Boycotting Hockey World Championships Draws Attention to Pay Equality

by Marie O.

The United States (US) Women’s hockey team announced recently that they would be boycotting the Hockey World Championships set to start in April hosted in Michigan. This comes after negotiation around pay have failed to meet the demands of the Women’s Hockey team. The boycott delivers direct action on an issue that is often overlooked in sports, the gender pay and opportunity gap in sport. In an article by Sportsnet, it was cited that the women’s hockey team only plays nine games a year in non-Olympic years and receives a small amount of funding, around $1000 a month for the six months before an Olympic games. The rest of the time USA hockey does not provide any funding for the women and many of the women on the team  work other jobs in addition to being elite athletes. The boycott is now one of many demonstrations, that have occurred following the election of Donald Trump, who’s presidency does not have a direct link to this issue, but does show how demonstrations that echo the era of second wave feminism have gained popularity again and sports is no exception.

The Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act is the cornerstone on which the US Women’s hockey team is forming their argument from. The Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act,  as cited by the Pat Iverson in her news article on the issues, ensures that sport organizations are required “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis” (Iverson, 2017). The simple of comparison of the funding of male hockey players by USA Hockey is bleak with the men’s national team receiving $3.5 million a year (Waldron, 2017). This figure alone demonstrates the lack of equality in funding.

The lack of funding and opportunity for women’s hockey to gain momentum exemplifies what has been discussed in class. The opportunities that girls have to participate in sports, in particular high level sports is limited at best and while young boys are able to see role models and have the understanding that there is a possibility to excel and make a living playing sport, girls do not nor is this a reality for women who have become professional hockey players as many of them have careers in addition to being athletes.

When looking at this issue of equal opportunity and funding in a Canadian context, it isn’t as bleak through programs such as Own the Podium the funding available for the Women’s Hockey team is significantly more (Spencer, 2017).  While the situation in Canada is not perfect, it is better in financial term although it terms of opportunity we do not have to look far to see that opportunity is lacking. As many people, have shared in class there aren’t many opportunities for women in recreation league or in competitive leagues to participate. Does this gap exist because women’s sports aren’t as exciting? Or is it because women athletes don’t fit the traditional view of how women should act? Both probably have some truth but moving forward boycotts such as the one by the US Women’s Hockey team will hopefully change the answers to these questions.

References:

Iverson, P. (2017, March 15). USA women’s national hockey team to boycott 2017 World Championship over fair wages. SBnation. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2017/3/15/14934002/united-states-womens-national-hockey-team-boycott-2017-world-championship-equal-pay-usa-hockey

Rutherford, K. (2017, March 14). Why the U.S. women’s hockey team is boycotting the world championships. Sportsnet, Retrieved from http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/u-s-womens-hockey-team-boycotting-world-championships/

Spencer, D. (2017, March 15). U.S. women’s hockey team threatens boycott over wages. CBC. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/winter/us-women-hockey-threaten-boycott-wages-1.4025895

Waldron, T. (2017, March 15). U.S. women’s hockey team will boycott World Championship tournament over fair pay. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-hockey-team-fair-pay_us_58c94af7e4b09e52f55503a2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unexpected consequences of Title IX for female coaches

by Paige H.

The purpose of this blog will be to look at the lack of female coaches in collegiate sports, and how it has changed since the implementation of Title IX.

Women typically have to be “nicer” than men in order to exercise equivalent power and authority; this then in turn reaffirms gender stereotypes (Ridgeway, 2001). In addition to gender stereotypes there are four main barriers that are repeatedly examined in reference to the professional opportunities for female coaches. The four barriers include unequal assumption of competence, homologous reproduction, homophobia and lack of female mentors (Kilty, 2006).

Prior to 1972, when Title IX was signed and implemented by Richard Nixon, it was “lesser” of a job to coach women’s athletics because of the lack of visibility and interest in women’s sports as a whole. With the lack of men interested, women were able to dominate that coaching field, but after Title IX, the numbers of female head coaches has plummeted with the sudden interest in it from their male counterparts. As women’s sport opportunities became more pervasive, men increasingly filled coaching positions (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013).

