Why do we have gender-specific bicycles?

by Aaron C.

If you ride bicycles, whether for sport, leisure or travel, then you are probably well aware of marketing tactics that are used in the sales of bicycles, just like the sales of all other sporting goods which is creating a specific product for each gender. At one point in time, when bicycles were starting to become more popular after the world wars, women’s bicycles were very easy to identify because they featured a huge sloping top tube so a lady could saddle up on the bicycle without having her outfit get bunched up. These bikes also came in “prettier” colors than the men’s bikes (Allatt, 2018). Choosing the right bicycle may become difficult if you are worried about the stereotypes that may come with owning a certain women’s or men’s bike. There are numerous reasons that is limiting participants in cycling such as choice, but also comments made from other drivers, safety concerns, and the societal norms that may look as cycling as a children’s activity rather than a fitness activity (Emond, Tang, & Handy, 2009). This post is concerned with the marketing that happens with bicycles, which is a growing market so every possible edge or tactic is used to push product at the consumer.

In the modern era, women and men’s bicycles are built, shaped, and put together with the same parts, so essentially they are the same bicycle with the same build quality. The only real difference is the paint job and name that they give the different bikes. It is not only the bicycles but also the parts as well with women-specific seats, handlebars, grips etc. This topic speaks to me because I am an avid mountain biker, I have 3 bicycles that all range from a basic fat bike to a downhill race bike, my girlfriend just recently purchased a new bicycle. Her bicycle is identical to the men’s version with the same part-list, the only difference was a more feminine color and a higher price.It is a women’s specific all-mountain bike but the geometry is almost identical the as the men’s version except for a few odd specifications. (The bicycle was purchased second hand at a much lower retail price)

The price difference in gender-specific bicycles should not exist just like gender-specific bicycles should also not exist. The women specific prices are usually much higher than the male counterparts. Everyone prefers different geometry and the way a bicycle handles so separating bicycles based on gender is ridiculous and weakens the bicycle market rather than strengthening it. This could be one of the reasons associated with why women are less likely to ride bicycles (Allat, 2018). Just like we have learned in class, women/girls are dropping out or not participating in sport/leisure at a much higher rate than males. If you were to go on Pinkbike.com, a mountain bike newsfeed, you would find it filled with articles about males mostly with the odd (maybe 1 out of 15) articles containing female riders or races. This also shows the lack of media attention being received as well but that’s a topic for another post. The reason that gender-specific bicycles should abound, not only to help grow cycling as a sport for females, is because the consumer demographic is changing; women’s bikes might lose potential male buyers as well as the high-end-seeking female buyers because of lacking technology. Often the latest features and build designs are built on the standard mountain bicycles, then brought over a year or two after to the gender-specific frames and bicycles. I know of many people who ride “women’s” bicycles who are males, having a bicycle fit you and your body shape is all that matters, not the color or the name. A good fit is a key to comfort and performance. I dislike the women’s specific label because body shapes vary. Just because the bicycle is marketed as a woman’s bicycle does not mean it is ridden by a woman. It’s ridden by someone it fits. My mother uses my old mountain bike since it is comfortable for her. This shows how it is simply just marketing tactics used to separate bicycles into two classes.

In an age where we’re all more comfortable in our own skin and owning our own personal style, I think it might be time to hang up the preconceived notions of what men and women need or want in bicycles or any other sporting equipment for that matter; start making bikes that everyone can and will want to ride; and label them by something other than gender. Cycling needs to grow as a sport and restraining the growth because of a marketing tactic is in no way benefitting the sport or even cycling as a form of transportation.


Allatt, A. (2018, January 21). What is stopping women from cycling? Retrieved March 19, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41737483

Emond, C., Tang, W., & Handy, S. (2009). Explaining gender difference in bicycling behavior. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2125), 16-25.

The Women’s Mountain Bikes Scam (Why You Should Not Buy a Womens Mountain Bike). (2016, October 18). Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.icebike.org/the-womens-mountain-bikes-scam-why-you-should-not-buy-a-womens-mountain-bike/


Just strong.

By Sydney S.

Women’s athletic ability has been underestimated for decades. Although the amount of respect for women in sports has increased, we still have a long road ahead of us. Today we can look back and cringe at some of the things that were said or happened regarding women in sport. We can laugh at how absurd some of these things were and know that if they were to be said today they would not be accepted as they were at the time.

“I’ll tell you why I’ll win. She’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability.” – Bobby Riggs before losing to Billie Jean King

“Women’s menstrual cycles make them too emotionally unstable to participate in the sport.” –  British Boxing Board of Control

Although the disrespect and disregard towards women in sport is not as striking as shown in the quotes above, it is still present. Women are still underestimated and objectified in the world of athletics. They are underpaid and under represented in the media. However, there is one sporting event that does not conform to these norms. This sport shows us that women can perform as well as or better than men. This sport does not require that their athletes look pretty or pose naked for the media. This sport pays their top male and female athletes the exact same as well as receives equal airtime on ESPN (Davidsdottir, 2016). This is something that can not be said for nearly any sport. This sport is CrossFit.

