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.


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.

Masculinity In Sport

By Stephanie W.

The idea of masculinity is everywhere, and is even more prevalent in sport. Boys are taught from a young age to grow up to be big strong men and to show their dominance as these strong beings. As they get older, these ideas begin to unfold more and in some cases, such as sport, we see these ideas become harsher and more advanced than just wanting men to be masculine. This is why I would like to look at these masculine ideas that are related to this topic of men in sport. First, is hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is defined by Anderson in these four simple rules that men need to abide by in sport. 1. No sissy stuff, 2. Be a big wheel, 3. Be a sturdy oak, and 4. Give ’em hell. Second is hyper-masculinity. Hyper-masculinity is characterized by an exaggeration of traditionally masculine traits or behavior (Collins Dictionary, 2017). Both of these ideas show that men are to be very strong and fearless, and not to engage in activities or play in a way that would have you being perceived as sissy, or like a girl. This post will look at these ideas in the sport context and not only how they impact men, but how they also impact society and the ideas we attach to other groups of people.

We are able to see these ideas everywhere you look in sport. One example of this is the men on the cover of magazines, shirtless and showing off their muscles and toned bodies. They want to show their strength and masculinity to the rest of the world and prove the power they have in sport. However, what If you do not follow this idea of what it means to be a man in sport? As stated by Anderson (2005), “Hegemonic masculinity not only requires that a male maintain 100 percent heterosexual desires and behaviors, but that he must continually prove that he is heterosexual.” For men who are homosexuals in sport, they often are found to hide their true identity or to go along with the ideas of the team to make sure they fit in and are part of this masculine group. One male talked about his experience in football, he stated that “My coaches try to motivate us to hit harder, crunch more, or throw farther by calling us fags all the time. And if you can’t do something, or mess it up, you get called a fag,” (Anderson, 2005).  Due to the atmosphere around the sport and his team, he found himself dating women, and even using homophobic language when around his team members to make sure he would fit into the group. His time spent with the team was not him being who he wanted to be but was conforming to norms. He did this to make sure he was not the target of the jokes or even physical abuse by team members. He wanted to be part of the sport and he felt this is what he had to do to truly be part of it.

Within the article by Hickey (2001), the idea of violence and oppression of others who do not fit the norms of the group or their masculinity is presented. Males want to gain status within the group and this means not being different than the others in any way. Due to the hyper-masculinity in many male sports, there is this idea of creating norms within the group and sticking to them if you want to fit in. Even though this is looked at from a team perspective, Hickey also presents the idea that these attitudes can come back into the school since they tend to be school sports or teams. This idea of how men or boys should act and how they should behave is seen in cases such as gym class. It is even seen the classroom or at lunch break and makes many others the victims of these ideas that they have formed within their sporting atmosphere.

From a personal perspective, I have seen how these ideas have come into the school and affected someone who competes in an individual sport.  One of my friends competes in archery competitions. When he was in high school, people used to tease him and say that it was a “gay sport” and it was not manly if he was competing in it. Due to this, he always had it in the back of his mind that it was not a manly enough sport and that people were always judging him for it. Since he was part of this sport, he was able to and still does travels all over the world to compete. However, the idea of what is seen as masculine to some other males and the impact it can have on the participation of other males is very much a problem. He could have decided to listen to people at school, but instead he went on and because of that he was able to gain so much and see many parts of the world that he would have never been able to do on his own. For many others though, they sometimes change who they are and stop doing certain activities that they love due to the ideas of others.

In conclusion, the idea of masculinity and the consequences that come with it are everywhere not only in sport, but our everyday lives. This impacts not only males who do not want to conform to these ideas, but also women, homosexual men, and people who do not fit the stereotypical idea of a manly man. Even though there are many negative examples of this in sport, it does not always mean it is present, but most people have seen examples of this in their everyday lives at least once. These are ideas that need to be changed and help everyone to feel included in sport and that they are in a safe place when joining a team, or even in everyday society.


