Gender Equity In Sport

by Leanne W.

Gender equity in a sporting environment is resources, programs and decision-making being fair to both male and female genders and also identifies any imbalances in the benefits they receive. Sport is an area that we see many issues with gender inequity. The gender pay gap is seen heavily in sports among other areas. Female athletes are often paid way less than their male counterparts when participating in the same sport. This requires many female athletes to also try and balance full or part time jobs while they also have vigorous training schedules and family lives as well.

Basketball is a increasingly popular sport in North America. Players in the WNBA get paid way less than NBA players no matter what experience or skill level. The highest paid player in the WNBA still makes less than the lowest paid player in the NBA by thousands of dollars. In 2015 the US women’s soccer team just won a gold medal at the world cup and received only 2 million dollars compared the men’s team who came in 16th place and received 9 million. At major sporting events such as tennis tournaments female events often have lower paying prize money for the winners often the price differing by as much as thousands of dollars. Female athletes are fighting for change, as they deserve to make the same amount of money for playing the exact same sport in the exact same event. Although we have seen small changes to increase the amount of money female athletes make, we still have a long way to go until both genders are making equal amounts.

Another area of sport where we see gender inequity is sports media coverage. The Olympics is one of the only international events where we see women’s events advertised and broadcasted just as much as the men’s events. On regular sport broadcasting stations such as ESPN, less than 1 percent of all coverage is coverage of female sport, and we do not see female analysts only female reporters who are often very pretty. When turning on the TV casually and turning to the sports channels, you will never stumble upon a women’s event by accident it will always be male events as female events are not played at prime television hours. They are often played mid-afternoon during the weekdays when most individuals are still at work or early on weekend mornings when most people would still be asleep.

In 2018 the first female college gymnastics meet was televised on the ESPN network showing UCLA competing against University of Kentucky. These are the two top rated college gymnastics teams in the United States. Although ESPN broadcasted the event, it was broadcasted mid-afternoon and it was not properly advertised so it had a low viewer rating. Male college sports are a huge part of sporting coverage and have been broadcasted for years. The most common sports to see televised are national leagues such as the NFL, NHL, MLB and many others. This leads many to wonder if women’s sports even have national leagues as we never have the opportunity to view them

The gender inequities in sport lead to young girls not having proper role models in sports and this is a main factor that we see adolescent girls dropping out of sport at young ages. If our sporting systems had equal pay and equal coverage, we would see a boom in female grass root and competitive participation for girls of all ages as these young girls could see female athletes succeeding and develop positive role models in sport. Currently, young girls are not encouraged as heavily as their male counter parts to participate in sport, as being a female athlete is not currently a viable career path due to the wage gap. Many families believe sport is not important for young girls as they are most likely unfamiliar with female sport themselves, as they are not often exposed to it. If a young girl or her parents believes she cannot make a future out of something she loves, the likelihood of her continuing is very slim and she will shift her focus towards activities that are more beneficial for her future.

References:

https://inequality.org/great-divide/gender-pay-gap-athletes/

https://sportsmanagement.adelphi.edu/resources/infographics/a-look-at-male-and-female-professional-athlete-salaries/

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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.

References:

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.

References:

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/

 

How can you watch what isn’t there?

by Josie King

When you turn on ESPN, you can expect to see coverage of Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia, LeBron versus Curry, and any other male sports league game, but when do you expect to see coverage of women’s sports? Perhaps its during tennis season, or when the Canadian women’s hockey team is playing in the Olympics. The fact is that although female participation in sport has increased since the implementation of Title XI in 1972, the coverage and attendance of women’s sports is still at a low (Ottaway, 2016).

There could be multiple reasons why people aren’t watching women’s sports, it can all be traced back to the dominance of sport as a masculine activity and the construction of gender roles. Sports have, and continue to be dominated by the narrative that participating in these activities is proof of one’s masculinity, an arena where femininity is looked down upon and criticized. Although blatant sexism in sports coverage such as this quote from a sportswriter in 1936, “It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it,” it has not disappeared completely. In fact, comments like this one, “The vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…. The baggy uniforms don’t help,” taken from Bill Simmons, an HBO sports personality in 2006, showcase how female athletes are often not talked about by their physical ability but their physical appearance (Ottaway, 2016).

Apart from discouraging comments about female athletes, there is also a lack of coverage of women’s sports which leads to the most obvious question, how can you watch something that isn’t there? In a study by USC researchers published in 2017, the research focused on decades worth of affiliate networks in the LA area, and their coverage time of women’s sports (Chaffee, 2017). The study found that these networks devoted only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports, which was actually a decrease by 1.8 percent in 1989 (Chaffee, 2017). The study also found that SportsCenter, one of the world’s largest viewed sports networks averaged only 77 seconds of airtime to female athlete stories, almost 50 percent less than male athlete’s stories (Chaffee, 2017). Once again, how can we watch women’s sports when they are nowhere close to having the same coverage of men’s?

