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

Advertisements

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.

Hoseback Riding and How it Empowers Young Women

by Ben A.

Everybody knows that sports are often dominated by hegemonic male ideals and that women often have a hard time enjoying these sports because of those ideals. Horseback riding encompasses “male concepts, such as hierarchy, orderliness and discipline” (Forsberg & Teblius, 2011).  In a woman’s teenage years, it is essential that they can feel empowered by sport, and horseback riding is just that. For me, it is an interesting idea that this activity, which was previously looked at as a male dominated activity can empower young women and give them freedom from socially constructed ideals of what a woman is supposed to be. It is understood that young women in their teenage years want to engage in leisure activities where they can feel safe (Forsberg & Teblius).

For young girls, there are many societal pressures to adhere what a woman is socially constructed supposed to be. In the article “The riding school as a site for gender identity construction among Swedish teenage girls”, riding offers a place for young women to be free of all societal pressures to conform. The young women who were interviewed mention that their riding friends consider themselves a “non-bothering gang”. They were not afraid to let their hair down and wear old clothes to the stable because they knew that they would not be judged. It is amazing to see a sport where women feel free to be who they are and not feel pressures to conform.

When I was younger, I participated competitively in track and field. On the outside, track may seem like a sport where there cannot be many pressures to conform of what it is meant to be a “track star”. That assumption would be wrong. There usually was always a new pair of shoes on the market that all of the good athletes would have and you just felt like to be included you had to have the same. The same went for clothing; many of the ‘good’ athletes would wear the most outlandish clothing and there was a pressure there to conform. I think this can relate back to the culture of horseback riding for young women as the adverse; in the stable there is only one goal, and that is to get the work done, and to do this it does not matter what you look like. The girls do not have to conform to the stereotypical body norms to be a rider.

In an ideal world sport would be a place where all genders can be free. Sport could be a place where your ability was not judged by the clothes you wore. I believe we are moving in the right direction as we see more and more accomplished women in sport being publicized in the media. It is great to see young girls being empowered by horseback riding which many years ago was dominated by men. Hopefully one day in sports, ability will only be judged by who somebody is as a person and not their gender, sex, age, or material holdings.

Forsberg, L., & Tebelius, U. (2011). The riding school as a site for gender identity construction among Swedish teenage girls. World Leisure Journal, 53(1), 42-56.

“You Throw Like a Girl:’’ The Effect Stereotypes Have on Women in Sport

by Cassie S.

From the beginning of a little girl playing peewee sports all the way to a young adult playing at a professional level, women are always stereotyped by society. They are viewed as the weaker sex and they are valued more on the physical appearance of the body and less on their actual performance. These stereotypes come from the traditional gender roles that have been created by today’s society. The stereotypes that young children are exposed to at such a young age and are raised into believing can have a huge impact on their athletic performance. Much research has been done on the correlation between stereotype threats and the under performance of female athletes.

A stereotype threat occurs when a person performs worse at a task due to extra pressure that is added because of a negative stereotype associated with their group’s performance (Hively & El-Alayli, 2014.) Women often underperform at an athletic task when thinking about gender stereotypes related to athleticism. When females begin to think about the negative stereotypes related to their gender and sport, it causes them to worry an extra amount about their performance. If they perform poorly, it would only (falsely) verify the negative stereotype associated with their group. This extra amount of worry leads to a large gain of pressure which leads to a poor performance.

These negative beliefs are preventing women from performing to their full potential in sport. Hively and El-Alaylo (2014) compared female athletes’ performance against that of male athletes under two circumstances: when a stereotype reminder was present and when the threat of a default stereotype was specifically removed. The study consisted of both male and female basketball and tennis athletes who performed at an elite level. All athletes were asked to perform two athletic tasks within their sport. At random, the participants were either told that there was a gender difference in performance or that there was no gender difference in performance on the tasks.

Results from this study determined two things: When participants were told gender affects task performance, women performed worse than men and when told there was no gender difference, women and men performed equally well. Results of this study show just how powerful these negative stereotypes associated with women and sport can be. Women have come this far in sport, yet still struggle with the stereotypes that society continues to attach to their sex. The facts are that women CAN throw and catch, kick and score goals. It is hard enough for women to breakthrough in sport without the extra pressure added to their performance due to these stereotype threats.

