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



Co-ed and same-sex sports and physical education, which one is better?

By Rachel G.

In class, we have discussed the constraints or barriers that adolescents have today when it comes to participating in sports and leisure. These constraints can become quite obvious in the physical education classes at school. In recent studies the question of whether co-ed or same sex is better for students is raised. It is still up for debate and is research is still ongoing. Is one more positive for one sex and negative for the other? Or do they both benefit in one over the other. In the following two articles, the researchers both conducted studies of young adolescences in the education system, the first was observational and the second included interviews with teachers. After reading these articles the constraints that both sexes have, are clearly present.

Mckenzie, Prochaska, Sallis, and LaMaster (2004) found that there was more “play time” in boys-only classes versus girls only. This, in turn, lead to girls also spending less time in physical activity during the lesson time. Girls tended to get more moderate-vigorous physical activity in girls-only classes. Boys, on the other hand, had the same amount in both co-ed and boys only. Girls-only classes usually spent more time on skill drills because girls generally have lower motor and sports skill levels at this age. However, with boys playing more, this could lead to boys to having greater preference for team games. Findings from previous studies indicate many girls do not prefer co-ed physical education classes, and may be at a disadvantage while participating in them. They suggested that girls-only physical education may better address some educational needs of adolescent girls, allowing educators to take the time to pay more attention to skill development. This study did acknowledge that they did not examine individual student level factor and suggested further study on classroom composition and lesson plans. They stated that the complexities of gender issues and gender equity in physical education are substantial. This also takes into consideration the varying societal expectations for behaviours in different cultural environments.

The second article by Wright (1997), interviewed numerous physical education teachers both male and female that taught co-ed and same sex classes. They found that girls in co-ed were more easily embarrassed to make a mistake and avoided physical contact with their male peers in sport situations, this lead to much more resistance from the girls compared to the boys to participate. The male students usually received more praise than girls because they participated more in co-ed settings. Female students tended to ask more questions and have longer conversation with their teacher about the lesson. With male students, it was some quick short interactions in regards to the sporting lesson. Both male and female teachers had more interpersonal interactions with female students verses male students. These same teachers also usually anticipated or assumed that female students would have a less knowledge on the sport and would need more instruction and encouragement. In most of the boys-only lessons it was clear that the teacher expected the boys to bring sufficient resources to participate in skill practices and games with less introduction or instruction. In the skills practice, which followed the explanation, where the male teachers were teaching boys, there were long pauses while the boys practiced without any commentary. The opposite would happen with girls-only practice, with much more frequent stops to explain more. Where the female and male teachers’ language seems to suggest that they were more likely to take into account the girls’ reactions, their experiences and needs; the male teachers in their talk to boys were more likely to establish what had to be done and how and then let the boys get on with their tasks. For male students who were non-compliant, it was assumed it had nothing to do with his individual identity but brought into question is masculinity. On the other hand, females who were non-complaint ironically confirmed their positioning as feminine. Usually the language of the teachers usually unconsciously positioned students in relation to cultural views on gender. This article put social relations at the center of concerns and suggested that teachers should tried to developed a better understand of their actions and language with their students.

This second article was published in 1997, I’d like to believe that the educational system has become more aware of the language they use with their male and female students. However, there are some aspects that are still prevalent today. Some of the observations stated I can clearly think back to my own high school days and relate. Both articles in the end did not say that one way of organizing the students was better than the other. It seems evident that it really comes down the individual. Some females would feel more comfortable than others to participate in co-ed sports of physical education. Coming back to the constraints of adolescent girls; body image, lack of self-confidence, shyness, over competitiveness and parental influence. At this age they are taking into consideration what society thinks women should be. Engaging in sports with other males, could be viewed as being too masculine. On the other hand, male students who don’t want engage in sport in co-ed situations could be teased or viewed to be like the girls. Male constraints include: body image, pressure to conform to masculine roles, lack of skill has no place and parental influences.