Looking at the bigger picture, we come to the question of why aren’t we seeing equal coverage? One of the main arguments I can think of is that there aren’t as many leagues for females as there are for males, however, this is because the support for female leagues is not as aggressive as those for males. In fact, sport fans of both sexes prefer men’s sports to women’s (Tierney, 2003). But why is this? As mentioned above, it could be because sports have traditionally been a male dominated institution thought of as a building masculinity. And because of this masculine idea of sport, we see less coverage of women’s sports, and that coverage is usually lackluster and short, the only time we see coverage of women’s sports as inspired is when they are portrayed in idealistic feminine positions such as caring teammates, mothers, and spouses (Chaffee, 2016). But why does this cycle continue to happen? If women are now involved in sports at all levels, why does coverage remain low? Is it because we, as a society, still believe in the gender roles, and idea that women should not be the least bit ‘masculine’ or perhaps show their tough and competitive side? Or is it because people simply do not enjoy watching unenthusiastic coverage of sports?

It’s hard to determine one root cause for the lack of people watching women’s sports because there is perhaps too many that are woven together into a cycle we cannot seem to break. If we look at the disparity between sports both sexes play such as soccer and basketball, popularity of male teams is evident in coverage because men are said to be faster, stronger, and more athletic, attributes needed for those particular sports. For women, popular sporting events watched are tennis, gymnastics and ice skating, all events involving grace and beauty. The fact of the matter is, we continue, as viewers, to fall for this cycle that is completely gendered, one that makes us see certain sports as appropriate for female athletes. This cycle continues because the coverage of a specific sport that is deemed feminine is higher in production value and airtime than those considered more masculine such as basketball. We unknowingly view these sports and become reinforced to the concept of gender, and which sporting arena each gender belongs (Bodenner, 2015).  I truly hope the day comes that the audience chooses to watch sports solely based on talent, no matter the sex.

References

Bodenner, Chris. (2015)  ‘Why Aren’t Women’s Sports as Big as Men’s?’ TheAtlantic.com Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/women-and-sports-world-cup-soccer/395231/

Chaffee, Ian. (2017) ‘Forget about sexism: Now TV coverage of women’s sports is just plain boring’ USCNews.com

Retrieved from  https://news.usc.edu/127695/forget-about-sexism-now-tv-coverage-of-womens-sports-is-just-plain-boring/

Ottaway, Amanda. (2018) ‘Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports?’ Thenation.com

Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/why-dont-people-watch-womens-sports/

 

 

Female Image in Sport

by Mackenzie M.

The image women display in sport is often considered negative by fans, society, and other athletes. Women in general face sexism, lack of opportunity, stereotypes, and social expectations. Women in sport face all the same issues with the addition of a constant internal battle regarding what they are willing to sacrifice and compromise in order to further their competitive career. It is well known that female athletes tend to pose in magazines for campaigns or products in order to receive adequate financial compensation in their athletic profession; however, this leaves them open to sexual objectification and shifts the focus from their chosen sport to their physical appearance. Unlike men, women are rarely pictured in a manner that involves the sport they compete in. In the few photos women are featured in a sport context, the pictures are highly sexualized with the intention of making the athlete sexy and appealing.

Many would argue that if women wanted to be taken seriously in sport, they would not subject themselves to this kind of publicity; however, sports leagues do not pay women a tenth of what they pay their male athletes. This leads to women looking for other compensation options, which involves posing nude or in minimal clothing a majority of the time. One study declared “when sportswomen were given a choice regarding self-representation, they emphasized their physical power, strength, and athleticism” (Kane, LaVoie, & Fink, 2013, p.273). Some of the ways women modify their appearance involves maintaining a feminine appearance, avoiding aggressive behaviour, and establishing a heterosexual reputation (Davis-Delano, Polock, and Vose, 2009). Female athletes are aware that these elements can further their career, lead to endorsements, and increase their publicity; therefore, they expose themselves in this way. Anna Kournikova and Danica Patrick are two talented athletes that have benefitted from their physical appearance. Being physically appealing has garnered them more public support and more attention. Other female athletes are criticized for their overly muscular physique and displaying more masculine behaviour. Women are considered either too muscular for a female athlete or too thin to play competitively.