I believe that a great way for women to overcome the barriers that they face with stereotype threats is to look up to some of the amazing athletic female role models in sport today. For example, Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch is an amazing role model for any girl to look up to. She makes boys wish they could throw or run ‘’like a girl.’’ She is one of the best pitchers in softball history and an all around amazing softball player. You can watch the links below to see Jennie and Team USA in action!

http://larrybrownsports.com/everything-else/jennie-finch-blew-fastballs-by-adrian-peterson/235957

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPO1jWLZZrA

Although Jennie has retired from her softball career, she still continues to run camps and coach teams. She is still providing guidance, inspiration and motivation to girls of all ages to work hard to accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams. There are so many other positive female athletes in sport today that provide hundreds of examples of how strong females can be in the sport world today.

When someone tells me that I throw like a girl I don’t take it as an insult, I take it as a compliment. Throwing like a girl, to me, means throwing like Jennie Finch, which is something any female or male should be extremely proud of. Girls can perform just as well as boys in any sport, regardless of any stereotypes associated with their gender.

References:

Hively, K., & El-Alayli, A. (2014). ”You throw like a girl:” The effect of stereotype threat on women’s athletic performance and gender stereotypes. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 15, 1, 48-55.

Inequality of Women in Sport

By Zoran V

Inequality of women in sport has been around for many years. Dating back to Ancient Greece where women were not allowed to play sport but rather stay at home and take care of the children, cook, and take care of the house cleaning. This changed over time and women were soon given the opportunity to play sports. In todays society, there are still signs of inequality for women, for example – salary, game rules, opportunities, and participation rates to name a few. A BBC Sport study revealed that 30% of sports still continue to reward males more highly than women. Some of these sports include golf, cricket and squash (Katie Gornall, 2014). The biggest deficit seems to be in soccer, where the study revealed an example where a men’s and women’s soccer team received $1.8 million and $5,000, respectively.

There are many different stereotypes surrounding women in sport. Women are often viewed as fragile, feminine, quiet, and attractive (body image). Due to these stereotypes, women are often drawn away from sport. There are other reasons why women can be drawn away from sport such as constraints, body image, lack of self-confidence, and competitiveness. In order to keep women in sports and increase the participation rate, we as a society should include more recreational services that will attract women to participate. These services do not need to be competitive at all, just a form of physical activity that will get women back into sport.

Many sports have different game rules for women compared to men. An example of this would be hockey in which women are not allowed to body check where as men are. The fan base at men’s and women’s games might be different because of this. Some individuals just think that men’s sports are more fun to watch. I personally think women’s hockey is just as fun to watch as the men’s. In an article written by Rick Paulas “Why Women Will Never Beat Men in Sports” has some good arguments to look at. One of which includes the phrase “he/she throws like a girl” which to Rick, makes no sense. He believes that women are just as skilled at sport as men are. There are two distinct roadblocks making it look like that’s not case. The first one is the fact that females are not given as much instructions as males during their adolescence/growing-up-period (Rick Paulas, 2013). The other roadblock is that sports were made for designed for men, to be played by men. As far as we can remember, all sports were created in an era where women were viewed to be in the kitchen preparing food, and taking care of children. Paulas (2013) believes there are currently two categories for sports, male sports and females playing sports designed for women. He strongly disagrees with this notion that society has portrayed about women in sport.

The number of opportunities for women to go further in sport has decreased in my perspective. At a certain point in a woman’s sport career she will not be able to go any further in the sport. Women’s hockey for example, after university hockey there really isn’t a higher league for women to go that they will get paid thousands of dollars to play. Males on the other hand, are able to reach professional levels such as the AHL, and NHL and be getting paid as little as $500,000 in the AHL and over a $1 million in the NHL. Women are playing against women, and men against men, there is no difference and there should not be a difference in pay or level of play.

References:

Katie Gornall, 2014. Women in Sport still facing inequality over prize money.

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/29786682 (BBC Sport).