Anderson, E. (2005). In the game: Gay athletes and the cult of masculinity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Hickey, C. (2008). Physical Education, Sport and Hyper-Masculinity in Schools. Sport, Education and Society, 13, 2, 147-161.

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

Eating Disorders in Males and Male Athletes: Their Secret Disease?

By Lucy P.

The focus of eating disorders in sports has predominantly revolved around women athletes, with males being pushed aside and therefore in danger of being missed (Baum, 2006). Perhaps this is because of the influential media demands of the idealistic woman, or the sexualisation surrounding women’s sports? As discussed in class, males are not always encouraged to express their emotions, but over exaggerate their masculinity. Reported in a recent study it showed few males report eating disorders or find other excuses for them as opposed to what they really are (Nelson, 2014). It is unfortunate that men still feel isolated to conform to such a specific stereotype, despite the numerous resources for health, emotions and equality.

Growing up in today’s generation, there are so many stereotypical pressures to live up to it becomes impossible to satisfy society. Males, and specifically male athletes feel obliged to live up to the masculine, strong and powerful ideology that has been created for a ‘real man’.

These stereotypes are embedded in boys from a young age. They are taught to be ‘rough and tough’, whereas in reality, it is only oppressing emotions and acceptance of their individuality. Unfortunately, the culture we are surrounded by does not think there are barriers to be broken in male sports, but yet, male athletes would still rather suffer in silence, and question their denial of eating disorders with things such as, is there something wrong with me? Does it mean I am girly? Is this affecting my masculinity? (Nelson, 2014).

I don’t think anyone who has participated in sports can deny the physical and mental demands of an elite/professional athlete. Continuously being surrounded by coaches or parents telling you that you can do better or work harder; opponents that can still somehow beat you. It becomes almost second nature to believe that the sacrifice to be the best athlete will outweigh any struggle along the way. This now, common mentality is perpetuating eating disorders as normality to meet weighs in, fitness testing and body conditioning regulations. A study stated that males are more susceptible in comparison to their counterparts, as women are naturally lighter and smaller, therefore male athletes have to go to greater lengths to achieve their goal weight or body image (Baum, 2006).

Another source imposing influence would be the endless media demands, unrealistic body images of superhuman strong men making every headline, magazines and commercials furthermore prompting eating disorders with the need to look a certain way. It is so evident that women undergo the media’s expectations, but why is it that society thinks that men don’t experience the same social and cultural pressures? The media not only creates an image for the ‘perfect’ female, but also this fantasy that male athletes are untouchable, and god like, which promotes their physical and sexual appeal, but demoralizes any other characteristic. In an article by Jackson Katz, he highlighted a very valid point – that men do feel pressures, men have less access to more abstract forms of masculine validating power, like economic or work place authority, so the physical body and it’s potential creates a concrete means of asserting manhood. (Katz, 2011).

Societies fighting against traditional norms and becoming more accepting of equal status has been significant within the last decade, yet there are still underlying issues that go unnoticed. More so from a males perspective as there is constant review of females equality and influences. With constant resistance from male athletes, pressure from coaches and stereotypes, together they create a serious health risk that may be life threatening (NEDA, 2015). There remains significant stigma surrounding psychiatric illness in the athletic arena, and perhaps more so still among male athletes (Baum, 2006). I hope that as we continue to resist the norms and break the barriers for equality, that male pressures and influences will also be recognised as much as women’s. Because in the end, are we not all fighting to conquer the same cultural differences together? Women want to be seen as equal counterparts in sports, so why can’t men be allowed to feel the same pressures and influences of society?


NEDA. (2015). Athletes and Eating Disorders. Retrieved from

Katz, J. (2011). Unexpected social pressures in males. Retrieved from

Nelson, J. (2014). Male athletes and eating disorders. Retrieved from

Baum, A. (2006). Eating disorders in the male athlete. Sports Medicine, 36(1), 1-6.

The Political is Personal

Jamie Willar

We are rapidly entering an era where is it becoming more and more acceptable to be openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, and two-spirited. Members from the trans community are also making gains in terms of rights and representation; recently a hotline specializing in trans issues has even opened in Canada. Whereas there is progress being made for ensuring equal and equitable rights, there is still some backlash from pockets of society.

