Vancouver field hockey players forced to wear skirts for (at least) another year

If you’d have told me when I was twelve, and writing my first speeches about equality for my local Rotary Club, that my first real experience of discrimination would be at the hands of a field hockey league, I’d have thought you were joking. Then again, if you’d have told me when I was twelve that at 28 I would be forced to play a sport I love wearing a spandex miniskirt I would not wear to the bar, I probably would have had a similar reaction.

As some of you will already know, I have taken on the mandatory skirt for women field hockey players as somewhat of a pet project. For those of you who don’t already know, here it is in a nutshell.

I’ve played field hockey since I was 13. It’s a great sport. But there is one problem. Field hockey is the last remaining sport (I know of) that requires its female athletes to play in a skirt. Why is this a problem? Because, as the United Nations and Australian Sports Commission recognize, feminine uniforms sexualize female athletes. This trivializes women’s sports, lowers self-esteem, perpetuates stereotypes, discourages participation and even promotes the sexual harassment of women athletes. I could go on, and in fact I have, here.

In Vancouver, women field hockey players have asked the Vancouver Women’s Field Hockey League to be permitted to play in shorts no fewer than three times in the past few years. Each time their request has been denied.

The last request was made by my team on November 20, 2014.

On that day, I, along with several of my teammates, attended a meeting of the Vancouver Women’s Field Hockey League for one purpose: to change the League constitution to give players the choice to wear shorts as part of their uniform.

We did not have in mind anything radical. We knew that many players like the skirt and so we had no intention of taking that away from them. We merely wanted to give individual players who, like me, might not feel comfortable playing in a skirt, a choice. And so we asked that “or shorts” be added to the definition of uniform in the League constitution.

“Each team shall have its playing uniform, consisting of shirt, skirt or shorts, and socks ready for use by the first league game.”

When it came time for me to introduce the motion, this is what I said:

“My name is Kaity. I am a member of Jokers IV. I’m here today to ask you to support my team’s efforts to make field hockey more inclusive by allowing players to choose between shorts and a skirt as part of their uniform.

This may seem like a trivial issue, but the truth is the mandatory skirt alienates women and girls who, for a number of reasons, do not feel comfortable in the skirt.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about this issue and some of those people have been mothers and fathers of girls. And I can tell you that I have been told many times that some of these girls would choose not to play field hockey for no other reason that their discomfort with the skirt.

The reasons vary. They include self-consciousness about body image, cultural beliefs about modesty and plain discomfort with skirts.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me really sad.

I know if you are here today it is because you love field hockey. And I know you are keenly aware of its wonderful benefits including social connections, community engagement, improved health and stress relief.

I can’t believe anyone would want to purposefully exclude women and girls from these benefits.

Especially when the accommodation is so simple, and would in no way detract from the enjoyment of players who like the skirt and would choose to continue wearing it.

And so I ask you, please, support us in making this wonderful sport more welcoming to all women and girls.”

More than anything, I hoped that this invitation to usher field hockey into a new era of acceptance and inclusivity would be accepted. I hoped to conclude this campaign of mine knowing that, at least in Vancouver, no woman or girl would be forced to quit field hockey because of how the uniform made her feel.

But the field hockey community disappointed me once again. The hour debate that ensued was not about inclusion. It was about semantics and appearances.

Some members claimed to be confused by the wording of the motion. Did the amendment mean that whole teams had to wear shorts? How could the choice be the individual’s when the word “individual” did not appear in the amendment?

Other members thought the amendment must involve replacing the word “uniform” with “designated clothing” because uniform connotes one outfit and not a choice between two. (Just like you can’t call private school uniforms “uniforms” because girls have a choice between skirts and pants, oh wait…)

But by far, the prevailing topic of discussion was how the motion would impact the appearance of the players.

One member expressed the view that as Canada’s largest field hockey league, it was important that our players looked good. Many agreed that an important part of looking good was looking all the same. Another member said her club took a particular interest in the appearance of their players. If one of their players wanted to play in a ball gown, they would say no.

Another was not convinced that any players were discouraged to join field hockey because of the uniform requirement. Her players had always considered the skirt a badge of honour. She disagreed that the skirt sexualizes athletes and noted that shorts can be sexual too if they are short enough.

One member expressed concern that referees would not be able to distinguish between the different teams if the players’ bottoms were not exactly the same. (Oh course the different jerseys and socks would be no help in that regard.)