An unexpected result of Title IX, especially at the intercollegiate level, is the decrease in the proportion of women serving as coaches of women’s teams (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013). In 1972, women coached over 90% of women’s teams; while as of recent years only 42.4% of women’s teams were headed by female coaches (Kilty, 2006). Not only are those numbers decreasing, but also the coaching positions in which women tend to fill now are also at lower levels of competition and also in traditionally “feminine sports” (Reade, Rodgers, & Norman, 2009). The percentage of female head coaches coaching male teams has remained constant over the past 30-40 years, at 2% (Kilty, 2006). This is troubling because despite the highest level of female athletic participation, thanks to Title IX, females have experienced a decline in coaching at all levels of educational institutions. Within Division I schools in the NCAA, women coaches are more frequently found in more prestigious, resource richer institutions and those that devote more resources to sport (Welch & Sigelman, 2007). The same study found that women head coaches are less likely to be found in traditional institutions, where gender roles are still highly thought of, examples of this would be religiously affiliated institutions and private schools.

Homologous reproduction is the process whereby dominants reproduce themselves based on social and/or physical characteristics (Stangl & Kane, 1991). This is vital to the understanding of why coaching is such a male dominated field. Therefore, the employment relationship between gender of athletic director and the head coach, for example, would be considered; as there is a direct relationship between the gender of the person being hired and the gender of the person doing the hiring (Stangl & Kane, 1991), this study also stated that homologous reproduction reproduces male hegemony.

Athletic departments have been regarded as one of the purest manifestations of hegemonic masculinity (Welch & Sigleman, 2007). This is important because through studies it was found that this is where homologous reproduction is a major factor preventing the advancement and hiring of female coaches. 71.4% of athletic programs in the NCAA are directed by a male, which is a 5:1 ratio in comparison to females (Kilty, 2006); according to Stangl and Kane (1991), the beliefs expressed by male athletic directors appear to be based more on a gender stereotypic bias about female competence than on any objective data. Managers and leaders tend to select those to fill positions that they see as “their kind”, and it repeatedly reproduces itself through its own image (Stangl & Kane, 1991), making it an increasingly difficult barrier for women to overcome. Homologous reproduction explains the dramatic reduction in the number of female coaches since Title IX has come into effect. Typically when women are judged for promotion in comparison to her colleagues, gender stereotypes prevail, placing additional pressures on women to especially establish themselves as competent that men typically don’t face (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

There are very few female mentors in which new female coaches can look up to for guidance. This is vital because there are now more women experiencing and participating in sports than ever, because of the implementation of Title IX, yet the amount of female head coaches is at an all time low. The impact of mentors on a professional career is substantial, and combined with the lack of women in the profession of high performance coaching, it becomes problematic for young women who aspire to coach (Kilty, 2006). This means that there needs to be a bottom up approach, rather than the top down approach in which was supposedly instilled. In doing so we inform the grassroots and mass participation level, which tends to be more flexible, and work our way up; rather than starting at the elite, more concrete level and trying to funnel it down. There will in turn be pressure for the athletic departments to conform to what the bottom is doing and what the athletes coming through have come to expect, which is equality and equal representation.

References:

Cunningham, G. B., & Sagas, M. (2002). The differential effects of human capital for male and female Division I basketball coaches. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport73(4), 489-495.

Eagly, A., & Carli, L. 2007. Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Kilty, K. (2006). Women in coaching. The Sport Psychologist20(2), 222-234.

Reade, I., Rodgers, W., & Norman, L. (2009). The under-representation of women in coaching: A comparison of male and female Canadian coaches at low and high levels of coaching. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching4(4), 505-520.

Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. Journal of Social issues57(4), 637-655.

Stangl, J. M., & Kane, M. J. (1991). Structural variables that offer explanatory power for the underrepresentation of women coaches since Title IX: The case of homologous reproduction. Sociology of Sport Journal8(1), 47-60.