Whenever a professional athlete decides to come out of the closet (or to publically disclose their LGBTQ status), there are definitely mixed reactions from different segments of society. From the LGBTQ community, there is definitely jubilation. Representation in different institutions is a very important thing for all minorities, whether they are racialized or gender & sexual minorities. Queer youth need role models as well, and having ‘out’ athletes helps to inform queer youth that professional sports are open to them if they so want. Representation is about tearing down barriers for entry. When said barriers are torn down, there is more room for people to exercise their agency; there is more freedom because there are more viable options for careers, leisure, recreation, hopes, and aspirations. The world discloses itself to us by means of the choices we have. For most of my life and a good part of my adult life, I never thought that marriage would be an option for me. In 2005, Canada made gay marriage universally legal, and codified the constitutional right for gays to marry. An option that I never thought I would have has been readily available to me for the last several years, should I choose to act on it. Similarly, queer youth with a penchant for athleticism need to know that professional sports are an option for them as well; they do not have to choose to be who they are and having a career in a sport they are passionate about.

Potential backlash is a serious deterrence for athletes who may wish to come out. There is still social stigma associated with being LGBQT because there are harmful stereotypes associated with being as such. A gay man, who otherwise identifies as masculine may feel that masculinity as compromised because of the stereotypes surrounding gay men and effeminate mannerisms. Likewise, otherwise feminine women may feel like they will be stereotyped as ‘plaid-wearing’, ‘butch’ lesbians. When the entire purpose of coming out is to take command of one’s self-identity on one’s own terms, the stigma surrounding harmful stereotypes acts as an antithesis; one takes command of their self-identity only to be found powerless again when teammates, media, and society at large proliferates these harmful stereotypes. It takes the empowering aspect of coming out and attempts to negate it. The result is that far less athletes choose to come out, and instead remain silent. That is certainly their choice—but if a choice is heavily informed by the negative repercussions, the ‘goal posts’ have be moved by outside forces. The choice has been severely constricted. The second wave of feminism coined the phrase “the personal is political”—meaning that events that transpire in personal lives have a legitimate presence in the public arena. Likewise, the political is also personal: disruptive and harmful dialogues can have an extraordinary effect on people’s lives.

Equestrian: The Sport Where Gender Stereotypes Have Turned

By: Andrew Connors

We commonly hear of sports like hockey, football and rugby for example, where masculinity dominates and female participation leads to negative stereotypes of participants being lesbians or butch. Equestrian is a confusing 360-degree reversal of these negative stereotypes.  Equestrian is a sport commonly stereotyped as a very feminine sport and male riders are commonly regarded as “girly men or gay.” Equestrian sports actually require extreme amounts of toughness and masculinity. Amateur equestrian events rarely feature male riders, but professional events often have more men than women. Why is this? There is little to no research answering this question. It is important to note that equestrian is the only sport where men and women compete against each other. So readers understand why I decided to blog about this topic in an attempt to raise awareness; I will give you a short background about my experiences with these stereotypes and gender issues in equestrian.

Growing up on a horse farm, I started riding horses as soon as I was old enough. Through elementary school at riding camps and competitions, there were lots of boys like myself also riding horses. As I became older and also participated in more traditional male sports, the amount of boys my age participating in equestrian dropped drastically. At this point I was commonly teased for being “gay or a girly man” by my classmates and even teammates on sports teams. The stereotypes and teasing definitely got to me, and I would commonly talk to my parents about quitting. They encouraged me to continue and I still today continue to show horses at the amateur level.

Negativity and teasing aside, I always felt tough riding horses. The danger of falling off is very real, and it is a serious work out. Equestrian requires maintenance, training, maneuvering, and over powering of a 1,500 pound animal with an unpredictable mind of its own. In the UK and other similar countries, roughly 75% of equestrian (professional and amateur combined) participants are female (McHugh, 2013). All equestrian riders must be tough and work hard. It is not an easy sport for either sex. On a positive note, statistics in the UK show that male participation is increasing.