One club acknowledged that at least one of its teams would choose to wear shorts but expressed concern that this would impact a sponsorship deal it had with a particular uniform supplier.

Sadly, in that full hour discussion, I can recall only one statement in support of the principle of inclusivity. One. But even that statement was quickly followed with a “but” and ultimately did not support the motion.

This stands in sharp contrast to the reactions I’ve witnessed from the general public. Which generally have been reactions of shock and outrage that in 2014 this is still an issue.

Ultimately, someone suggested that the motion be tabled for another day. That motion passed by a vote of 55 to 26.

Defeated, my team made one last request: that until this motion is decided, the penalty for wearing shorts be reduced to a game card notion rather than being kicked out of the game. After all, that had been the penalty for the last three years and continues to be the penalty for other uniform infractions. No one was able to provide a satisfactory explanation why wearing shorts is penalized more severely than any other infraction. Nonetheless, our request was denied by a vote of 41 to 35. And so it stands, no woman wearing shorts will be permitted to play field hockey in Vancouver.

I am generally an optimistic person. I would love to believe that the members present on November 20, 2014 really do care about inclusion and really did just need some more time to discuss the issue with their teams. Two years ago I would have. But I’ve been here before. After witnessing three failed attempts to introduce the option of shorts to field hockey, I am starting to believe that there is real resistance to equality and inclusion in this community. I hope to be proven wrong in February, when this motion is raised for a fourth time. Oh, how I hope. But I am not naive. And I am not holding my breath.

-Kaity

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Why women’s voices matter

I recently attended a talk by the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Canada’s first and only woman Prime Minister. The talk was called, “Women’s Voices: What difference do they make?” It was about women’s unique life experiences and the consequences of ignoring women’s perspectives in politics, business and media.

I had never heard Campbell speak before, so I was eager to attend. I was disappointed to see that few Vancouverites felt the same way. Despite Vancouver’s population of over 600,000 people, the auditorium at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre was only half full. To be fair, the event was not effectively promoted. Nonetheless, I was dismayed to see poor attendance for a talk about the importance of women’s voices.

But I digress.

Campbell is a Conservative and so it won’t surprise you that I didn’t agree with everything said at the talk. It did, however, give me a lot to think about.

Let’s start with where Campbell and I agree. The thesis of the talk was that women’s perspectives are vital. Vital to the creation of good public policy. Vital to public discourse. And vital to the success of modern businesses and organizations.

To illustrate the point, the organizer of the talk, Informed Opinions, discussed a little experiment. Informed Opinions trains women experts to share their ideas through media commentary. Curious to know what differences women’s voices make in terms of focus and content, they created a word cloud from the first 100 published opinion pieces written by their workshop participants. They then compared this word cloud to the most prominent words generated by a similar sampling of op-eds written by male experts.

The clouds contained many similar words, including Canadian, government, health, political, public and work. However, a number of other phrases appeared prominently only in women-penned pieces. Tellingly, these included abuse, assault, benefit, care, children, equality, families, girls, help, justice, services, sexual, support, treatment, violence and women.

In many ways, Campbell’s experience as a woman member of parliament mirrored that experiment. In her talk, Campbell told anecdotes of times she educated an awkwardly silent room of male colleagues about issues such as contraception and sexual assault. Issues that are very prominent in women’s lives, but admittedly were not well understood or considered particularly important by some of her male colleagues.

Given the complex social, economic and environmental challenges we face, it simply does not make sense to make public policy based on the experiences of only half the population. On this point, I wholeheartedly agree with Campbell.

But public policy is not where women’s contribution ends. Research shows that women also play a large role in driving economic growth. In her talk, Campbell referred to various studies that prove women’s positive influence on business.

Let’s look at some facts.

Research suggests that to succeed, businesses should start by promoting women.

As investors, women come out better on almost every count. They are less likely to hold a losing investment for too long. They are less likely to wait for too long to sell a winner. And they are less likely to put too much money into a single investment or to buy a reputedly hot stock without doing sufficient research.

Women also excel as leaders. New studies have found that female managers outshine their male counterparts in almost every measure. Forty-eight per cent of all US firms are owned or controlled by women. Compared to all firms, women-owned firms have triple the growth rate, twice the rate of job creation and are more likely to stay in business. McKinsey & Company found that international companies with more women on their corporate boards far outperformed the average company in return on equity and other measures. Operating profit was also 56 per cent higher.