Sexuality also plays a role in the image female athletes portray to the world. Many women feel they must act especially feminine in order to avoid being called butch or gay. As a society, we make assumptions regarding the sexuality of individuals based on their body or image and female athletes are no strangers to these presumptions. Female athletes are more captivating to the public when they exhibit heterosexual actions. One opinion is that negative outcomes for women can be minimized if women adhere to hegemonic femininity (Butler, 1990). This version consists of “submissiveness, dependency, concern over physical appearance and emotional ability” (Hardy, 2015, p.155). It is also stated that in sports with a male majority, women have a higher chance of being labelled with masculine attributes. Simply participating in sport regardless of physique automatically subjects women’s image to evaluation. Despite their objectives to become great athletes, their task also includes looking desirable to the audience, in particular men, in order to be relevant in sport discussion. The need to focus so much time and attention on femininity becomes a deterrence for many female athletes; therefore, their desire to participate decreases. Unfortunately, our society is so obsessed with image, and as a result it has directly affected female participation in sport.

Sport in its purest form encompasses athletic ability, skill, and performance; however, as a society we have corrupted it and altered its primary focus to appearance whether on or off the field. In today’s sport, the trend consists of the most popular and successful athletes being the most attractive; however, in men’s sport appearance is rarely correlated with the success of their career. For women, success in sport is not only dependent on the hours they commit to training or the skills they develop, but on how the world sees them. Their careers can often be at the mercy of public opinion. This also sends a negative message to young girls who often look up to female athletes. They are left with the concept that beauty is necessary to be successful in sport and that athleticism, talent, and hard work come second. Women in sport should have the opportunity be seen as strong, capable, talented athletes while also being allowed to display a feminine or masculine image. “Samantha, a basketball player, chose to be photographed in a dress while standing in the gym as a way to combine her athletic and female identities” (Kane et al., p.273).

Image should be irrelevant in sport. As someone who played competitive hockey growing up, I quickly became a fan of watching the sport on TV and going to live games. The enjoyment I received from the sport was from witnessing teams go head to head to outperform one another in aggressive competition. My interest in hockey was not contingent on the attractiveness of the male athletes on either team, it was based on the amazing skill they possessed. Women are also fierce athletes who unfortunately have to deal with their skills being constantly overshadowed by their physical appearance. Attention does not always get paid to the best hockey, soccer, or rugby player, it is often directed to the athlete with the complete package. The athletes with a certain image that can sell merchandise or promote companies are the ones consistently talked about and supported. While playing girls hockey, I also witnessed the assumptions girls made about other girls in regard to their appearance. They would judge players on other teams based on how long their hair was, the clothes they wore, and how aggressive they were. Unfortunately, men are not the only ones who use image to attribute certain characteristics to individuals, women are also guilty of this. As athlete’s women endure endless scrutiny and face stereotypes; therefore, they must support each other and the decisions they make in their athletic career in order to break down the image barriers they face and redirect the focus of female sport.

References

Davis, L.R., Pollock, A., Vose, J.E. (2009). Apologetic behavior among female athletes: A new questionnaire and initial results. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 44(2-3), 131-150. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690209335524

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

Kane, M.J., LaVoi, N.M., Fink, J.S. (2013) Exploring elite female athletes’ interpretations of sport media images: A window into the construction of social identity and “selling sex” in women’s sports. Communication & Sport, 1(3), 269-298. DOI: 10.1177/2167479512473585

Model or Role Model

By Kendra U.

In the book Women, Media and Sport (1994), there is a section that focuses solely on reflecting gender values. Pamela Creedon’s purpose throughout this chapter is to expand insights on how the playing fields in sports (rinks, fields, courts) serve as a metaphor for gender values. She states that “at the most fundamental level, gender influences which games or activities are defined as ‘real’ sports” (Creedon, 1994).  The media will choose which sporting events they want broadcasted for the world to see. A majority of the time it is men documented and they are the ones categorized as ‘real’ athletes performing in ‘real’ sports. Media can make or break a sport or an athlete and I believe this statement is highly influenced by one’s gender in the sport environment.

Being a male is a privilege in the sport setting; they get opportunities that women do not. Women are not granted access to play professional sports that are broadcasted on television such as football, baseball, or hockey in the elite-level leagues that men do. This is most likely due to the fact that society perceives women as less qualified, powerful or physical than men (Creedon, 1994). Don’t get me wrong, women do have access to sports. Most of the time they have a place to play any sport that a woman chooses to pursue, however, not to the extent that men do. Since the beginning of organized sport, it was designed by and for white, middle class men. Still today, a sport must be appealing to men for it to be effective. It is assumed that male sports have mostly male spectators; while most women’s sports must be attractive for men and women spectators in order to be successful (Dworkin & Messner, 2002).

Male athletes get paid a significant amount to play sports on television, regardless of how good they are, or how often they play. Cristiano Ronaldo is a professional soccer player who has a salary of $58 million with an endorsement income of $35 million, meaning he has a total income of $93 million. Jason Spezza is a third line National Hockey League player for the Dallas Stars, meaning he does not play as often as most players and his salary income is $7.5 million. Keeping those salaries in mind, let’s looks at Serena Williams, an American professional tennis player who was the highest paid female athlete in 2017. Her salary was $8 million with $19 million coming from endorsements adding to a total income of $27 million. She was ranked number one in singles on eight separate occasions and her salary is a seventh of the ‘best’ male athlete. Thinking about these statistics is insane!