Welch, S., & Sigelman, L. (2007). Who’s calling the shots? Women coaches in Division I women’s sports. Social Science Quarterly88(5), 1415-1434.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equality – A Rugby Story

By James M.

Sport has always been a very big rock in my life. It is something I personally use for stress relief, my physical needs, social needs, and the list goes on. I’ve played so many different sports at so many different levels, but I have never engaged in a sport more inclusive than rugby. I can still recall the first time I played in middle school, we picked teams to play in a scrimmage out of a hat – gender aside – and played full contact. I was 12 at the time and thought nothing of it. Even to this day, I still practice and scrimmage with people of both genders. Clearly, as I grew up we were separated through gender as is every sport and more so by the level in which you played, but that was it. The biggest difference with rugby is there is no difference in the rules or the way the game is played based on what gender you are, if you’ve never played before or you’ve been capped by your country, and the field, ball, and equipment are all the same.

I recently read an article about an individual who would presumably agree with everything I feel and have stated, but continues to push the barriers even further. Jaye Cora is a winger for the University of Georgia who is gender neutral/trans and prefers the terms “they” and “them” instead of “he” or “she”. Jaye was actually on the verge of giving up on sports because they thought they would never be respected, until they found rugby. Even at the highest level of rugby they look to be as inclusive and fair as possible, with World Rugby`s Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Disorders of Sexual Differentiation (DSD) Policy as well as the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2015 between World Rugby and the IGR (international Gay Rugby) . These are all ways in which rugby as a sport and culture is trying to be accepting of every human.

I wanted to share that little story because it shows you that not only is rugby gender neutral in the sense of how the game is governed, what you play on, and what you play with but it is breaking barriers past that. Rugby, I believe, is a leader for sports in the sense of equality for all. It’s funny because society tends to stereotype women as individuals that don’t enjoy aggression, that don’t like getting dirty, and rugby throws these stereotypes right out the window and I’ve seen that first hand. Society tends to paint a picture that portrays woman as someone who would rather have a nice evening in reading a book and having some wine, but if you are the kind of person that would rather be covered in mud and bruises and enjoy a few cold beverages after a hard fought game rugby says, right this way. Rugby’s not only a game but it’s a culture and until you are immersed in it it`s hard to fully understand how accepting it really is because of its hard exterior.

So if one of the toughest sports on the planet is so open to equality, what’s taking so long with all the other more mainstream sports like hockey, football, and baseball? Females at a younger age can play with boys and it can be full contact, but when they get older and it switches to all-female you take away the hitting (in hockey), or the over hand pitching. This just doesn’t make sense to me. There is a bright side – more frequently we are spreading light on these issues of inequality and asking the right questions and I believe that if we continue to do so we will see a significant change to what society considers the norm, just hopefully it will be sooner than later.

References:

World Rugby signs historic agreement with International Gay Rugby. Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://www.worldrugby.org/news/59705?lang=en

Defabio, A. (2016, March 02). Trans Community Weighs in on USA Rugby Rules. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.goffrugbyreport.com/news/trans-community-weighs-usa-rugby-rules

Molnar, G., & Kanemasu, Y. (2016). Challenges of Exploring Women’s Resistance in Post-colonial Hegemonic Masculinity.

Females Show their Game Face as Competitors but Not as Coaches

By Darrion S.

Women’s’ participation in sport is becoming more prevalent than ever, yet there is still little representation of them in leadership roles. Sport can have a positive effect on developing females, however, there is a still a significant lack of opportunities for women to develop sport when they are adults. Coaching is a job market where women have not made significant progress within recent years. Salaries in sport do not compare when considering gender and the lack of professions available for women. In the USA, there is only one full-time assistant coach working in the National Basketball Association and the Women’s National Basketball Association shows that 50% of head coaches and 43% of assistant coaches are men (Berri, 2015). If much of coaches are male, then female children are less likely to consider their opportunities in sport as adults. The gender gap may suggest that discrimination against women in the work force prevents them from moving into leadership positions in organizations. “Recent studies do suggest a significant gender gap in wages, after controlling for variables like education and work experiences that is constant with the presence of wage discrimination,” (Robertson p20, 2010).