The classroom should be a place where social constructs like these are meant to be broken. The way teachers talk or treat females and males should be more equal or neutral and teachers should not make overall assumptions about either sex. It is hard to ignore the influence of outside factors such as media and parents. The classroom however should be an open-minded place where students shouldn’t be ridiculed on how they participate in certain sports. The focus of the classroom should be to encourage all students to be physically active, healthy and to teach them about different sports. In a coaching setting, again coaches need to be more conscious about the language they use with their players no matter the sex. Evidently there are benefits to both co-ed and same sex sports and recreation.  More research needs to be done, in order to possibly choose one over the other. However, I believe that it really comes down to the individual which is more beneficial.


McKenzie, T. L., Prochaska, J. J., Sallis, J. F., & LaMaster, K. J. (2004). Coeducational and Single-Sex Physical Education in Middle Schools: Impact on Physical Activity. Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport75(4), 446-449.

Wright, J. (1997). The construction of gendered contexts in single sex and co‐educational physical education lessons. Sport, Education and Society, 2(1), 55-72.



Gender Identity and Participation in Rural Community Based Leisure

By Tamsin F.

Think back to the prominent leisure activities individuals engaged in within your home community. If you lived in a rural setting, it is likely that the choices that were available in terms of leisure activities were a lot more limited than what would be offered in an urban setting. Within those choices, you could probably identify certain activities that were deemed more suitable for you to participate in than other activities, based on a few key factors.

In my rural hometown, population 2,327, not only were certain activities gendered, but they were also socially classed (Statistics Canada, 2017). If an individual was from a more affluent family, it was almost a given that they would participate in hockey and/or dance, beginning from a young age. It was in these two activities that peer groups were formed, and individuals gained their sense of identity within the community. In terms of gender, hockey was played majorly by males or ‘tom-girls’, and dance was dominated by female participants. As individuals grew older, there were some shared activities between genders, but team sports were always segregated by gender. If a child’s family could afford the time and extra costs of accessing the recreation services in the urban center a half hour drive away, they had increased exposure to more diverse leisure experiences; in the types of activities participated in, and the increased range of participants. This leisure privilege, however, made an individual stand out over their rural peers who did not have the same opportunities. Within the rural community, there was limited flexibility on what was available for individuals who did not fit in the traditional gender identities.

The stereotypical image of a rural community being close knit is not an exaggeration. Within small communities, pressures to conform and fit in are often extreme. Rates of substance use among youth, which can increase the risk of developing mental illness, is experienced at a higher incidence within rural settings than in urban settings (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015). Fear and perceived risk of going against the gender norm and facing exclusion from the community as a consequence, is a very real concern for many individuals who reside in rural communities. This anxiety may translate to participation in leisure activities that is very limited in diversity and range. A serious outcome of this mentality is the negative impact it could have on children’s and youth’s experiences within sport and recreation activities. Exposure to physical activity opportunities that occur in a caring environment, where the athlete feels supported by their coach and teammates, is considered to be highly influential in the likelihood of the athlete’s continued participation and commitment to the sport (Fry and Gano-Overway, 2010). Thus, it is crucial that programs and community members, adjust their messaging and attitudes around available programs to attract new participants who may not fit the traditional ‘ideal’ participant identity.

While it is easy to focus on the negatives and simply state that there is a problem within rural community recreation structures, advocates for wellness can identify strengths and opportunities for growth within the challenges a community may face. Parents, teachers, and community leaders can all be active role models and facilitators of leisure programs that are welcoming to all individuals, regardless of how they identify their gender. Having mixed gender leagues can be one way to encourage fair play, respect, and cooperation among children and youth in a community. Another strategy used with positive results, is the inclusion of quality physical education programming within the school day so that children have a barrier free opportunity to increase their physical literacy skills that they can then transfer to activities beyond the classroom (Stevens-Smith, 2016). By shifting the attitudes of the youth in a rural community, sustainable changes can be experienced. Additionally, a collaborative approach by community members is a necessity in creating more inclusive and supportive recreation environments for all individuals who live within this setting.


Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2015). Urban and rural student substance use (report at a glance). Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Urban-Rural-Student-Substance-Use-Report-at-a-Glance-2015-en.pdf.pdf

Fry, M. D., and Gano-Overway, L.A. (2010). Exploring the contribution of the caring climate to the youth sport experience. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22(3), 294-304, DOI: 10.1080/10413201003776352

Statistics Canada. (2017). Beaverlodge [population centre], alberta and manitoba [province] (table): Census profile. 2016 Census. Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.