How can these results be explained? A recent article from Scientific American provides some insight.

In that article, entitled, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” Katherine Phillips discusses decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers that demonstrates that being around people who are different makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.

Phillips notes that people who are different from one another in race, gender and other dimensions bring unique information and experiences to bear on the task at hand. Diversity promotes hard work and creativity by encouraging the consideration of alternatives. Her conclusion? We need diversity- in teams, organizations and society as a whole- if we are to change, grow and innovate.

So far, Campbell and I are on the same page.

My disagreement comes with what to do about the inadequate representation of women’s voices.

Despite the fact that women constitute roughly half the population and workforce, and more than 60 per cent of university grads, women’s voices continue to be inadequately represented in media, politics and business.

In Canada’s most influential print, broadcast and online new media, male voices outnumber female voices by a factor of four to one.

In Federal politics, only 17% of Conservative Members of Parliament are women. The percentages for the NDP and Liberals are 38% and 25% respectively. BC has the highest rate of women MLAs in Canada at 36%. The other provinces and territories range from 10% (Northwest Territories) to 35% (Ontario).

Status of Women Canada reports that in 2012, women held only ten per cent of seats on Canadian boards. They held only 16 per cent of board seats on FP500 companies. And, on 40 per cent of FP500 boards, women held zero seats.

So what do we do about this serious underrepresentation?

Campbell suggests that women are often shy of power, that we see it as a bad thing and not as a potential to do great good. She suggests that women need to step up and grab power.

This to me, sounds a lot like “lean in,” the message to women from Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. In her book, appropriately titled “Lean In,” Sandberg suggests that women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers rather than pursuing their career goals with gusto.

Step up, lean in, whatever you want to call it, is a philosophy that puts the onus on women for their inadequate representation in positions of power rather than the institutions and corporate structures that were made by men and continue to be run by them. It is a philosophy that calls out women for “opting out” of their careers rather than their employers for refusing to foster flexible, supportive environments that are more likely to keep women employees.

But more importantly, in my view, it is a philosophy that distracts us from the real question we should all be asking. It’s not a question of how we force businesses to accept women or their unique tendency to bear children. Nor is it a question of how to force women to work harder or longer. The question is, given what we know about women’s profound impact on the success of various entities, how can organizations justify their exclusion?

At a time when innovation is recognized as a key competitive advantage, the increase in a group’s intelligence attributed to the inclusion of women should be sufficient incentive for organizations in all sectors to work harder at soliciting female participation.

In my view, given what we know about women’s contribution to public policy, science and business, it is simply negligent for public and private institutions to refuse to reform the structures that push women out. Organizations should be asking themselves what they can do to make themselves more attractive to women, so they can reap the benefits of keeping us.

The refusal to change may well be the death knell for the stubborn “old boys’ clubs” of the world that will fail to take advantage of the exceptional investment, communication and leadership skills of women and thus fail to remain competitive.

In the meantime, our leaders should stop asking women to take personal responsibility for systemic failings. Our ambition (or lack thereof) is not the problem.

-Kaity

Sexy Hamburgers: A Feminist’s Guide to Halloween

It’s almost Sexy Costume Day! I mean, Halloween. My wife and I love Halloween because it gives us an excuse to pull out our glue gun and have a craft day. We usually make our costumes, but a few weeks ago we went to one of those pop-up Halloween shops to get some inspiration. I guess it had been a while since we’ve been in one, because we were pretty surprised by what we saw. For one, there was not one woman’s costume in the entire store that was not “sexy”. Even costumes that you would think should not be sexy, were sexy. Like sexy potato head, sexy minion, sexy Bert and Ernie and sexy hamburger. Seriously, there was a sexy hamburger.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this is an excuse to post photos of scantily clad women dressed as sexy scrabble. I thought I’d let some dudes demonstrate instead.

But these costumes are for adult women with agency, so no harm right? I’m not going to answer that just yet. I want to first tell you about our second observation in the Halloween store, this one in the kids’ section.

In this store, there were little girl costumes and little boy costumes. But despite the fact that between the ages of 4 and 6, little girl bodies and little boy bodies are pretty much the same, the costumes were very different. The little girl costumes looked like miniature versions of sexy _______ (fill in the blank).

00_21_van_halloweenkids_contributedYou’ve probably read about the mom in Victoria who took her 4-year-old daughter shopping for a Halloween costume at Value Village. The little girl wanted to be a firefighter. Her mother found a cute firefighting costume in the boys’ section. It had an axe, a fire hat and a red jacket.