In class, we discussed how cultural representation of women is typically sexualized; this inhibits women’s choice in professional coaching. Social control exerted over women based on their sexuality is a factor that affects how they perceive their opportunities. Unfortunately, sports media caters to a large demographic of men, therefore, women have a lack of gender neutrality. When the media sexualizes female athletes, women will inherently feel objectified and possibly rejected from any authority within that sport. A lack of authoritative figures in sports, such as officials and coaches, gives the subliminal message that sports are a place for males and not females. “The lack of female leaders is exclusion from social networks or an under-investment in social capital. It is hard to engage and benefit from social networking if you are in the minority,” (Robertson, 2010, p. 21). To increase the number of female coaches, there must be a cultural change in how woman are depicted in sport. If women are made to feel important in sport, then self-esteem and self-direction are improved; this allows for women to feel that they can function more openly and equally in their sporting community.

I have never had a female coach until my eighth year in wresting when I joined Junior Team Canada and had coaches assigned to me for our trip. I have seen female wrestling coaches at tournaments, but throughout my training in multiple clubs and high school teams, I was only ever coached by men. I eventually coached my high school team which was always male dominated, although, I felt that my place as a coach allowed for girls to feel comfortable in trying the sport. When I think about the possibility of coaching as a profession, I believe I could not acquire the job without achieving a high level of success in wrestling. Coaching my teammates is very entertaining and I love the idea of being paid to coach; however, in my experience, you must earn the ability to be a female coach where men do not. There are many male coaches in wrestling who have not achieved international medals or national status, yet all well-respected women coaches have been on the Olympic team. If I ever make it past Olympic trials, I can consider a job in paid coaching, until then I will settle on the idea of being a high school coach.

 References

Berri, D. (2015, June & july). The Cost of Not Hiring Women Coaches. Retrieved February 09, 2017, from http://time.com/3896935/women-coaches/?iid=sr-link7

Robertson, S. (2010). Taking the Lead : Strategies and Solutions From Female Coaches. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press.

 

 

“Equal pay is as much a myth as it is a minefield” – Why is equal pay in Tennis such an issue in our modern day society?

By Callum F.

Equal pay in general has been an issue for years, and it will most likely still be an ongoing debate for many more due to the current political environment. However, equal pay in sport is also a big issue that is being pushed more and more to the fore, with tennis being the ‘leading light’ in this situation.

For years, influential female tennis players such as Billy Jean King, Chris Evert and Serena Williams have made claims that women are entitled to just as much prize money as the men are, as they are playing the same sport, and doing exactly the same thing, and in the four Grand Slams at least, at the same tournament time. Therefore, equal pay surely makes perfect sense. Serena Williams is just as capable as Roger Federer at hitting a ball over a net, so why is it such an issue? 

The main problems preventing equal pay are revenue, media exposure and the inter-relationship between them and the limitations surrounding them. Godoy-Pressland and Griggs (2014) argue that; ‘The relative exclusion of women’s sport in the media serves to frame women’s sport as less important than men’s’. Media exposure and the perception that creates drives popularity which drives revenue and thus this relative exclusion then results in women’s sport’s inability to earn equal revenue, both from tickets – numbers and prices – and from sponsorships, as men’s sport and therefore pay equal amounts to the competitors. If the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) paid equal prize money as the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) across 12 months, they would be bankrupt within a couple of years, simply due to the relative lack of revenue that the WTA brings in from advertising, sponsorship and the media compared to the ATP. As well as the higher profile that the men’s game has traditionally enjoyed over the women’s, there is also a much higher level of competition at the top of the  men’s game, contesting titles and the top ranking places, than in the women’s. This also drives the level of income generated.  Sport has become more of a business than ever before, so the income/expenditure ratio is key and currently, the men’s game is far more valuable than the women’s, so higher levels of expenditure are possible meaning ultimately that the men get paid more. 