Men dominate the Olympic equestrian podium although only 25% of participants overall are male. In the last 4 Summer Olympics 11 of the 12 Show jumping medals won have been by male riders (IOC). Who could forget Eric Lamaze winning the gold medal for Canada at the 2008 Olympics? Canadian Olympian Ian Millar holds the record for most Olympic appearances at 10. These are 2 of the most well knownequestrian competitors in Canada and the world. One question that should be asked – is this the case because the sport requires so much masculinity to become professional? The answer remains unclear.

Since equestrian participation rates are so high for females and low for men but tendencies show more men as professionals, I decided to interview and share thoughts a professional female horse rider. I asked about her thoughts and if she agreed with regards to these numbers. Melissa Hanscome is an American Quarter Horse Association professional and pointed out that in AQHA, amateur competition females strongly out number men. But in professional AQHA competition, men strongly outnumber women. I myself have noticed this trend as well as I compete as an AQHA amateur in classes with 50 competitors and I often am the only guy. But professional competitions often have more men than women. Studies actually do show that male riders are more aggressive and dominant in equestrian competition where females are found to be easier going and less aggressive (McHugh, 2013).

This is a very interesting topic to me but very difficult to find answers to the many possible further research questions. Since equestrian allows participation for both men and women to compete together, shouldn’t numbers be the same in both amateur and professional competition? Equestrian unfortunately seems to be another sport where professional ranks are male dominated. However, this differs from most sports because of the fact that men and women compete together. But this is an interesting phenomenon because the participation rates for men overall are so low and female participation is very high. Equestrian professionals and associations should look into increasing amateur male participation and encourage more amateur female riders to develop into professional competitors. I hope I have raised awareness of another gender sport and recreation issue. During the next summer Olympics or other televised equestrian you may see, observe with consideration of these numbers and thoughts.


International Olympic Committee Records

McHugh. A. (2013). Men, Women and Horses. Found at:

Personal Communication: Melissa Hanscome (2014)

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.

Barbaric Men on the Gridiron

By Michael Miller


In the last couple weeks there has been a media frenzy regarding the sexual preference of a football star from the University of Missouri, who is hoping to be drafted in the upcoming NFL draft.  The All-American defensive end, Michael Sam, came out to the world stating he was gay. The media has been having a “field day” with the story and have been asking questions to various athletes in the NFL and other public figures as to their reactions. Players, coaches, general managers, and media have all had their opinion on the situation and for some, the feedback has been positive. However with that said there has also been negative feedback, some alluding to how potential players would feel who might have to play along side him and share a locker room.


Football is a sport that is all about being strong, fast and competitive. Some may say you need a killer instinct, all characteristics that we stereotype as the alpha male of our society. It is a sport of gladiators, where the players fit a certain mold of what the sport says is required to be a good/professional player, unfortunately when someone who doesn’t fit this mold, people may have a difficult time adapting to the changes. The turn of the 20th century society became obsessed with men’s competitive sports, possibly due to the fact that our society during this period was worried that the boys were becoming soft (Kian et al, 2013).


Football, and other sports, has had many changes that have occurred in the past, which has resolved its self in the end resulting in people becoming accepting of those changes (i.e. African males playing with Caucasian males).  Will this result in the same thing for gay men in professional football? Will players be excepting of having a gay teammate in the locker room?


In Kian et al, 2013 research there was an interview by a reporter in his late 40s about gay man in football. The reporter stated it may be stereotypes but he just can’t see too many gay men playing football, that football players are big, strong, barbaric men and that he believed that we would see gay men in sports, but would never see a gay man in football while he is alive. Views such as this one may be what is going to hinder gay athletes acceptance in the football as our society deems football for the straight alpha man and that it is going to be a struggle for gay men to be excepted. The reason from as far as I can gather is that society is set in their ways regarding thoughts pertaining to your sexual preference. Gay men, are typically seen someone who “takes on” more female characteristics. Our society tends to look at female characteristics as fragile and/or emotional – which are two characteristics that are not typically seen in the sport of football.