She then found the equivalent costume in the girls’ section. It had a skin-tight black shiny dress and a fascinator in the place of a fire hat. The police officer costume was equally appalling. The little girl version was a dress with a short skirt. In real life, policewomen have not had to wear skirts as part of their uniform since 1990.[i] And this was a change women really fought for.

“What those costumes tell me is that the boys can wear the real thing. They can be a real firefighter. The girls, on the other hand can’t. They can dress up pretty and pretend to be a firefighter, but they could never aspire to be the real thing.”[ii]

This should be especially concerning when you consider that firefighting remains very male dominated and has traditionally been a hostile workplace for women. In 2006, allegations of severe sexual harassment were made by women firefighters from Richmond, BC. The alleged incidents included hard-core pornography being displayed in their presence, human feces being put in a woman’s boots and pants, a condom with the word “cunt” written on it being placed in a woman’s locker and water pressure being turned off as a woman battled a fire. [iii]

Fortunately for the mother in this story, Value Village heard her complaints and decided to take down these gender specific costumes.

But not all shops are so progressive. If the store I went to was any indication, there are sexy toddler costumes being sold all over Canada.

I don’t think it is difficult to understand why sexualizing a 4-year-old is problematic. For one, it’s pedophilic. But more than that, it can have a very significant impact on how girls and women see themselves.

In the documentary Miss Representation (which I highly encourage anyone with Netflix to watch), author Jean Kilbourne talks about the message these sexualized images send to young girls.

“Girls get the message from very early on that what’s most important is how they look, that their value, their worth, depends on that. And boys get the message that this is what’s important about girls….So, no matter what else a woman does, no matter what else her achievements, their value still depends on how they look.”[iv]

The documentary goes on to discuss how this sexualisation leads girls to self-objectify which has disastrous consequences.

“The American Psychological Association has found in recent years that self-objectification has become a national epidemic, a national problem. The more women and girls self-objectify, the more likely they are to be depressed, to have eating disorders. They have lower confidence. They have lower ambition. They have lower cognitive functioning. They have lower GPAs.” [v]

In Canada, women are not well represented in leadership positions. Only 17% of Conservative Members of Parliament are women. The percentages for the NDP and Liberals are 38% and 25% respectively. BC has the highest rate of women MLAs in Canada at 36%. The other provinces and territories range from 10% (Northwest Territories) to 35% (Ontario).[vi]

Could there be a connection? Dr. Caroline Heldman, a professor of political science, says yes. Women who are high self-objectifiers have lower political efficacy. Political efficacy is the idea that your voice matters in politics and that you can bring about political change. As she sees it, if we have a whole generation of young people being raised with the message that the objectification of women is normal, we have a whole generation of women who are less likely to run for office and less likely to vote.

So after 18 years of being told by advertising, films, television shows, pop-up Halloween stores, you name it, that our value as women lies in our bodies, how free is our choice to buy a sexy adult Halloween costume? Are we dressing as sexy a Girl Guide because we would feel awesome and empowered in that costume? Or have we been conditioned by marketing and social pressure? To be honest, these are very complicated questions that I do not have an answer to (Philosophy 101 was my only B in undergrad).

But here is something I can answer. Is it possible to enjoy Halloween in a socially conscious way? The answer to that question is YES! Here are my Do’s and Don’ts for selecting a totally awesome, feminist Halloween costume.

#1 Do celebrate women heroes

There are so many women heroes in history, literature and modern day who have made a difference, fought the system, broken the glass ceiling, bent gender norms and kicked some serious ass. Why not celebrate one of them? There’s Katniss, Hermione, the Paper Bag Princess, Amelia Earhart and Rosie the Riveter, just to name a few.