Stevens-Smith, D. A. (2016) Physical literacy: Getting kids active for life. Strategies, 29(5), 3-9. DOI: 10.1080/08924562.2016.1205536


“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


Unexpected consequences of Title IX for female coaches

by Paige H.

The purpose of this blog will be to look at the lack of female coaches in collegiate sports, and how it has changed since the implementation of Title IX.

Women typically have to be “nicer” than men in order to exercise equivalent power and authority; this then in turn reaffirms gender stereotypes (Ridgeway, 2001). In addition to gender stereotypes there are four main barriers that are repeatedly examined in reference to the professional opportunities for female coaches. The four barriers include unequal assumption of competence, homologous reproduction, homophobia and lack of female mentors (Kilty, 2006).

Prior to 1972, when Title IX was signed and implemented by Richard Nixon, it was “lesser” of a job to coach women’s athletics because of the lack of visibility and interest in women’s sports as a whole. With the lack of men interested, women were able to dominate that coaching field, but after Title IX, the numbers of female head coaches has plummeted with the sudden interest in it from their male counterparts. As women’s sport opportunities became more pervasive, men increasingly filled coaching positions (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013).

An unexpected result of Title IX, especially at the intercollegiate level, is the decrease in the proportion of women serving as coaches of women’s teams (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013). In 1972, women coached over 90% of women’s teams; while as of recent years only 42.4% of women’s teams were headed by female coaches (Kilty, 2006). Not only are those numbers decreasing, but also the coaching positions in which women tend to fill now are also at lower levels of competition and also in traditionally “feminine sports” (Reade, Rodgers, & Norman, 2009). The percentage of female head coaches coaching male teams has remained constant over the past 30-40 years, at 2% (Kilty, 2006). This is troubling because despite the highest level of female athletic participation, thanks to Title IX, females have experienced a decline in coaching at all levels of educational institutions. Within Division I schools in the NCAA, women coaches are more frequently found in more prestigious, resource richer institutions and those that devote more resources to sport (Welch & Sigelman, 2007). The same study found that women head coaches are less likely to be found in traditional institutions, where gender roles are still highly thought of, examples of this would be religiously affiliated institutions and private schools.

Homologous reproduction is the process whereby dominants reproduce themselves based on social and/or physical characteristics (Stangl & Kane, 1991). This is vital to the understanding of why coaching is such a male dominated field. Therefore, the employment relationship between gender of athletic director and the head coach, for example, would be considered; as there is a direct relationship between the gender of the person being hired and the gender of the person doing the hiring (Stangl & Kane, 1991), this study also stated that homologous reproduction reproduces male hegemony.

Athletic departments have been regarded as one of the purest manifestations of hegemonic masculinity (Welch & Sigleman, 2007). This is important because through studies it was found that this is where homologous reproduction is a major factor preventing the advancement and hiring of female coaches. 71.4% of athletic programs in the NCAA are directed by a male, which is a 5:1 ratio in comparison to females (Kilty, 2006); according to Stangl and Kane (1991), the beliefs expressed by male athletic directors appear to be based more on a gender stereotypic bias about female competence than on any objective data. Managers and leaders tend to select those to fill positions that they see as “their kind”, and it repeatedly reproduces itself through its own image (Stangl & Kane, 1991), making it an increasingly difficult barrier for women to overcome. Homologous reproduction explains the dramatic reduction in the number of female coaches since Title IX has come into effect. Typically when women are judged for promotion in comparison to her colleagues, gender stereotypes prevail, placing additional pressures on women to especially establish themselves as competent that men typically don’t face (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

There are very few female mentors in which new female coaches can look up to for guidance. This is vital because there are now more women experiencing and participating in sports than ever, because of the implementation of Title IX, yet the amount of female head coaches is at an all time low. The impact of mentors on a professional career is substantial, and combined with the lack of women in the profession of high performance coaching, it becomes problematic for young women who aspire to coach (Kilty, 2006). This means that there needs to be a bottom up approach, rather than the top down approach in which was supposedly instilled. In doing so we inform the grassroots and mass participation level, which tends to be more flexible, and work our way up; rather than starting at the elite, more concrete level and trying to funnel it down. There will in turn be pressure for the athletic departments to conform to what the bottom is doing and what the athletes coming through have come to expect, which is equality and equal representation.


