Issues Surrounding Media in Sport

by Jacob B.

Social media is a double-edged sword that has the potential to bring viewers together to give rise to a voice to people or groups that are willing to engage with it. However, social media has the potential to turn into a virtual warfare. Anthony Carmona describes social media as an “envisaged function of creating a positive communication link among friends, family, and professionals. It is a veritable battleground, where insults fly from the human quiver damaging lives, destroying self-esteem and person’s sense of self-worth” (Carmona, n.d). This quote relates to the effect that media has on the sport by altering the way people view certain sports and to the levels of participation in different athletics. Due to the way media portrays sport with stereotypes and stigmas, there has been a steady decrease in the rates of participation in sports form 1992 (approximately 45.1%) to 2010 (approximately 25.8%). A decrease of 20 percent has been seen in a span of 18 years, affecting more females than it has male participants. Media uses methods of live coverage, magazine covers, and poor commentary to sculpt the public’s views and beliefs on sports which gives rise to popular stereotypes that are ongoing in today society.

Representations of professional athletes in advertising – particularly in magazine spreads and the like (for example: Sports illustrated, Men’s Fitness, etc) serve to reinforce the socially constructed traditional male and female roles. Weber and Carini (2012) conducted a study to determine the difference in coverage between men and women in Sport Illustrated magazines from 2000-2011. Despite women being 40% of the total registered competition they only appeared on 4.9% of the Sports Illustrated covers. In 2009 women’s sport suffered its lowest live coverage of athletics from ESPN’s SportsCenter at 1.4%. Weber and Carini emphasize the fact that Sports Illustrated uses the lack of coverage to as a selling technique and to increase their popularity. Due to the limited coverage, when Sport Illustrated releases a magazine dedicated to women athletes, the public reinforces it by purchasing the articles that place women in poses that try to promote their physical beauty rather than their athletics.

Despite female athletes’ tendency to be seen as ‘overcoming’ traditional traits of femininity: that is, delicacy, fragility, and weakness, in media and in magazines they are brought back to being objects of male gaze. While dominating in their chosen field of sport or athletics, when placed on the cover of a magazine they resemble stereotypical images of women. If an individual was to do a simple Google search of male cover athlete for Sports Illustrated and compared them to female cover athletes, the difference is self-evident. Men are shown wearing their gear and often in an intimidating or aggressive pose, whereas women are placed in poses that makes them look laid back and appealing to an outside gaze.

During the opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Winter Games, Tongan athlete, Pita Taufatofua marched out carrying his country’s flag wearing nothing but a traditional Tongan mat. CBC provided coverage from three reporters (a male and two female) during his walkout the women reporters emphasized on the athletes body image stating “he always comes to the opening ceremonies topless and greased up – I have no issues with that” too many this does not seem like a big issue until the male reporter replying to the comment’s about the athlete by saying “you have gone through the whole scenario and yet, you haven’t mentioned his name, which is Pita Taufatofua and he’s a cross country-skier”. This portion of CBC’s coverage raises thoughts to how this situation may have been viewed publicly if the roles were reversed, and it was men talking about a female athlete in a similar fashion. Or if a women wore similar attire during the opening ceremonies, would the media praise her the same or would they criticize the women for wearing such revealing clothes and oiling up her skin?

In recent years sports have become more accepting of homosexual athletes, however, it comes with a price. Since the first appearance of AIDS, the disease has been tied to and associated with homosexuality. Because of this social stigmatization, AIDS is viewed as the fault of homosexual athletes and thus the media and public subjugated the athletes and in turn, AIDS were viewed as a form of punishment for those who engage in sexual activity. Heterosexual men who participate in sexual activity have more leeway with the responsibilities of the outcome of their encounters because it is viewed as a hegemonic masculine trait. Understandably this is a major concern and has a direct correlation with athletes who are not public with their sexuality.

The media has come a very long way with the faults that it has, however, there is still a lot more that can be done. When media is capable of providing a form of gender equity, the stereotypes will diminish and therefore a safer sporting environment will be available where individuals will not be in fear in participating in a sport outside the “norm” or won’t feel like they need to hide their sexuality in fear of being discriminated against. Emma Watson said that “ Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.” (Watson, Goodreads, n.d) sport shouldn’t be a reason to hide a part of who you are, or limit you from participation.