#2 Do not appropriate someone else’s culture

I’ll admit, it took me an embarrassingly long time to understand that this is a problem. When I was a kid I once dressed up as Tiger Lily from Peter Pan. Another year, I wore my mother’s burqa from her days living in Saudi Arabia. It really didn’t occur to me that dressing up as someone else’s culture would be offensive. The way I reasoned it, I would not be offended if someone dressed up as a lumberjack or fur trader to represent a Canadian. Well, as I’ve learned, that is because this is not a proper analogy. “There are no pervasive stereotypes for whites on the same level that allow for them to be caricatured as a Halloween costume.” [vii]  And Canadians are not a marginalized group.

untitledStudents from Ohio University have launched a campaign to make revelers think twice before reducing a culture to a caricature. The message: We’re a culture, not a costume.[viii] When we dress up as another culture, we reduce sacred and culturally significant attire. We perpetuate inaccurate, stereotypical and often offensive portrayals of someone else’s heritage. We temporarily “play” an exotic other without experiencing any of the daily discrimination faced by them, like dressing up as a “sexy squaw” while being completely unaware of the horrific rates of sexual violence Aboriginal women face.[ix]

#3 Do not dress as a famous oppressor

This seems so obvious, but every year people dress in horrible costumes that glamorize violence and violations of human and civil rights. In 2005, Prince Harry dressed up for a costume party with a swastika on his arm. This year, men have been reported dressing up as Ray Rice, the football player who punched his then-fiancé in an elevator. This is incredibly disrespectful to women who have been victims of domestic violence. And there are a lot of us. One half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence.[x] Dressing up as an oppressor trivializes real discrimination, persecution and violence. It can also re-victimize survivors.

#4 Do not dress as a member of a marginalized group

I think most people know that it is not ok for a white person to don blackface. Yet people dress as other marginalized groups all the time: Indian, hobo, illegal immigrant. This is what one Aboriginal woman had to say about people dressing as a Native person:

“But you don’t understand what it feels like to be me. I am a Native person. You are (most likely) a white person. You walk through life everyday never having the fear of someone misrepresenting your people and your culture. You don’t have to worry about the vast majority of your people living in poverty, struggling with alcoholism, domestic violence, hunger, and unemployment caused by 500+ years of colonialism and federal policies aimed at erasing your existence. You don’t walk thought life everyday feeling invisible, because the only images the public sees of you are fictionalized stereotypes that don’t represent who you are at all. You don’t know what it is like to care about something so deeply and know at your core that it’s so wrong and have others in positions of power dismiss you like you’re some sort of over-sensitive freak.”[xi]

#5 Do highlight your talents

383940_794751944775_1584700703_nHalloween is an opportunity to get creative and think outside the box. It is also an opportunity to make a statement. A few Halloweens ago my wife and I went as Mrs. and Mrs. Potato Head. Not only was the costume a political statement about gay marriage, it had super awesome Velcro facial features that we could swap around all night.

#6 Do not denigrate women who choose a sexy costume

Some women find demonstrating their sexuality really empowering when they can do it safely and without pressure or judgment. Halloween is, for some women, one of the only days of the year that they feel comfortable really having their sexuality on display.[xii] That is great. These women do not deserve judgment. “Slut shaming” is a different side of the same sexist coin. Instead of assigning women value for being sexy, it strips women of value for being too sexy.[xiii] But ultimately, it is still determining a woman’s value based on her appearance. That is not ok.

Bottom line, have a great time this Halloween, but don’t do it at someone else’s expense. Halloween is not an excuse to leave your feminism at the door.

-Kaity

Sources

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/17/female-mounties-wear-pants-boots_n_1797203.html

[ii] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sexy-halloween-kids-costumes-at-value-village-anger-mom-1.2805428

[iii] http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=7817f631-f71c-4f55-8630-8589aebd718b

[iv] http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=miss-representation

[v] http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=miss-representation

[vi] http://www.equalvoice.ca/assets/file/Fundamental%20Facts%20-%20Elected%20Women%20in%20Canada%20by%20the%20Numbers(1).pdf

[vii] http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/26/living/halloween-ethnic-costumes/

[viii] http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/26/living/halloween-ethnic-costumes/

[ix] http://bitchmagazine.org/post/costume-cultural-appropriation

[x] http://www.wavaw.ca/mythbusting/rape-myths/

[xi] http://nativeappropriations.com/2011/10/open-letter-to-the-pocahotties-and-indian-warriors-this-halloween.html

[xii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/31/in-defense-of-sexy-halloween-costumes_n_4182233.html

[xiii] http://thoughtcatalog.com/chloe-angyal/2013/10/youre-not-a-feminist-if-you-call-halloween-costumes-slutty/

Skirts, Grunts and Falling Uteruses: Women’s complicated relationship with sports

To say I wasn’t a very athletic kid would be a considerable understatement. My first attempt at monkey bars when I was 6 left me with a sprained arm. When I was 7, I was taunted by the kindergarteners for still having training wheels on my bike. My step-father, bless his heart, tried to introduce me to soccer when I was 8. My only real memory of my soccer days was the time I tripped over the ball in practice and wound up on my face.