CrossFit was once thought to be a fitness craze but is now the daily fitness regimen for members of over 13,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide. In my opinion, it is here to stay. Greg Glassman created CrossFit to improve fitness. He defined fitness as increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. This definition is not dependent on your gender and neither are the methods of improving it. Which is why every day males and females walk into CrossFit gyms and suffer through the same workouts together.

In a CrossFit gym there is no “girls room” filled with pink dumbbells, yoga mats and exercise balls. It has been found that the lack of such sexed spatial divisions pushes the boundaries of gender norms (Knapp, 2015). It challenges the gender normative bodily practices seen in “global gyms”. The women are not subjected to only cardio, they lift with the men. They are not worried about what anyone might say if they leave the stereotypical Stairmaster and start deadlifting or squatting a barbell. In CrossFit gyms women do not shy away from lifting heavy, and in my experience some of the women end up lifting more than the men. A CrossFit gym is a safe and empowering space for women. No stranger walks up to them and makes a remark about their body. No one tells them they shouldn’t lift weights because it will make them bulky and, of course, men don’t like that. In a CrossFit gym, women are not told they are strong for a girl, they are told they are strong. Just strong.

Another reason that CrossFit varies from other gyms is its purpose. The majority of people attending a CrossFit gym regularly are not there to improve their appearance. Losing weight may have been what initially brought them to a CrossFit gym, but it isn’t what keeps them coming back. The majority of participants show up every day to improve their abilities, whether it be 15-year-old Sam’s ability to Clean and Jerk or 70-year-old Jane’s ability to stand up out of a squat. I believe this is something that many females find refreshing. There are so many impossible beauty and fitness standards for females today. Magazines scream out words like: tone, slim, fast, sexy, burn and the list goes on. When women walk into a CrossFit gym, they quickly realize that their coaches are not concerned with what they look like, but rather what they can do. What Knapp found from interviewing female members of a CrossFit gym was that their thoughts towards fitness and their body changed soon after joining the gym. Their thoughts shifted from worries of being skinny or thin enough to fit the weak, fragile, feminine body that society has constructed. Now they were concerned with how strong they were becoming and how fast they were moving.

CrossFit is a sport that puts men and women on an even playing field. Knapp found that men’s beliefs about women and athletics also changed when they joined a CrossFit gym. Men spoke of having an attitude that men would always out perform women until they joined the gym and then found a new respect for female athletes (Knapp, 2015).  At the highest level of competition men and women compete along side each other. If competing as an individual, women compete against women and men against men, but the workouts and movement standards are the same for both. If competing on a team your team will consist of three men and three women. As a team you will go through the workouts together and each member will have to complete the same work load as the other. For once women have an equal role as men on a coed team.

Overall, I believe that CrossFit sets an excellent example of a sporting event that is gender equal. Not only do their male and female athletes receive equal media time but there is also an equal amount of male and female announcers in their media. There is also an equal amount of male and female officials or judges. CrossFit did not begin when only men were thought to be powerful superheroes and women fragile princesses in need of help. This could possibly explain why it breaks many gender norms in the world of athletics. If other sporting events would take notes from CrossFit we might be well on our way to gender equality in sports.


Knapp, B. A. (2015). Gender representation in the CrossFit Journal: A content analysis. Sport in Society, 18(6), 688-703.

Knapp, B. A. (2015). Rx’d and shirtless: An examination of gender in a CrossFit box. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 23(1), 42-53.

Davidsdottir, K. (2016, April 6). What CrossFit Can Teach Pro Sports About Gender Equality. Retrieved March 18th, 2018, from http://time.com/4279643/women-soccer-gender-discrimination-crossfit/


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

Exploring Levels of Student-Athlete Burnout at two Canadian Universities

by Ben L.

Research done by Dubuc-Charbonneau, Durand-Bush, and Forneris (2014) was used to increase awareness and study the effects of training in a varsity sport and the effects it has on a term called “burnout” in the course of a student’s academic and athletic performance. “Burnout” is a relative term referring the ones physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. This burnout is qualified by significant differences related to gender, sport, year of participation, academic year, and program. Being measured by administering Raedeke and Smith’s (2001) Athlete Burnout Questionnaire and it was resulted that lengths of participation, academic year, and program have no overall effects that follow, albeit type of sport and gender had major applications.

The type of sport resulted in differences between physical and mental exhaustion. Whereas some sports pertaining to physical some physical exhaustion (i.e. swimming practice is usually at 6:00 am) or mental exhaustion (i.e. dance and gymnastics) were exceptionally apparent in scores, as well as there being a major difference between men and woman. Women tend to be increasingly more exhausted due to several reasons that all seem very applicable and relevant (Kaiser, Dean. 2008).

This article really stood out due to its nature as a research paper. I myself experience an over active thyroid and create an overabundance of iron in my system. Me being energetic and enthusiastic about my surroundings for the vast majority of the day, I regularly involve myself in as many sports and recreation as possible to fit my free time. On average my body can work comfortably off of four to five hours of sleep without issues. However, recently I have become too busy and have taken steps and precautions to help my situation but have failed in some cases and sometimes experience even less sleep. In the last several months I have experienced some major cases of burnouts and have noticed a significant drop in my academic and athletic performance.