Most women athletes get paid much more from participating in commercials, posing in magazines or partaking in advertisements than just earning a salary from playing their sport. In short, you could say that female athletes must be a part time model aside from their great athletic abilities to survive in a sport career. With that being said, would a less attractive female athlete be able to make a living from sport? Most likely no, because they would not be chosen to be in those magazines and advertisements. If you are a professional male athlete, there is a high chance that you are very well known in the public eye.  If you are a professional women athlete you have to be very well known by the public; women need media to be a successful athlete and make a living out of their sport.

So, let’s get this straight, men are able to play professional sports that get broadcasted on television daily, do not have to worry about their appearance to succeed, while getting paid an outstanding amount that can provide for their families and much more. Women, on the other hand, can be excellent at their chosen sport, train and play as much as men do, while they are rewarded with little to no television broadcasting, extremely low salary compared to male athletes, cannot survive financially to support their family and must have part time jobs on the side. Women need to put way more effort and plea into their sport to get half of the benefits men do.

After gaining all of this knowledge, what can society do to improve these limitations that women athletes suffer? Firstly, from a young age, we can teach and inform children on gender equality. Parents could show no difference in toys or games that their kids play with at home. Coaches, recreational leaders or teachers in gym class should also do the same as they interact with children growing up. Along with teaching children, school systems should also provide the same opportunities for boys and girl; offer the same sports, uniforms, travel money, practice facilities and scholarships that boys have usually received much more than girls in the previous generations.  If children grow up believing that girls and boys deserve the same opportunities, there should be no surprises when it actually does happen in the future.

Lastly, I believe society and the media, needs to put more superiority and pride on women’s sport. People make such a big deal over men’s sport which is why they are the ones get broadcasted all of the time. If the public puts more focus and attention towards women’s sport it could be more successful, leading to women striving financially, solely through their athletic abilities regardless of all the other factors that currently make a woman a successful athlete. This could be done by perhaps having a women’s Stanley cup to fight for each year, or offering a Vince Lombardi trophy for women who play football. Having these big events for women would draw much more attention to female sports and ultimately lead to the media wanting to document it. If women can get more awareness, praise and commendation on their sports, they too, just like men, can be a role model rather than a model to succeed in sport.

References:

Creedon, P. J. (1994). Women, Media and Sport: Challenging Gender Values. Sage. Retrieved from:https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=kn85DQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=media+sport+and+gender&ots=hrlSiPBkGQ&sig=5bCSPHubmtbBGUtVXA6Yq7B7J1k#v=onepage&q&f=false

Scraton, S., & Flintoff, A. (2002). Gender and Sport: A Reader. Routledge. Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pGHK4I09ioAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA17&dq=media+sport+and+gender&ots=PSI9-CN_4z&sig=XxhttFD_z5UZqL2utvpJI8p9-LY#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Media’s Negative Portrayal of Women in Sport

By Ryan L.

“Despite the tremendous increase in female participation, many have argued that sport as an institution continues to perpetuate male dominance in society” (Darvin & Sagas, 2017, p.178). Although much progress has been made over the last century in portraying women as legitimate athletes in a variety of sports, there are still many ways in which we continue to marginalize them. The sports media industry, in particular, plays a significant role in the continued negative portrayal of female athletes. Whether it be through objectification, the use of sexist language, or even through the hiring of woman for sports television networks, the media continues to emphasize the masculinity of sport as a whole, while preserving the femininity of female athletes.

It is a well-known fact that men’s sport receives significantly more media coverage than their female counterparts; what often falls under the radar, however, is the difference in the quality of media coverage between males and females. “An investigation of the production–reception relationship for women’s events found that these broadcasts contained fewer camera angles, fewer special effects, and fewer shot types than comparable men’s events” (Darvin & Sagas, 2017, p.181). Due to the lack of effort to provide quality coverage of female sport in the media, viewers may be less likely to find female sports as exciting as male sports, which may contribute to the large gender differences in media coverage. In addition to this, female athletes often receive more media attention for their physical appearance, rather than for their physical abilities. Regardless of how far woman may deviate from the typical gender stereotypes in sport, they continue to be objectified. Take former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, for example. As a mixed martial artist, she possesses a number of “masculine” characteristics that are opposite of what society expects a female athlete to possess: aggressive, strong, powerful, and muscular. Despite her “manliness”, she can still be seen posing in a bikini on the cover of the popular Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. This type of objectification of female athletes in the media tends to mislead society into believing that in order for a female to succeed in the sports world, they must not only perform at a high level, but also look good while doing so. Along with the quality and type of media coverage that female athletes receive, the use of gendered language has also led society to portray sport as a male-dominated domain.