In my opinion and as a person who has played football my whole life I don’t know why someone’s sexual preference should interfere with his or her ability to play football. If someone is a strong player why should they be considered to be not a good fit for an organization because they may be a distraction? This has been the theme in a lot of the responses toward Michael Sam. If a player is an exceptional athlete and teammate and he is going to benefit your team’s success then why not want him on the team?




Kian, E., Anderson, E., Vincent, J., and Murray, R. (2013) Sport journalists’ views on gay men in sport, society and within sport mediaInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport, (ahead of print), 1-17.

Men and Body Dysmorphia

Emily M.

Why is it that men and body image issues are never discussed? Is it because there is a taboo against it?  A stigma that it is a girls-only problem?  Will the man look weak or too sensitive?

From an early age men are taught that they should be the big, strong protector that will ride up on their white stallion slaying the bad guy to win the girl just like in the fairy tales.  Superhero costumes can send the same message, just a cute and fun costume for young boys or sending a deeper message saying men should strive to have a perfect physique, thin build, and big muscles.

Are men suffering in silence because they think that men should not have a body image disorder?  Is it women’s fault that men are staying quiet about their body dysmorphia?  Women have always spoken about the tall, macho man protector; like the hunter in the Palaeolithic age.  Does this make it women’s fault that men’s issues are being overlooked or dismissed?

Men who suffer from body image issues may: combat steroid use, be exercise dependent which leads to overtraining and increased injury, entertain ambiguous “fad” diets, immerse themselves in their sorrows, and/or seek refuge from public events and social gatherings.

In a book called Shattered Image: My Triumph over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, author Brian Cuban spoke about how he has suffered from body image issues since he was a child. He explains, “my mother used to say, ‘hey you dumb bunny, you eat too much'”.  This played a huge role in leading to Cuban believing he was that he was fat and stupid.  Cuban goes on to talk about how there are not many resources out there for men who suffer from body image disorders which reinforces the stigma that this is a “girl-only” problem.  One place that does focus their attention on suffering men is in Austin, Texas called Cedar Springs Austin.  Brad Kennington is the executive director and COO there and he says that those who are most vulnerable are: men who are constantly checking themselves in the mirror or weighing themselves, those who count their calories or over exercising, athletes, and gay and bi-sexual male teens.  In a recent article, Daniel Armbruster says, “While it is a topic most guys want to avoid, we were able to find a few on the UT [University of Texas] campus who would admit they probably know someone struggling with body dysmorphia. Both Kennington and Cuban say more guys must come out and share their stories if society is going to change its attitude on men with body dysmorphia” (Nov. 7, 2013).

Research done by Aaron Blashill and the American Psychological Association found that male teens who perceive themselves as too thin or too fat when they are actually at a healthy weight are more likely to develop depression.  They also found that those boys who believed they were underweight are bullied more often and most likely to turn to steroid use.  Blashill says there is little evidence-based research on effective therapy for steroid use, but also says that cognitive-behavioural therapy has been proven effective for body image and he recommends therapists to keep a mindful eye on possible steroid use.

Some statistics that I found from a study out of the University of the West of England from 2012 indicate that more than four in five men (80.7%) talk in ways that promote anxiety about their body compared with the 75% of women that speak negatively about their body.

  • 38% of men said they would sacrifice at least a year of their lives in exchange for a “perfect body” which was again higher than women.
  • 30% have heard someone refer to their “beer belly”
  • 19% have been described as “chubby” and 19% have overheard talk about their “man boobs (moobs)”.
  • 23% said concerns about their appearance had deterred them from going to the gym.
  • 63% thought their arms or chests were not muscular enough.
  • 29% thought about their appearance at least five times a day.
  • 18% were on a high-protein diet to increase muscle mass, and 16% on a calorie-controlled diet to slim down.

To me it is clear that something needs to be done about the growing rate of men’s body image issues and that we need to realize that this is not just a female issue as most would think.  Parents of those with young boys should encourage them to look beyond what they see on the outside and to learn to love themselves for who they are.

Further Reading:

Why Men Never Discuss Body Image Issues