While this argument has been going since the 1960’s, it has become one of the biggest topics in tennis, even more so in the past couple of years. Raymond Moore, (former CEO of the tournament Indian Wells) was the man to instigate this recent debate, when he was quoted as saying ‘If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport.’ and how ‘the women ride off the coattails of men’ . While both remarks were wildly inappropriate and resulted in Moore’s immediate resignation, it sparked a large debate amongst the players themselves, something which hadn’t been seen since the 60’s. 

The majority of the top male players were all in agreement that the women should receive equal pay, simply because they do the same job. Sir Andy Murray was one of these, openly stating that he was a feminist and fully supported equal pay. However, his long term rival Novak Djokovic voiced that women shouldn’t be paid as much due to the revenue income. This in itself sparked another debate, why does the male’s opinion on this matter so much? Surely the women’s arguments should be heard more, as they are in fact women! 

Sherry (2015) writes that ‘Women’s sport continues to be viewed through the prism of male hegemony in various ways’. The fact that it is taking the men’s opinion on the tour to start making a difference supports Sherry strongly. Why does it still take a male opinion to cause a debate, especially in the ‘modernised society’ that we live in. It points towards a case that the male opinion in sport, and seemingly business is still more important than the women’s, but perversely it may be that very opinion that will finally get women equal pay in tennis.

To conclude, equal pay in tennis has to become a reality sooner rather than later, as there is no strong argument as to why it should not happen. Both bring in the spectators, and both bring in millions of dollars in revenue, so why shouldn’t it be shared equally? While it is realistic in theory, the reality of the situation is that equal pay will not happen unless the ‘sport’ of Tennis becomes less of a business, focusing on how much money can be made and where, and simply reverts to being a sport to entertain. Until that happens, the argument surrounding equal pay will become even more ridiculous and further out-dated. 

Sherry, E., Osborne, A., & Nicholson, M. (2015). Images of Sports Women: A Review. Sex Roles, 15.

Godoy-Pressland, A., & Griggs, G. (2014). The photographic representation of female athletes in the British print media during the London 2012 Olympic games. Sport in Society, 17, 1–16

Gendered Clothing in the Sporting World

By Brittany C.

When you are growing up, something as simple as going to the store to buy clothes can be a confusing experience. You go in with your parents and they say, “Go have a look and pick something out”. So off you go through the store and you come across a bright blue t-shirt with a cool red car on the front. Your parents come around the corner and you point to the shirt with a big smile on your face, but your mother frowns and says “ Sweetie, why don’t we look for something in the girls’ section?” This isn’t a personal experience per say, but it’s something that I’m sure has happened to many young kids throughout their lives. The clothes we wear and they sections we buy them in define us. As young impressionable children who are still trying to figure out the world, we are socialized to shop in one part of the store, the men’s section or the women’s. Masculinity vs Femininity – our world today still enforces the difference between the two. This can also be found in the sporting goods stores of today. The participation of women in sport has increased from the past, and in the Olympics this year there were more women on the Canadian Olympic team than men. However, women still struggle to find what they need in a sports store without having to go to the men’s section.

I read an article about women’s rise in snowboarding which discussed female otherness and male superiority (Thorpe, 2005). This otherness and outsider feelings were caused by the media’s portrayal of the sport and the companies who supported the sport as a masculine dominant industry. When women first broke into the snowboarding scene, they had a hard time fitting in. It wasn’t until the first women’s clothing company was created that the participation of females in the sport started to increase. The author also pointed out that men created sport and for men which is 100% true. However, we have come a long way for women’s participation and success in sports. I believe a part of the participation increase was due to the fact that gear for the sport became available in the women’s section at the store. It was no longer seen as crossing the feminine line to do the sport as you could get everything you need in the women’s section. But not everything you might need for other sports can be found in the women’s section.