Although it may seem to be a minor detail when looking at the various factors contributing to media’s negative portrayal of women in sport, the language used in sports media can significantly impact the way we see sport. Fink (2015) used the term “gender marking” when reviewing the differences in media coverage between males and females; this refers to the “verbal and visual presentation of male athletes and men’s sport as being the norm, while rendering female athletes and women’s competitions secondary status” (p.333). Much of the language seen in today’s sports is gender marked; for example, the use of the word “Women’s” tends to be included for female sports leagues, while the word “Men’s” is often omitted in male sports (e.g., Woman’s National Basketball Association vs. National Basketball Association). Although it may go unnoticed, this type of language assumes that men’s leagues are the standard, while woman’s leagues come second. The use of gender-marked language can also be seen in sports commentary, where we often hear the term “female athlete” as opposed to “athlete”. Weiller and Higgs (1999) observed gender differences in media coverage of a men’s and a woman’s golf event, and found that gendered language was used 36 times in the woman’s event as opposed to just 8 times in the men’s event. As long as the media continues to imply that sport is a male domain through the language that they use, woman will continue to be limited in their opportunities to be respected as athletes. When looking at sports television networks specifically, female sportscasters generally play different roles than their male colleagues, which can also contribute to the negative portrayal of woman in the sport’s world.

As an avid sports watcher, I can recall very few times where I have seen a woman as a sports analyst; instead, they are usually responsible for recapping sporting events or interviewing athletes. Rather than being hired for their knowledge of sports and their ability to dissect different sports plays, females seem to be hired for their physical appearance and their ability to present news stories. Questioning the credibility of woman in the sports broadcasting field could potentially carry over to the actual sports setting, where woman may feel as though they are not as capable as men to excel in sports. Based on recent studies, evidence suggests that women are actually just as capable, if not more capable than men in their ability to present and dissect sporting events. Harris (2012) explored females’ credibility when commenting on male and female sporting events, specifically basketball; results found that both men and woman categorized as high sports watchers gave the female sportscaster higher dynamism and qualification ratings than the male sportscaster. If sports television networks can move towards a more equal distribution of male and female sportscasters, then viewers may begin to see that females are just as knowledgeable in the area of sports as men are, and may therefore shift society’s perception of sport as being more for males.

In order to continue to work towards gender equality across the sports spectrum, several adjustments need to be made in the way media portrays women’s role in sport. Media outlets need to emphasize the athletic qualities of female athletes, rather than objectifying them and persuading viewers to admire their physical attractiveness instead. Sports organizations and commentators need to be aware of sexist language, and work towards using more gender-neutral language in order to move away from the notion that males are the dominant gender when it comes to sport. Females working for sports media networks need to be recognized more for their ability to analyze sport rather than their ability to simply present sports news. With media being one of, if not the largest influencer on society’s perception of sport, major changes in this domain are crucial in order to provide an equal opportunity for woman participating in sport.

 

References:

Darvin, L., & Sagas, M. (2017). Objectification in Sport Media: Influences on a Future Woman’s Sporting Event. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 10(2), 178-195.

Fink, J. S. (2015). Female athletes, women’s sport, and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way, baby”? Sport Management Review (Elsevier Science), 18(3), 331-342.

Harris, K. (2012). Gender Stereotypes, Gender Segregation, and Credibility: Crossing the Lines in Sports Media. International Journal Of Sport & Society, 3(2), 137-159.

Weiller, K., & Higgs, C. (1999). Television coverage of professional golf: a focus on gender. Women In Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 8(1), 83-100.

Athletes and Androgen: Developments in the establishment of eligibility for women to compete in competition based on hormone levels.

by Jacob W.

The aim of this blog post is to educate stakeholders within all sport and recreation communities by bringing attention to the oppression of female athletes with androgen levels higher than what is deemed to be acceptable by governing agencies of sport, specifically the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The IAAF have, until recently, not allowed female athletes to compete as a woman if their body contained greater than the conventional amount of androgen hormones found in a woman’s body. In the interest of becoming knowledgeable to the plight of these athletes that have been oppressed, the following points will be discussed in this blog post. Firstly, a layman’s explanation of the function of the androgen hormones in the human body will be provided to the reader; secondly, the logic behind IAAF decisions will be elucidated; lastly, the process of changing the IAAF practice of exclusivity will be explored. In the concluding paragraph, the implications for stakeholders in the sport and recreation communities caused by these evolutions in the oppression of certain women will be expanded upon.