Rick Paulas, 2013. Why Women Will Never Beat Men in Sports.

http://www.vice.com/read/why-women-will-never-beat-men-in-sports

A Recent Example of Women Defying Stereotypes

By Chris Murray

For many years in the past, women have been seen as the “weaker” sex. They have been denied many rights through the years, such as voting, working, and taking part in sport. Statistics done by “Pay Equity of Ontario” show that in 2011, men were being paid 26% more than women for the same jobs. Although women may not yet be on the same level as men as far as wages and some other areas, there are definitely more and more women participating in sport and leisure activities as the years go on.

An example recently popped up in my life regarding gender differences in sport. I currently play, as well as referee intramural basketball every Sunday night. I play in a men’s intramural league, and referee both men’s and women’s games. The men’s league has twelve teams registered, whereas the women’s league has only four. As discussed in class, this gives an example of how particular sports seem to be male dominated. In the women’s league, there are two dominant teams and two teams that are less strong. To avoid blow-out games, the organizer fixed the schedule so that the two strong teams play against each other every week, and the two weak teams play against each other. The problem with this is that it has gotten very boring for the women, and they have begun to not even bother showing up to basketball. This has caused some of the women on these teams to be upset, because they go to the gym on their Sunday night expecting to play, and are told that the other team did not show up so there will be no game. Since the women’s teams barely ever show up, the two strong women’s teams decided to join up and form one team and play in the men’s league. I feel that it is a good thing that they are not intimidated to join the men’s league, since they know that they are talented players. The negative side is that there are now only two teams left in the women’s league, so it will probably be disbanded.

The women’s team was scheduled to play their first game in the men’s league recently, and I was assigned to referee the game. I was telling the men`s team that they would be playing the women’s team that night and the first comment from one of the players was “well we better not lose to girls”. It really shocked me to hear him say that because I thought that this younger generation was beginning to get away from sexism. It made me realize how prevalent that sexist talk still is. Being unhappy about the comment and knowing the skill of the women’s team, I told him that he better wait until he saw the final score to talk. Sure enough, the women beat the men’s team in a close game. Despite the size difference, the women won based on being far more skilled. I thought this was an excellent example of women defying stereotypes. They showed that they are not to be looked down upon simply because of their sex, and maybe now the men’s teams will take them more seriously.

Women’s Pay Inequality in Professional Tennis

By Aiden Hallihan

Across all professional sports, men have generally had the upper hand when it comes to cashing in on their winnings. Unfortunately, there are many sports where women are not even considerably close in terms of net income earnings compared to popular men’s sports. Such sports include: professional basketball, soccer, and hockey (Flake, Dufur, & Moore, 2013). Gender inequality is something that is far from being solved; however, in professional tennis women are narrowing the pay gap.

Growing up as a casual tennis fan, I have seen many Grand Slam titles in both the men’s and women’s division that ended up being thrilling, nail biting matches. From my perspective, I never looked at men’s tennis as being a more exciting game to watch. In fact, at one time men’s tennis was far more predictable, whereas with the women it was always a toss-up between who would win each tournament.

Over the years the prevalence of women’s tennis has skyrocketed. It is now the most popular women’s sport in terms of TV ratings and income (Flake et. al).  Four of the top 5 highest paid female athletes are tennis players (excluding advertisements). It is no coincidence that only three women cracked this year’s Forbes 100 Highest Paid Athletes list, and all three – Maria Sharapova, Li Na, and Serena Williams – are tennis players.

Women and men both have the option to play in 21 tournaments throughout their respective seasons. There are 4 Grand Slam tournaments and men and women receive equal payouts in these popular, nationally televised events (Flake et. al). However, the remaining 17 events see men make a lot more money than women. A popular rationalization used decades ago by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for men earning more was that they “work more” (Flake et. al). To me this is ironic because men play 3 sets in non-Grand Slam tournaments just like women. Only in Grand Slam events do men play 5 sets. Serena Williams once said on the hope of a possible change, “All the women players have agreed to it, but it’s not what [the tournaments] want at this time”.

I personally see no problem with women playing the same amount as men. As we have discussed in class,  why shouldn’t a women play as much as their male counterparts when it involves same sex competition. I think at the youth levels the rules should be the same so when the players grow up it will not seem like they are treated unfair. It would improve the gender equality and it would be a step in the right direction to equal values The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has 8 out of a possible 11 board members who are men which, in my opinion, may influence the decision to oppress women from playing the 5 rounds in Grand Slam events.