References

Weber, J. D., & Carini, R. M. (2013). Where are the female athletes in Sports Illustrated? A content analysis of covers (2000–2011). International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48(2). Retrieved February 15, 2018.

Facts and Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.caaws.ca/facts-and-stats/

Wachs, F. L., & Dworkin, S. L. (1997). There’s No Such Thing As A Gay Hero. Sage Journal, 21(4), 327-347. Retrieved February 15, 2018.

Carmona, Brainyquote, n.d. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=Anthony+Carmona

Wight, C. (2018) Leisure Meanings+Sport Participation Rates. Retrieved from https://lms.unb.ca/d2l/le/content/129657/viewContent/1398260/View

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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.

Training Behind Enemy Lines: Canada’s Elite Female Hockey Players Choosing NCAA Over U-Sport

By Alex E.

Historically, women’s professional hockey has been a clash of the Titans between the United States and Canada, the two powerhouse countries in the sport. Virtually every Olympic and World Championship final since the commencement of international play has featured these two teams with each besting the other on multiple occasions. Furthermore, it is a rarity for these programs to experience defeat by any other country.  With this type of rivalry, one would assume that members of these organizations would want nothing to do with the opposing country’s program. Surprisingly, this is false, as we are experiencing an ongoing epidemic of players crossing the border according to a study by Locke and Karlis (2014). Since 2014, there has been an exodus of Canada’s best and brightest up and coming hockey players to College and University programs south of the border. The decision to enter the United States is influenced by the funding of the programs themselves, the financial aid these schools provide, and the elitism of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA; The Globe and Mail, 2017). An exodus, defined as a departure or immigration of a large number of people by Merriam-Webster, is not an exaggeration as the number of Canadian female players who left the country was approximately 400 in 2014, and that number has been growing every year since. With several arguments placing the birth of ice hockey in this great nation, and with Canada known internationally as THE hockey nation, it seems very strange that our players are required to leave the country to further their hockey careers (Locke & Karlis, 2015).

It should be noted that as of 2016, around 30% of the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey players were Canadian, but this is due to personal choice and not lack of opportunity (CBC Sports, 2018). There are a plethora of opportunities for male hockey players to take them on the path to professional hockey. Elite leagues start at a young age and are available to the players until they are of the age to join professional associations if they are skilled enough to do so. In most cases, male university hockey players have come up through these leagues and have made the conscious decision to delay an education for a couple of years with the possibility of becoming a professional. When this does not occur, they enrol in an institution that allows them to continue playing while they earn a degree.  The female experience is very different from the male experience. Although the elite leagues at younger ages are open to both males and females, there comes the point in time, usually near the end of high school, where these leagues are no longer a viable option, and the female players are left without an elite league to play in. Consequently, female hockey players join university hockey programs straight out of high school, being comparable to men’s Major Junior or even a semi-professional league. This can also be said of several other Collegiate sports, as National programs hand pick athletes directly from NCAA and U-Sport teams. If university hockey serves as their ticket to the Canadian National Program, it would be expected that these athletes would choose the program or school that would give them the best chance of success. Unfortunately, the NCAA appears to be the avenue for success for these women. To demonstrate the difference between men’s and women’s avenues, the rosters for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics for both men’s and women’s hockey were analyzed to see where players resided before becoming professionals. Of the 23-player roster for the men’s team, only four players were from NCAA programs; the rest were spread out across Canada in the QMJHL, OHL and WHL before being drafted to the NHL (IOC, 2010). The women’s team however only had 3 of 19 players who were not playing in the NCAA. Furthermore, 6 of the top 10 scorers in the tournament were Canadians playing in the NCAA (Locke and Karlis, 2015). This is just another example of how little women have compared to men in the Canadian sporting context at not only the elite level but at every level.