The two most prevalent types of the androgen gene are testosterone and androstenedione, which are linked to the male reproductive system and associations to having contained biological characteristics that are commonly associated to the stereotypical traits that have been used to identify the male gender (Simon, n.d.). For that reason, men have traditionally had much higher levels of the androgen hormones produced by their bodies than women. The hormones are naturally produced by a woman’s body as well, but the hormones typically play a different function in a woman’s body in comparison to within a man’s body. One of the principal roles that the androgen hormones plays for a woman’s body is to be processed into estrogen, which is commonly associated to having stereotypical traits that are commonly used to identify the female gender (Simon, n.d.).

The logic behind the IAAF decision to exclude women with high levels of androgen hormones from participation in competition was that the presence of greater than normal levels of these hormones in the female body provides the athlete with an unfair advantage compared to women with normal levels. Although the hormones can be naturally produced at higher amounts than what has been established as normal for the female body, in some instances athletes look to enhance their body’s production of androgens with illicit substances to increase their athletic performance (Devine, 2018). The IAAF claims that the intention behind their decision is to provide athletes with what they consider to be a fair and competitive environment, and to discourage athletes from taking and abusing banned substances that unnaturally enhance the body’s productions of androgens (Bermon, Vilain, Fénichel, & Ritzén, 2015). Even if the intentions of the IAAF are not to demonize athletes, this is effectively the outcome of their quest to fulfill their “responsibility to create a level playing field in female sport and … to protect the sport… carefully.” (Press Association, 2018).

Until recently, The IAAF had banned female athletes who were found to naturally have levels of androgen that are higher than a predetermined threshold from being eligible to compete in sport as a woman (Macur, 2017). This practice of oppressing certain women by not allowing them to compete in the IAAF based on the presence of androgens in their body has since been overruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2015, after an appeal to the hormone regulations for eligibility was granted for the interim. The CAS allowed the IAAF a two-year window to provide scientific documentation that supports the restoration of the ruling to ban female athletes with high androgen levels from participation (Kessel, 2018). The two-year period ended in the summer of 2017, and the CAS allowed for a two-month extension for the IAAF to submit their basis for the justification of reinstating the ban. After the additional allotted time the IAAF submitted documents to the CAS to have the appeal decision reversed, in the documents they stated that there is reason to assert the belief that abnormally high levels of the hormones in question increases athletic performance (Bermon, 2017). Despite the attempt to provide the CAS with sufficient evidence that elevated levels of androgen hormones in women can be attributed to an increase in sport performance, the IAAF could only provide proof of a 1 to 3 % increase in competitive advantage among female athletes whose bodies naturally have additional amounts of the androgen hormones (Bermon, 2017). Critics of the stance taken by the IAAF have noted that this documentation of the supposed advantage of a 1 to 3 % increase in athletic performance is negligible and that the recording of the increase in competitive advantage do not take in account other relevant variables that may impact the reported increase (Sőnksen, et al. 2018). The IAFF acknowledged this possibility as well in the documents that were submitted to the CAS, and ultimately could not deliver proof of the existence of a competitive advantage comparable of the difference between men and women which has been previously established as 10 to 12 % being present in women who have more than the typical number of androgens present in their body to those that do not (Sőnksen, et al. 2018). However, the new findings presented by the IAFF to the CAS were sufficient enough to once again prolong the official decision on a ruling by another six months beginning in January 2018 (Press Association, 2018).

The implications for stakeholders in the sport and recreation communities caused by these evolutions in the handling of this oppressed group of women are of a large scale. Decisions on eligibility that are made by CAS, which acts as the international authority for litigation, mediation and arbitration for sport tend to trickle down and in turn imposes itself upon sport and recreation communities. Stakeholders of these communities must educate themselves on not only the developments related to judgments rendered on the matter, but the makeup of the components involved as well, so that they can think critically, and make decisions that they come up with on their own. Most importantly, progressing to the establishment of an ultimate and inclusive environment for all people to participate in sport regardless of their hormonal output is in the best interest of humanity as implementing practices of inclusivity can lead to the widespread acceptance of people who have once been marginalized and oppressed in the past.

References

Bermon, S., Vilain, E., Fénichel, P., & Ritzén, M. (2015). Women With Hyperandrogenism in Elite Sports: Scientific and Ethical Rationales for Regulating. The Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 100(3), 828-830. http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-3603

Bermon, S. (2017). Androgens and athletic performance of elite female athletes. Current Opinion In Endocrinology & Diabetes And Obesity, 24(3), 246-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/med.0000000000000335

Devine, J. (2018). Gender, Steroids, and Fairness in Sport. Sport, Ethics And Philosophy, 1-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17511321.2017.1404627

Kessel, A. (2018). The unequal battle: privilege, genes, gender and power. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/18/the-unequal-battle-privilege-genes-gender-and-power

Macur, J. (2017). What Qualifies a Woman to Compete as a Woman? An Ugly Fight Resumes. The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://nyti.ms/2hsYvfW

Press Association (2018). CAS suspends controversial IAAF hyperandrogenism rule for six more months. Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-5289497/CAS-suspends-controversial-IAAF-hyperandrogenism-rule-six-months.html

Simon, J. (n.d.). Diseases & Conditions > Androgen. Healthy women. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/androgen

Sőnksen, P., Bavington, L., Boehning, T., Cowan, D., Guha, N., & Holt, R. et al. (2018). Hyperandrogenism controversy in elite women’s sport: an examination and critique of recent evidence. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-098446

Women’s Oppression in Sport

By Brandon B.