Attached is a picture I took recently in a sports store. It shows a rack at a store clearly labeled “Men’s” with hockey Canada jerseys hung on it.

gendered-clothing

Why is a national team jersey labeled as Men’s? There is a National Women’s hockey team and their jerseys are the exact same as the men. If we take a step back from the specifics of what the jersey actually is, we can see a different picture being painted. It’s a hockey jersey. It is something that represents a love for a sport, love for something that unites people, men and women, across our country. Hockey is a very masculine sport and women who are involved can be seen as so. If you ask most women who play hockey how they feel about the pink slim fitting jerseys that are found in the women’s section, they would tell you that they would rather not wear a jersey than wear that. Female participation in hockey has increased since I first started and we now see female hockey players as role models for younger girls. For those younger girls to get a jersey like their female role models wear, they have to venture to the other side of the store into the men’s section. Couldn’t we just have a shared sports attire section for both men and women, take the gender aspect out of it because both men and women participate in sport?

References:

Thorpe, H. (2005) Jibbing the gender order: Females in the Snowboarding Culture, Sport in Society, 8(1), 76-100.

http://olympic.ca

http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2013/pc-ch/CH24-1-2012-eng.pdf

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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

Media Coverage and Sexualization of Women in Sports

by Matthew C.

Since its inception almost 40 years ago (1972), Title IX has shown great strides in bridging the gender gap in athletics. Legislating that equal opportunities be provided in athletics for both males and females, we are beginning to see the positive results intended of this titles passing. Intended to focus mainly on college athletics, we are now seeing the results extend to a national level as well. Over the recent past Olympic periods, several countries including Canada and the United States of America have been composed of teams that are represented by an equal number of male and female athletes. Along with this, women have recently contributed to more medal wins for Canada at Olympic events than that of men. With all this success in bridging the gap between participation rates among women, we are still bearing witness to women’s athletics being oppressed through narrowly defined ideals about women in sport, fortified through the presentation of women’s sports through the lens of a male dominated media.

Sports media continues to be a male dominated domain. With 92% of sports coverage centering on male athletics, while only 5% of that is focused on women’s athletics, with the remaining 3% accounted for by gender-neutral topics. Not only is the ratio of women’s sport coverage greatly under represented in contrast to male sports, often times, the media attention that female athletics receives, focuses on the sexualization of the female athlete, and her experience of sport, as opposed to her athletic ability. This approach perpetuates negative ideals suggesting the merit of female athletes or value, lies in assets such as her appearance or relationships, thus taking away from attention paid to her athletic ability, contributions to the sport, or achievements.   Female sport is also the continual recipient of negative promotion by being portrayed or discussed as boring, entertainment value being contingent on the form of sexualization associated with the coverage. Examples of such sexism can be examined in the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. Due to cold temperatures, female beach volleyball players were “permitted” to wear body suits consisting of long sleeves, and longer pants to stay warm. This caused a blow up on several social media platforms, suggesting that there was no longer a point to watch the women’s event now that the athlete’s bodies were covered up. The media’s attention being focalized on the sexualization of female athletes can be observed in the argued opinion of some, in regards to Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova. She possesses countless ads and sponsorships over her competition, despite the fact she has never won a major championship.

With all the strides Title IX has made over the past four decades, it is time for the media to evolve past damaging and sexist ideals. In recent years, such sports channels as TSN have made efforts to bridge the obvious gap between male and female sport coverage, and in such sports like curling, airtime is now equal for both male and female competitions. Along with this increased female coverage, interest in the sport has been increasing at a steady rate across Canada having visible female role models at the forefront. Recent rankings have even shown that the Women’s Final of the Pinty’s All-Star Skins game that took place in January between Team Homan and Team Jones attracted more viewers than that of their male counterparts.

