all being rewarded by posting our “no-makeup” selfies? Maybe we all need to take a step back and realize that confusion about beauty and our self image can stem from our words not matching our actions. If we are spreading the message that the big bad media started in the first place, then aren’t we to blame as well? (Guys, you may or may not be guilty of doing this as well – to your girl friends, girlfriend, or wife.)

I hope this post isn’t taken the wrong way. I think that letting women know their natural appearance is “good enough” is a good thing (I think deep down, it even makes me feel a little better). However, I think we need to be careful about letting beauty be used as a tool to meet an end, and the damage that can be caused for some women when this “no-makeup” campaign is forgotten in a couple weeks. I hope that it isn’t, and I hope that there is a more significant movement for more realistic advertisements and promotion of beauty products. If I am being a true critical consumer – I am not so sure that a significant, long-term shift will really happen – not unless more people become exposed to the conversations and topics that this entire blog brings forth.

It’s complicated to feel passion and enjoyment for something while also knowing that you only feel that way because of how you have developed and grown through societal norms. I don’t think I will be putting down the make-up brush any time soon, but I think it is important to be a critical consumer of beauty, and our thoughts/actions/words about it.




Did You Remember to Label Your Woman Today?

By Sarah M.

I assume the title of this article spiked some interest, maybe you laughed and thought, “Wow Sarah, what an insult” or maybe you thought, “That is so true, women are labelled on a constant basis”. Either way, I assume there was some sort of shock factor in reading the bold headliner.

 I just want to say first of all, that I do realize that men are also victims in being labelled and we have to move on from doing this as well. I, however, am going to focus specifically on women being labelled which really hit home when I viewed a Pantene advertisement. In this video, a woman is “selfish” for working long hours because she is not home spending time with her children. A man is “dedicated” for working long hours so he may provide for his family.

Aside from the advertisement trying to sell their product for women’s hair, it really raises a good point on gender bias and how women are labelled in comparison to men who may be completing the same tasks. I also like that the advertisement does not lead the viewer to think that men are the ones labelling females, often times females will label other females in negative ways. A #WHIPIT movement was created encouraging women to be empowered, shine boldly, and defy labels and stereotypes which should always be encouraged until labels no longer exist.

Although this is a broad issue that happens to all women, one specific example I can think of is how this happens in sport. There is first of all the issue that “athletes” are seen as primarily male. A population of fourth- and fifth-grade girls were interviewed and “of those interviewed, 41% made direct statements supporting a posture that associated the term athlete with being male” (Lebel, 2009, p.149). Maybe this comes from the stigmatization that women are too fragile and should be at home taking care of their family.

If a girl wears stereotypical “boy” clothes and is sporty, she is, at times, called a lesbian. I still see this happening sometimes to my hockey- or rugby-playing girlfriends; why else would they be so into sports unless they want to be a male or like women, right? I can even remember once saying, “I wouldn’t mind learning how to play football”, and jokingly some friends said, “You must be a lesbian”. Ridiculous, I know, but although they were joking, it is a thought various people have and it is a label that should not be present. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, but just as a woman would not want to be labeled as bossy, I do not believe a woman would want a certain stigma to surround her solely due to the fact that she plays sports.

One of the articles I have read stated, “as long as the lesbian label is taken as an insult, the label maintains its power to intimidate” (Sartore, 2009, p.299). It is true that we can only be offended by what we choose to be offended about, but does this make it okay to label women playing sports as something they are not or to even label at all? If we ignore it, then is it okay? I do not believe it is okay to label someone based on their gender, race, sexual preference etc., so it is crucial that we take a stand against these stigmas. The #WHIPIT movement by Pantene is an awesome example of women taking a stand, and I believe it will help to empower women to rise above their labels. Little by little, differences will be made. I guess it’s up to each individual how they will tackle it.

Further reading:

Lebel, K., and Danylchuk, K. (2009). Generation Y’s Perceptions of Women’s Sport in the Media, 2, 146-163.

Sartore, M., and Cunningham, G. (2009). The Lesbian Stigma in the Sport Context: Implications for Women of Every Sexual Orientation, 3, 289-305.