In class we have discussed that women are seen as the weaker sex, that it is their responsibility to take care of a child because they are more nurturing then males are. That the way women and men are represented in western civilization are sex symbols, stay-at-home moms, and that they are supposed to be subservient to men, and males are supposed to be seen as the money maker, the overall supplier, and this masculine emotionless being. Because of old traditions being placed on women to be confined to the house and keep it clean, they have no time to have leisure time when they are oppressed.

“Women in sport. These words mean different things to different people. For some they are a contradiction in terms. For others they are evidence and cause for celebration of women’s achievements in a progressive and equitable age” (Dewar, 1991). This quote seems like the perfect example of how both sides of the continuum are seen. Traditionally, men do not synonymize women and sport. It is usually men that are seen with the word sport, mainly because there are so many male dominant sports that the most popular.

In the NHL (National Hockey League), one of the most popular professional leagues, Manon Rheaume was the only female to play in a traditionally male dominant sport (Rutherford, 2017). She only got to play one period in one pre-season game for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and was invited back the next pre-season, but did not make the team. She put the stamp on the NHL that it is not just a men’s game.

Fast forward to 2014, and Shannon Szabados is suiting up for the Edmonton Oilers for a practice (Mertz, n.d.). Shannon was welcomed by players and fans alike with even Twitter wanting her to join the team if Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth could not make it to the next game. Global News reported that within 30 minutes that request for Szabados to play was retweeted 444 times. Unfortunately, Szabados did not get to play and instead Edmonton had a University of Alberta Golden Bears goalie be the back-up for their next game. In these instances, why are women not given the opportunity to compete against men. Both female goaltenders have played for team Canada, Szabados received a gold, and Rheaume received a silver. The opportunities are there. However, these teams are doing everything in their power to play hard and promote the game at the same time. Their view is most likely one that is saying women might get hurt in the process. These tend to be older white males, that do not want to see the sport differ from what they have seen and what they are seeing now.

In Dewar’s (1991) article, she speaks about the problem of letting the facts speak for themselves, which she disagrees with, because the “facts” are apparently all you need to know about a person, which is untrue. There are adversities and issues that must be overcome to be the person everyone is today, but in female athlete’s cases, is that ever spoken about? No. What is shared or cover is how much hard work they put into training or their family and support networks. These are the feel-good moments for the media.

Media oppresses women by determining what questions to ask and the odd requests that they make. For example, when Roger Federer won the Australian open on January 28th all the websites featuring the Australian open only displayed Roger Federer, and very limited material on the female singles winner, Caroline Wozniacki. Sport is a male dominated event, where the only places/sports females will be featured in are ones which are graceful or beautiful such as gymnastics or figure skating. Those sports, however, come the issue that what they wear is highly sexualized and leaves little for the stereotypical male mind to think about. This may be one of the reason why viewings of Olympic beach volleyball are so high. The camera angles the media chooses – for example, to show viewers of backsides of players in what is essentially bikini bottoms – exploits women. Any attempt to change uniform in the highest sporting stage will result in a fine. In our current world, where we are trying to be as inclusive, supportive, and understanding, we instead place limitations, barriers, and other obstacles in order to keep things the exact same year after year.

Unfortunately, unless there is change in a managerial position, places like the NHL, or the IOC (International Olympic Committee), will continue their simplistic ways to keep women engaging in a sport in a strictly feminine way. Women should be able to play in the same league as men and get paid the exact same amount as their male counterparts. In an instance where both men and women compete in the same stage, women should be allowed to compete in the same events as men. For example, women are not allowed to compete in Nordic Combined, which is Ski jumping and Cross-country skiing together in the same event. Yet, women are allowed to compete in the individual events. For some reason women have not been permitted to compete in one event that has two separate programs.

Women in today’s world face enough scrutiny from not getting career opportunities, not being paid equally, or under-utilized and that does not make it fair, it would not be fair if the genders were swapped and males were in that position. Women need to be given opportunities to grow, be able to support their family to their extent, and not have to be singled out as inferior in a social setting. Once women are included as much as men are, real progress will be made, and issues will become a thing of the past. Women’s input is just as important if not more important than men’s.