Cunningham, G. B., & Sagas, M. (2002). The differential effects of human capital for male and female Division I basketball coaches. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport73(4), 489-495.

Eagly, A., & Carli, L. 2007. Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Kilty, K. (2006). Women in coaching. The Sport Psychologist20(2), 222-234.

Reade, I., Rodgers, W., & Norman, L. (2009). The under-representation of women in coaching: A comparison of male and female Canadian coaches at low and high levels of coaching. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching4(4), 505-520.

Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. Journal of Social issues57(4), 637-655.

Stangl, J. M., & Kane, M. J. (1991). Structural variables that offer explanatory power for the underrepresentation of women coaches since Title IX: The case of homologous reproduction. Sociology of Sport Journal8(1), 47-60.

Welch, S., & Sigelman, L. (2007). Who’s calling the shots? Women coaches in Division I women’s sports. Social Science Quarterly88(5), 1415-1434.









Equality – A Rugby Story

By James M.

Sport has always been a very big rock in my life. It is something I personally use for stress relief, my physical needs, social needs, and the list goes on. I’ve played so many different sports at so many different levels, but I have never engaged in a sport more inclusive than rugby. I can still recall the first time I played in middle school, we picked teams to play in a scrimmage out of a hat – gender aside – and played full contact. I was 12 at the time and thought nothing of it. Even to this day, I still practice and scrimmage with people of both genders. Clearly, as I grew up we were separated through gender as is every sport and more so by the level in which you played, but that was it. The biggest difference with rugby is there is no difference in the rules or the way the game is played based on what gender you are, if you’ve never played before or you’ve been capped by your country, and the field, ball, and equipment are all the same.

I recently read an article about an individual who would presumably agree with everything I feel and have stated, but continues to push the barriers even further. Jaye Cora is a winger for the University of Georgia who is gender neutral/trans and prefers the terms “they” and “them” instead of “he” or “she”. Jaye was actually on the verge of giving up on sports because they thought they would never be respected, until they found rugby. Even at the highest level of rugby they look to be as inclusive and fair as possible, with World Rugby`s Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Disorders of Sexual Differentiation (DSD) Policy as well as the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2015 between World Rugby and the IGR (international Gay Rugby) . These are all ways in which rugby as a sport and culture is trying to be accepting of every human.

I wanted to share that little story because it shows you that not only is rugby gender neutral in the sense of how the game is governed, what you play on, and what you play with but it is breaking barriers past that. Rugby, I believe, is a leader for sports in the sense of equality for all. It’s funny because society tends to stereotype women as individuals that don’t enjoy aggression, that don’t like getting dirty, and rugby throws these stereotypes right out the window and I’ve seen that first hand. Society tends to paint a picture that portrays woman as someone who would rather have a nice evening in reading a book and having some wine, but if you are the kind of person that would rather be covered in mud and bruises and enjoy a few cold beverages after a hard fought game rugby says, right this way. Rugby’s not only a game but it’s a culture and until you are immersed in it it`s hard to fully understand how accepting it really is because of its hard exterior.

So if one of the toughest sports on the planet is so open to equality, what’s taking so long with all the other more mainstream sports like hockey, football, and baseball? Females at a younger age can play with boys and it can be full contact, but when they get older and it switches to all-female you take away the hitting (in hockey), or the over hand pitching. This just doesn’t make sense to me. There is a bright side – more frequently we are spreading light on these issues of inequality and asking the right questions and I believe that if we continue to do so we will see a significant change to what society considers the norm, just hopefully it will be sooner than later.