The relevance of all of this has increased in the past year, especially here at the University of New Brunswick for a couple of reasons. First, it is an Olympic year, meaning that all the issues that come with women’s hockey, not only in Canada, are put in the spotlight more so than in non-Olympic years. Second, our university is in preparation for the return of our women’s varsity hockey program, raising the question of if we will be able to be competitive and even increase the level of competition in Canada. Increasing competition is a critical concept as raising the level of play in the country is essential for keeping our best players north of the order which creates massive benefits for the nation, as outlined by Locke and Karlis (2005). First and foremost, operation budgets for university programs are comprised of both funds from the university, but also from alumni donations. If our best players are alumni of American schools, their contributions will be to another country and not our own. An exodus of players also eliminates role models for the younger players as instead of being able to watch them play every weekend like what occurs with Canada’s best male players; there is no opportunity to view the best female players. Finally, there is nationalism and enhancement of the sport lost. Now it is clear that the problem is systematic, and there is no easy fix, but something must be done. It does not seem just that our male players can thrive in the country that they grew up in and represent on the international and Olympic stage, but our female players are not given the same resources and opportunity. Even with this vast difference in development within the country, excellence and gold medals are expected of both the men’s and women’s programs. It will be interesting to see how the UNB women’s hockey team does in upcoming years as well as U-Sport women’s hockey as a collective.

 

References:

Canadians in Frozen Four happy to have chosen U.S. for hockey | CBC Sports. (2018). CBC. Retrieved from
http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/ncaa-frozen-four-canadians-1.3524061

Canadian universities have a game plan for wooing top athletes. (2017). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved
from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/canadian-university-report/canadian-universities-have-a-game-plan-for-wooing-top-athletes/article36634827/

Exodus. (2018). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exodus

IOC (2010) Men’s Ice Hockey: Team Canada Tournament Standings and Statistics.

Locke, M., & Karlis, G. (2015). Canadian Women’s Hockey: Concerns and Concerns. The Sport Journal.
http://dx.doi.org/10.17682/sportjournal/2015.020

Gender Fan Support and Media in Sport

by Nicola S.

Female University student-athletes put in the same amount of dedication, commitment, time, and determination as male athletes, so why is it that we are still seeing a difference in the amount of fans at both games. I witness this divide every year as I play on the UNB Women’s Soccer team. Our games are right before the men’s game, and it is clear to see the trend of fans filling the bleachers near the end of our game in order to see the men’s game kickoff. Of course, being a female athlete, I can say I am very used to not having a huge fan base compared to the men’s team, but that does not mean I am not affected by it. Balish, Deaner, and Lombardo (2016) record that from 1995 to 2011, the German men’s national soccer team attracted six times as many TV viewers as the women’s national team did. Several studies have been done providing reasons why fans may prefer to watch men play sports rather than women, and in my opinion, media coverage plays a huge role in this trend.

Historical View of Gender Roles

The traditional view of gender roles from decades ago has produced the portrayal of sport as being ‘masculine’ in today’s society. Discussed in lecture and seen throughout research, are two key words: sex and gender. Sex refers to the biological differences of males and females. However, it is the word gender that causes a greater debate. It refers to society’s expectations of what it means to be considered a female or a male, and due to historical phenomenon, what is means to be therefore feminine or masculine. In a sporting context, gender differences are made even clearer as females are portrayed in a way of beauty rather than athleticism. Articles have consistently broadcast that men in sports, living up to expectations, are accustomed to showing fans their “strength, athleticism, competitiveness, risk, and excitement, ” and females just aren’t biologically built for it. Of course, there are statistics proving that men do become physically stronger than women. At age thirteen there is a shift such that by age 15, boys are around 12 percent stronger than girls in their lower body and 23 percent stronger in their upper body. Research indicates that by age 17, boys are 50 percent stronger than girls in lower body strength (Kelley, 2017). It is these statistics that have shaped why our society defines sport as ‘masculine’ and is why people are more attracted to watching men play a ‘man’s game’. This stereotype between masculinity and sports is, and will be, tough to crack as people are so indulged in such statistics.

Media Coverage Among Female and Male Sport

Although the evolution over the last four decades of women’s sport has been exceptional, the media coverage has not. Media is a system that is so powerful to everyone who is a part of it and can create a ripple effect of feelings towards whatever it is portraying. Media does not necessarily reflect reality; it constructs it and strongly influences our beliefs, values and attitudes concerning ourselves, others, and the world around us. That being said, Ottaway (2016) declares that about 90% of sports editors are men. If the majority of people broadcasting these sport stories, pictures, news’ articles are men, then the majority of media will have men as the focus of display. As previously mentioned, the historical view of males and females has dominated into the 20th century and media is only making it worse. It is an unfortunate trend because the money goes where the audience is, which only continues this downward cycle. Ottaway (2016) reviews some quotes broadcasted in the media for the world to see:

“It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it.” Sportswriter Paul Gallico, 1936

“Well, the vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…. The baggy uniforms don’t help.” –Bill Simmons, HBO sports personality, circa 2006

“Women’s sports in general are not worth watching.” –Sports Illustrated contributor Andy Benoit on Twitter, 2015

From 1936 to 2015, the media has proven to continue to display the division between males and females and further discourage women from engaging in competitive sports. The lack of media coverage for women’s sport has lowered the desire for people to watch women play, which happens at all levels of sport.