References

Dewar, A. (1991). Incorporation of Resistance? Towards an Analysis of Women’s Responses to Sexual Oppression in Sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 26(1), 15–23.

Mertz, E. (2014, March 5). Olympian Shannon Szabados practices with Oilers. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/1189619/olympian-shannon-szabados-practices-with-oilers/

Rutherford, K. (2017, September 23). Manon Rheaume realizes her NHL debut was ‘not just another game.’ Retrieved from http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/manon-rheaume-realizes-nhl-debut-not-just-another-game/

US Women’s Hockey – Aiming for Gold

By Cole M.

Almost a year after the United States Women’s Ice Hockey team won their case for annual salaries against Hockey USA with the threat of a boycott at the World Championships, they are search for a gold medal in PyeongChang. The Women’s national team also received parity with the men’s team on travel stipends, accommodations, per diems and disability insurance. Prior to the new settlement with USA Hockey, the women were awarded $6000 annually every Olympiad (4 years) along with travel expenses. USA Women’s National Team members will now receive close to 70,000$ annually along with all the same benefits and insurance as the men’s team (Angell & Raphael, 2017).

The next generation of Women’s Team USA can thank the current members of the team for the headway they made and road they paved. Not only will they benefit from annual salaries, allowing them to train full time without the distraction of employment or financial burden, they have also created an optimal training and developmental pathway. The new gender equity deal also aims at more publicity and marketing for the women’s program along with developmental camps and teams for women starting at younger ages, similar to men’s programs (Larkin, 2015).

With annual salaries, a bigger travel budget, better marketing and publicity what barriers are there to stop this juggernaut from capturing gold at PyeongChang? With three straight gold medals at the ¾ Nations Cup and four straight gold’s World Championships, the only gold drought the American’s are in, is at the Olympics.

Since their inception in 2008 the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) have been the home for most Canadian and American Olympians with the exception of some of the younger players still playing NCAA Division 1 in he United States. As a relatively new league, the NWHL it has had its ups and downs and in 2015 raised the league salary cap to $270,000 per team. This equals out to an average of $15 000 per player on an 18-player roster (Larkin, 2015). Facing financial difficulties in 2017, the NWHL was forced to reduce salaries, while the CWHL finally implemented pay to their players with a salary cap of $100,000 per team which equals out to $2000-10,000 per player (Sportsnet,2017).

While the top players (NWHL), which tend to be Olympians, have salaries up to $25 000 this is still not a sustainable living salary, especially to those training for the Olympics. But in perspective, the women who play on the American National Olympic Team will earn $70,000 from Hockey USA along with their salaries from their NWHL which would leave most players earning in the range of $80,000 to $100,000 before endorsements and royalties from jersey sales (Larkin, 2015).

While an Olympic Gold is about the only International medal these American women don’t have in their trophy case at this moment, the wait shouldn’t be long. With their only real competition coming from the Canadians north of the boarder that have fended off four straight Olympic Gold medals, the new annual salaries may be the key to defeating the Canadians. What these annual salaries have done for the American women is allowed them to focus all their time needed to train and practice for competition while eliminating the previous barriers of cost and employment.

Their status of being on the National team is considered their employment and allowed them to focus all their time needed on hockey or training for national events including the Olympics. While the Canadian women still hold on to their four consecutive Olympic Gold medals, those who play in the CWHL are not given respectable annual salaries and have to find employment elsewhere in order to put a roof over their heads, feed their families and all the while still trying to find the time needed to train and keep their status as an Olympic athlete.

This pay gap between the American and Canadian women has pushed the American’s into a professional athlete culture similar to the National Hockey League (NHL) and it’s players. While there is still a large monetary gap between NHL and the American women, their training routines, specialized programs, training facilities have allowed them to commit or dedicate all the necessary time needed to prepare for international competition while removing the previous barriers.

Almost a year after the American women have received annual salaries, many Americans are looking for and expecting a gold medal from their nation’s women. With the gold medal game set for February 22nd, the US Women’s team has set their goal of hearing their National anthem sung that day with a gold medal around their necks.

References

Larkin, Matt, (September, 2015). And The Highest Payed Player In Women’s Hockey Is. The Hockey News. Retrieved from http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/and-the-highest-paid-player-in-womens-hockey-is.

Sportsnet Staff, (September, 2017). CWHL Announces It Will Pay It’s Players In 2017-18. Sportsnet. Retrieved From http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/cwhl-announces-will-pay-players-2017-18.

Angell, I, & Raphael, T.J. (March, 2017). The US National Women’s Team Went After Equal Pay And Fair Treatment – And Won. PRI Sports. Retrieved from https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-03-30/us-womens-national-hockey-team-went-after-equal-pay-and-fair-treatment-and-won.