World Rugby signs historic agreement with International Gay Rugby. Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://www.worldrugby.org/news/59705?lang=en

Defabio, A. (2016, March 02). Trans Community Weighs in on USA Rugby Rules. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.goffrugbyreport.com/news/trans-community-weighs-usa-rugby-rules

Molnar, G., & Kanemasu, Y. (2016). Challenges of Exploring Women’s Resistance in Post-colonial Hegemonic Masculinity.


Fatherhood and Sport: Providing an Opportunity to Redefine Fatherhood

By Kirstin D.

To offer some diversity to the new blog posts being made, I am going to discuss fatherhood and sport. As a female, this will be done by looking at the evidence in articles since I do not have a direct experience of being a father or male. My reflection is influenced by knowledge and my indirect experience of the males in my life. The first male role model who participated in influenced my participation in sport, was my father. To provide background knowledge I grew up with three older sisters and both of my parents worked outside the home and had sport interests. The new generation of fathers are reacting to the changes in the household. Mothers are choosing to work or stay at home, and more pressure is being put on fathers to reach beyond the traditional fatherhood model. Contemporary fathers are looking for ways to connect with their children. Leisure is a tool some have used to do so, but they are not free from the pressure from the traditional fatherhood ideologies.

Now, we might think a stereotype of fatherhood is a father who coaches his child’s sports team. What if we thought of it instead as a means to be more than the breadwinner, as a way to redefine fatherhood. Kay (2007) discussed that since sports are familiar to men, which makes sport a secure and comfortable site that men can gain competence in engaging with their children. As we know men are socialized differently than women. From a young age girls are given toy babies and boys are given Tonka Trunks. The nuclear family and traditional fatherhood roles could leave new fathers feeling incompetent. Similar to sport participation, confidence and competence helps improve participation rates. Fathers who want to be more than the provider, could be using sport (a familiar role) as way to get closer with their children. Sport is a setting that is deemed appropriate for men in society. Therefore, sport provides them the opportunity to redefine fatherhood.

My experience with my father reflects this idea. Sport was a topic he could relate to and was a topic that he enjoyed. It was a way for him to be connected to us, when he felt like he was unable to otherwise. Although my father and my mother both worked and were invested in our sporting pursuits, it was different with my father. Not only is this a way for fathers to be able to connect with their children, but it is also a way for children to connect with their fathers. My oldest sister was the only one who decided to play hockey, and one of her primary reasons for doing so was to become closer with my father.

I do disagree with Kay (2007) when they write that fatherhood is universal and we all have been fathered. Perhaps this shows that the article is dated and that even in academic articles there are heteronormative assumptions made. It is true that all new born babies have biological fathers. It is, however, not true that we have all been fathered. Fathers come in various shapes and sizes, some are involved and others are not. Some of us may not have had a father and some people might have two. Although we cannot say that using sport as a means to redefine fatherhood is universal, I do believe that this is an important perspective.

If you would like to contribute to this blog post, I am interested in hearing your thoughts about fatherhood and sport – which does not have to be specifically fathers who are coaches, it could be broader leisure pursuits. My father never coached any of my sports teams, but he still had an influence and an impact on them. I still remember being on the pitch and hearing him whistle and holler as a dedicated spectator.


Kay, T. (2007). Fathering through Sport. World Leisure Journal, 49(2), 69-82.


Where are all of the Professional Female Athletes

by Danielle H.

When I was a child, I dreamt about being the next Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. They were amazing athletes. I remember my dad and I watching their games and talking about what an amazing life they must have. As a child, I never imagined that my gender would ever put a damper on that dream. As I got older, I started wondering why there was a lack of female athletes on television. It was not until my friend’s parents’ denied her the opportunity to play sports in high school that I realized what was going on in the world around me. My friend’s parents’ told her she needed to focus on her grades, and that sports got females nowhere in life. This made me think about how the only female professional athlete that I knew about was Hailey Wickenheiser, and that was only because she was promoted in New Brunswick schools when I was younger.

It occurred to me that the sporting world is dominated by males. In fact, in a recent article I read, they stated that “sport is a male-dominated institution that promotes traditional gender roles and advances male hegemony” (Hannon, Soohoo, Reel, & Ratliffe, 2009). As a society, we allow sports to be centred around males. For example, sports such as baseball and softball segregate men and women, as it is viewed as more appropriate for males to play baseball and females to play softball. Certain sports, like hockey, even have rules that state men are allow to play with contact and females are not.