Lack of Fans

In my personal experience, as I previously mentioned, there is a clear difference in fans at our soccer games compared to the men’s games. I have heard several people say, “The men’s game is just more fun to watch.” This is a common theme among University sports. Their game is perceived as being faster, more aggressive, and more exciting and therefore more ‘worth the watch.’ However, I believe it is this notion of sport as a ‘man’s game’ constructed decades ago that is still affecting even University female sporting events today. This stereotype will not change overnight, however with a shift in media coverage towards publishing an equal number of men and women in sport, change will begin to occur. Again, media is the core of changing perspectives and can easily do so with its power. As soon as the connection between sport and masculinity disappears, it will be a level playing field. This will without a doubt increase the number of fans and therefore switch the direction of this trend towards gender equality in sport.

References

Balish, S. A., Deaner, R. O., & Lombardo, M. P. (2016) Sex Differences in Sports Interest and Motivation: An Evolutionary Perspective. Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences. Vol. 10, No. 2, 73–97

Kelley, C. (2017, Sept 11th). How Gender Stereotypes Affect Athlete Development. US Lacrosse Magazine.

Ottaway, A. (2016). Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports? The Nation.

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.

References

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

Pink Camouflage

by Carson M.

For thousands of years both men and women have chosen to participate in hunting, whether it be for leisure or survival. In the past hunting served as a means of survival, providing food, clothing, shelter, and goods for trade. Researchers have found data that suggests that in ancient aboriginal tribes, the opportunity for women to hunt was much lower than it was for males due to gendered division of labor in the community. They stated that in the past women received a great social gain from tending to domestic needs (children and ‘cooperative partners’), while men hunted to provide for the community. As time progressed and nations were industrialized, hunting for food and goods was no longer required. From this it was determined by researchers that males continued to hunt even when not necessary due to an instinctual inclination.

Women have been unfairly segregated from the mainstream hunting community due to men resenting the idea of their participation. In the past, magazines have received negative feedback from male readers when publishing articles and images that involved women participating in the activity. Males have made unfair statements regarding these publications such as “women do not fit the hunter profile”. I have personally experienced this as in the past, my friends that I have gone on hunting trips with have been reluctant to bring along their girlfriends as they believed that it was an activity that should only include “the boys”. In my opinion the stereotype that only white, middle aged, working class males from rural areas can enjoy and participate in the leisure activity of hunting is very dated and results in the formation of many barriers that are very hard for people outside of that population to overcome. This stereotype can be supported by a US Census which found that 94% of hunters are white, 72% of hunters are between the ages of 35-64, and 89% are male. Despite these stereotypes, in 2015 an article was published that was titled “Hunting is for Girls” which contains data showing a 43.5% increase in woman hunters from 2003-2013. These numbers were interesting to me as it represents what appears to be a breakthrough for women into a historically male dominated activity.

The female participants in the specific study that I looked at before writing this post were asked the question “what does being a woman hunter mean to you”. The following statement from one of the participants in the study observing females that participate in hunting really stood out to me… “I don’t see myself as different from any male hunter. I have also been in situations that were not typical for women… I am not a ‘woman hunter’ I am just a hunter like everyone else.” The outlook that this participant has on a traditionally male dominated activity is very positive. If that outlook were to be shared by more females and males began encouraging females to participate in activities that they enjoy rather than making them feel unwelcome or out of place, we could collectively break down many of the barriers that are currently creating the gender divide in this activity. If this were accomplished, I believe that more women would find enjoyment in the activity of hunting, and participation rates would continue to increase.

Reference:

Keogh G. S. (2016). Pink camouflage: Reshaping the gendered nature of hunting in the twenty-first century. Society & Leisure / Loisir & Société, 39(3), 481-499.

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.

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

by Megan C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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