Cases like this suggest that it is possible to gain interest in female athletics without the sexualization of the female body, but gain viewership and interest based solely on the athlete’s performance and ability. Other networks and media outlets need to use this example and increase female sports coverage and allow a fan base to develop. Title IX has shown an increase in female participation, and it’s now time for the media to make the changes to increase female sport coverage.

In closing, it is under evolved of us to ask female athletes to absolve themselves of their sexuality or physicality, in an effort to be taken seriously as participants of the athletic community, as Olympians and as professionals. But rather WE should be the ones, as consumers, as sport participants and as fellow human beings to absolve ourselves of our sexist ideals that serve to be constricting of female identity and experience within sport, and to think more critically of the portrayal in sport media.

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.

Gendered Language: Men versus Girls

By Emily M.

Being in an all female sport, I have been subjected to a lot of insulting comments. “Oh look at those synchronized swimmers, wearing all that makeup and dancing in the water, aren’t they cute.” Just because it is a female sport, people tend to take the athleticism out of it. They do not see that we throw two, 120 pound women completely out of the water, not using the bottom of the pool, might I add. All they focus on is how pretty and delicate all these female swimmers are.

There are many ways that the media trivializes women’s participation in sport. One-way is by gender marking. Female events are listed as “women’s athletic events” and men’s are just “athletic events,” marking women as the “other” category. Another way media and the commentators minimize women’s athletics, is by calling females athletes girls, ladies, and women; however, men are consistently referred to as men. The word girl implies immaturity, and the word lady implies helplessness, elegance and lack of athletic abilities. Commentators use this type of language during female sporting events and this demeans women’s sport. You would never hear a commentator say, “oh these boys are really doing a good job”, no you would not hear that. They would refer to them as men, strong men or athletic men, never boys. There should not be this gender stereotype that women are delicate or non athletic. Elite female athletes train just as much as male elite athletes, so they should be treated as such. Men tend to be called by their last names and women by their first names. When commentators call female athletes by their first names, it reinforces an already existing negative attitude about female athletes. It diminishes their professionalism in comparison to men.

Commentators tend to focus on how women athletes appear rather than on how they perform. They discuss their outfits or their makeup. One of my competitions was televised a few years ago, and the commentators did not mention how strong the athletes were or focus on the extreme cardio it takes to swim through a routine. They said things like “what a beautiful splash” “look at the elegance and grace”, “look at the gorgeous makeup”. These comments were completely stereotypical. What it conveyed to me was that women are not supposed to be athletic; they are not supposed to have strong muscles or a competitive side. This gender-biased language reinforces stereotypical feminine gender roles, and undermines women’s involvement in sport as well as their achievements. The commentators are coming to terms with the fact that women are increasingly participating in sport and they are increasing their coverage. However women still have to be in a certain box, they cannot be compared to male athletes. They cannot have commentary that emphasizes their athletic abilities and strengths.

When commentating women’s sports, they tend to minimize the females strengths by pairing it with a demeaning word, such as “she’s a strong girl”. Positive comments followed by demeaning comments. This is in line with the gender roles we grow up with. As children we are constantly told women are delicate, passive, and focus on their looks. Men are aggressive, athletic, and macho. Although women’s participation rates are going up in sport, they are still not being recognized as true athletes. Female athletes are still expected to be feminine and are viewed as caring more about how they appear rather then how they perform in their sport.

Women have come a long way in the sporting context. Originally, it was exclusively a man’s world. However now you see women participation rates increase significantly. Seeing all these elite female athletes really motivates women to reach for their goals. However the stereotypical language used towards women in sport, is still a huge barrier. Women should be taken seriously in the sporting world. It is not about their outfits or their makeup; it is about their achievements.

 

References:

Halbert, C., & Latimer, M. (1994). “Battling” gendered language: An analysis of the language used by sports commentators in a televised coed tennis competition. Sociology of Sport Journal, 11, 298-308.

Messner, M., Duncan, M., & Jensen, K. (1993). Separating the men from the girls: The gendered language of televised sports. Gender and Society, 7(1), 121-137.