Female Image in Sport

by Mackenzie M.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Media’s Negative Portrayal of Women in Sport

By Ryan L.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

by Jacob W.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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









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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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