In another recent article I read, it discussed the Grand Slam tournament in tennis. The Grand Slam Tournament has an equal amount of male and female athletes competing. Everyone participates in the tournament, and every athlete is paid by the same employer. However, the male athletes are still paid more than the females (Kahn, 1991).

As I mentioned before, my friend was not allowed to play sports in high school as her parents told her that her grades were more important. If I had to guess, she is definitely not the only girl who has been told that. I don’t understand how that is fair. We have multiple sporting leagues for males, and not as many for females. As a male athlete, you do not necessarily have to play professionally in order to make money. Males have opportunities to play below the professional level, and still get paid. What I am getting at is that females have a considerably smaller chance to make it to the professional level, because there are limited spots for female athletes. Also, it is known that female athletes generally make less money. With the female sport world being what it is, it is understandable why girls do not pursue sports in the same way as boys do.


Hannon, J., Soohoo, S., Reel, J., & Ratliffe, T. (2009). Gender stereotyping and the influence of race in sport among adolescents. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 80(3), 676-684.

Kahn, L. M. (1991). Discrimination in professional sports: A survey of the literature. ILR Review, 44(3), 395-418.


Are male coaches overpowering female coaches?

By Laura McNicholas

As a female athlete, coach, and referee in soccer, I find it astounding how little women are involved in professional sports – especially when it comes to being in charge of a team. The opportunities are there for some, if not most of these women, and it got me wondering as to what it is that prevents them from becoming a coach.

The Glass Ceiling effect is most often seen as the effect that implies gender disadvantages are stronger at the top of the hierarchy, than at lower levels and that these disadvantages worsen with age (Cotter, 2001). This effect is still occurring in Canada, the number of women becoming CEO’s is not increasing over the course of time. Men are still more than twice as likely to hold a senior position as women are. In the coaching industry, a good precedent is not been set if women are still being seen as lower down in the hierarchy.

In class, we discussed the participation rates of female and male coaches. Within Canada, women comprise 22% of all sport coaches and 28% of technical officials. These statistics are quite extraordinary, and do not by any means show the representation of how many women are actually qualified to coach the sport or officiate.

Being a female coach is not an easy place to be in the society. Many people undermine your ability and this ultimately leads to bad experiences, and causes drop outs. From a personal perspective, I have been on the receiving end of comments that were implying that I was not as qualified as a male coach would be. For young girls looking for role models in the coaching side of things, it is mere impossible to find any. On the flip side of things, males have many role models to look up to- especially in professional sports. A post I read online showed that in the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL, not one of the coaches or assistant coaches are female. That is a staggering 1000+ jobs, and not a single one is female (Malady, 2012). Why? I hear you asking, and that is simply the question, why?

Many people perceive females to know less about sports and assume they do not understand the rules, although this is far from the truth. Surely it would not be possible for someone to become a coach, or referee if they did not have an understanding. Another point raised is that people will not and do not respect women as coaches. For me, this is wrong. No matter what sex, gender, race or religion people should be respected equally in this world. For someone who is willing to take time out of their day to help me develop as a player, they would have my respect regardless of their demographics.

For example, if a male is applying for a job as head coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, then nothing would be wrong with this. If a female was to apply for the same job and happened to get it, many questions would be asked, and eyebrows would be raised as to why and how that happened. Today’s world that we live in is politically driven, and no matter how beneficial someone could be to a team it does not seem of much importance anymore. The main goal is to win trophies, and men have been successful in doing so thus far, is that why teams do not want to change that?


Cotter, D., A., Hermsen, J., M., Ovadia, S., Vanneman, R., (2001). The Glass Ceiling Effect. Oxford University Press/USA, 80(2), 655-681.

Malady, M., J.X., (2012). Why are there still no women coaching men’s sports? And why don’t we care? Retrieved from: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/09/female_coaches_why_aren_t_there_more_women_in_charge_of_men_s_teams_.html


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’