The main point to a study, especially regarding this course, is to look at the problem and aim to resolve it. That is what this course has been about thus far is to look at the big picture and to administer our progressive knowledge in solving some of the most relevant and even important arguments to date. Thus we see a problem with some of the research found as it is an appropriate study for almost any and all university students. How we can look to solve this is simple, the findings that are found are positive in incline and must be taken a step further in advancing our future as a community to truly understand what the problem is with the future generations. The need for over exertion has become prominent in the average day of a student athlete and must but taken into account when arguing about whom or what there is to blame. That is the problem in today’s culture, there is always a need for blame when a problem is brought up and cannot just be taken seriously. People need to realise that student athletes suffer in their own way.

Dubuc-Charbonneau, N., Durand-Bush, N., & Forneris, T. (2014). Exploring levels of student-athlete burnout at two Canadian universities. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 44(2), 135-151.

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.

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

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 https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/athletes-and-eating-disorders

Katz, J. (2011). Unexpected social pressures in males. Retrieved from http://www.wstudies.pitt.edu/blogs/msf31/unexpected-social-pressures-males

Nelson, J. (2014). Male athletes and eating disorders. Retrieved from http://globalsportsdevelopment.org/athletes-eating-disorders/

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

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: http://www.equine-world.co.uk

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.

Society Putting the “Gay” in “Gay Athlete”

Meagan F.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that children become involved in physical activity to promote healthy practices for life. The benefits to sport participation have been referenced repeatedly; physical health, socialization to build strong relationships, problem solving skills, etc. Most athletes see sport as a way of life and feel comfortable within that specific environment while enjoying the experience with teammates, coaches and friends. For some gay athletes, it can be more of a challenge to share this same experience. For instance, what if that athlete is not openly gay? Furthermore, what if this athlete wants to be open, but does not have to courage to do so because of the stereotypes or lack of role models within the athletic field? I’ve taken information based on personal reflection, as well as multiple published articles to further explore the mindset of a homosexual athlete.

Megan Rapinoe, an openly gay US Olympic soccer player, believes that many sports still possess a certain “taboo” when it comes to gay athletes, and that there is actually a significant difference in acceptance depending on gender. “I feel like sports in general are still homophobic in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” she said. Still, she added, “In female sports, if you’re gay, most likely your team knows it pretty quickly. It’s very open and widely supported. For males, it’s not that way at all. It’s sad”(Wong, 2012). Rapinoe also delivers her input in regards to the current media attention surrounding Michael Sam, an openly gay NFL prospect. “It seems silly and even embarrassing to listen to people who say Sam being gay is a distraction to the team. There are many more things going on within a team that are much more of a distraction than one team member’s sexual orientation. I applaud Sam and his bravery” (Rapinoe, 2014).

When looking at male athletics, rugby could be considered as one of the most masculine, physically demanding sports in the world. In 2009, a famous Welsh rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out while still being at the top of his game; maintaining one of the leading positions for the league. Relating to what Rapinoe mentioned in her statement, Thomas felt the pressure of being outcasted by his teammates and fans if deciding to become an openly gay male in a very masculine sport. To cover up his lifestyle, Thomas said that he consciously avoided being seen as gay by overcompensating with straight stereotypes (hitting on multiple women, eventually marrying a woman, drinking the most beer, going out of his way to do more masculine activities rather than feminine ones). Thomas describes the pressure of hiding so extreme, that it one day became too much, resulting in him telling his coach. “It was my coach. He knew that I couldn’t go through this alone anymore and encouraged me to tell my teammates.” Afterwards, a number of Thomas’s teammates came up to show their support saying, “You’re still the same Gareth Thomas” (Doward, 2009). Thomas also advocates other gay athletes to come out in their own time, mentioning that the power professional athletes have on the world is important to the younger generation.

Ellen DeGeneres interviews Gareth Thomas and he talks about his experience.

Obviously, stories and experiences differ based on the individual. With more and more athletes becoming comfortable enough with themselves, and perhaps a shift in cultural acceptance, this gives younger athletes a base to go off of. As pioneering gay athletes, they are not only standing up for themselves, but also for the rights and lifestyles of other gay/lesbian athletes around the world. It is tough enough to be stuck in the limbo of coming to terms with yourself, but to obtain the courage to express this with those you are closest to is a whole other level. Fear is learned, and the way society chooses to portray homosexuals either in film, television or news definitely alters how we fear. Society puts the “gay” in gay athlete, and until it is more comfortable for athletes and fans to accept life as it is, regardless of sexual orientation, we will continue to see “gay athletes” as just that; the “gay” athlete. Living with this label may have its burdens, but also holds empowerment to know that you are creating a conversation.


Doward, Jamie. (2009). Gay Activists Praise Rugby Star Gareth Thomas’s Decision Coming Out.   The Guardian.

Rapinoe, Megan. (2014). If Your Team Can’t Handle A Gay Player? Get Out. The Advocate.

Wong, Curtis M. (2012). Megan Rapinoe Comes Out. Huffington Post Website.