In a 2009 study, women earned on average 23.5 % less in net income compared to men’s tennis players on the season. (Flake et. al). For every non-Grand Slam tournament win, results indicated that women earned 23.4% less than their male counterparts. A myth exists that women’s tennis is less viewed than men’s, when in fact, women’s tennis actually attracts around the same amount of viewers. Does women’s tennis attract so many viewers because it involves flexibility, agility, nimbleness, intelligence, and a high pain threshold, which are characteristics of a stereotypical female as discussed in class? Not to take anything away from the sport, but I firmly think that there are men who watch women in short skirts play tennis just so they can see the women and not appreciate the sport; which is a sad reality.  In my opinion I believe this has some impact that influences television networks to use sex to sell women’s tennis.

Unfortunately, not many women’s sports that are overly aggressive or express “masculinity” are televised. As the sport of women’s tennis increases, hopefully tournament payouts will not be an issue in the near future. Professional tennis is the best hope at achieving gender equality in my opinion and one can see that the gap is narrowing.  All one has to do is look at the increasing popularity of rising Canadian tennis stars such as Eugenie Bouchard and America’s  Madison Keys – two young tennis players with the future of tennis rested on their shoulders. Ideally if women receive the same payouts as men in professional tennis it will help promote gender equality across other professional sports.

References:

Flake, C. R., Dufur, M. J., & Moore, E. L. (2013). Advantage men: The sex pay gap in professional tennis. International Review For The Sociology Of Sport, 48(3), 366-376.

http://www.wtatennis.com/board-of-directors

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/magazine/venus-and-serena-against-the-world.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0

http://time.com/3273225/why-womens-tennis-most-popular-womens-sport/

Are male coaches overpowering female coaches?

By Laura McNicholas

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

Society Putting the “Gay” in “Gay Athlete”

Meagan F.

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

Granpa doesn’t figure skate – How are we influencing the minds of our families throughout the ages?

By Devan F.

For the most part, all of our thoughts on gender and sport come from our parents at a young age. This can be both direct and indirect – from seeing our parents taking part in a certain activity to comments such as “you throw like a girl”. They may not be aware of what they are imprinting into our minds, or even how those ideas were imprinted into their own. Until this past century or two, most people were still in the mindset of the difference between boys sports and girls sports. Now these walls have been broken down for the most part around the world, but there are still those who discriminate against individuals in a sport that is usually occupied by the opposite gender. So how did our grandparents’ view of gender and sport affect our parents, and in turn affect us?

I think the ideas of one generation spill over into the next, whether we like it or not. From observing the actions of those we see as role models, there is an imprint in our mind of what it takes to be more like them (Rowe, 1994). Two good examples of this are my great grandparents. My great grandfather was in world war two and worked on the railroads, two professions that require the individual to be strong and tough. My great grandmother on the other hand, made quilts and worked at the local soup kitchen. So for their children, the father of the house was big and rugged with a dangerous job where he could get hurt, and the mother of the house was delicate, precise with her quilting and helped others who couldn’t help themselves. That trend travelled through the family tree. My grandmother (one of their daughters) lived on a farm where she milked the cows and collected eggs, while my grandfather moved the bales of hay and collected the meat from the animals. Their sons and daughters followed suit according to their gender.

The thought that a certain sport is meant for girls or boys was fabricated through the demands of the sport. Any activity that requires an individual to be gentle and graceful must be for women because they are the ones that have grown up with women knitting and milking cows, while the rough sports must be for men because we’ve been raised to shoot guns and do all the heavy lifting. Similar to mannerisms and basic human behaviours that we pick up on from our parents as an infant, ideas about how we should behave towards certain situations are developed through observation (Pound, 2011). Until this idea is altered or removed, it will always be there in the back of our minds, affecting our every action. This preconceived idea of how we are supposed to act from our parents/grandparents combined with the social norms we are exposed to in our everyday lives will always work for or against our participation in an activity.

References

Pound, L. (2011). Influencing early childhood education: Key figures, philosophies and ideas.  Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

Rowe, D. C. (1994). The limits of family influence: Genes, experience, and behavior. New York: Guilford Press.