So it was a big surprise to my parents when I fell in love with field hockey in grade eight. Field hockey, after all, is a pretty challenging sport. Not only must you stickhandle with only one side of a very short stick, but the ball is comparable to a bocce ball in weight and has the tendency to soar when hit by a novice player. Anyone who has been hit with a field hockey ball knows that it can be a pretty dangerous sport. To start, I wasn’t very good. But after hours upon hours of stickhandling in our backyard I got the hang of it and started to excel.

491482_31106062Some of my happiest memories from high school are tied to field hockey. It was the first time in my life I could identify as an athlete. That was a pretty big self-esteem boost for a nerdy kid. Being part of a team also lead to some amazing bonds with my teammates, many of whom became my closest friends. There was only one problem with field hockey. The uniform. As you may know, field hockey is the last remaining sport that requires its female athletes to wear a skirt.

As an adult, I continue to play field hockey in a women’s league in Vancouver. Unfortunately, my love of the game has recently been overshadowed by controversy. The game I love and have played for over 15 years has come into direct conflict with my strong belief in women’s equality. But more on that later.

Because of the controversy in my own life, I decided to explore the relationship between women and sports. As you might guess, it has been a difficult relationship marked by division and discrimination but also by accomplishment and empowerment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASports started opening up to Canadian women by the end of the 19th century. However, at that time, women were encouraged to participate in sports such as horse riding, skating and golf, activities that were considered graceful and ladylike. More vigorous exercise, such as riding a bike, was discouraged by some doctors who were concerned it would cause damage to the uterus or, God forbid, would produce a female orgasm.1

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the emergence of the women’s liberation movement in North America and with it increased participation in women’s sports.1

Today, the sporting world looks very different than that of the past. Across the country, women are participating in high numbers in sports including those traditionally seen as masculine or inappropriate for women.1 Women athletes such as Hayley Wickenheiser and Christine Sinclair have become national heroes. This is a very good thing, not only for women and girls but for society as a whole. Participation in sports may seem trivial but its outcomes are anything but.

Studies show that participation in sport and physical activity can prevent a myriad of physical illnesses which account for over 60% of global deaths. Participation in sports can also promote psychological well-being through building confidence and self-esteem and reducing stress, anxiety and depression. This is especially important to adolescent girls who are significantly more likely than boys to have seriously considered suicide by the age of 15. Participation in sports can even lead to social change. The United Nations identified sport as a key vehicle to the promotion of gender equality. According to the UN, participation in sports expands opportunities for education and for the development of a range of essential life skills, including communication, leadership, teamwork and negotiation.2 Sadly, the positive outcomes of sport for women continue to be constrained by gender based discrimination in all areas and at all levels of sport and physical activity. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some modern day headlines.

“Grunting” Controversy Continues on Wimbledon’s Opening Day3 

412106_8549This headline is not a joke. It refers to the real controversy in women’s tennis about the players making unladylike “grunting” noises when they hit the ball. Some officials apparently find these noises so disturbing that players have been warned that they could be fined for making excessive noise. One tennis coach was of the opinion that a series of graduated penalties ranging from the loss of a point to the loss of a match should be implemented to cut down on excessive grunting. One former Wimbledon champion actually went so far as to claim that the role of female tennis players is as much about “selling sex” as their physical ability. He suggested the best way to reduce the amount of grunting in women’s tennis is to, “Just play it back to the women. It sounds disgusting, ugly, unsexy!” So why do tennis players grunt? Different explanations have been offered, but they include to help the player relax, to bring confidence, to apply maximum force to the ball, to increase core stability and strength and to intimidate the opposition.4 Notwithstanding of the legitimacy of these justifications, it would seem that many coaches, officials and spectators are willing to reduce women’s competitive advantage to preserve the sex appeal of tennis.

The Outrageous Reason Why Women’s Ski Jumping Was Banned From The Olympics until Now5

Can you guess what that reason might be? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same reason women were advised not to bicycle in the 1890s. That’s right, high ranking officials thought ski jumping might mess up your uterus. The president of the International Ski Federation in 2005 said, “Don’t forget, it’s like jumping down from, let’s say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” The good news is women ski jumpers were finally permitted to compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics. So far, there have been no reports of falling uteruses.

FIFA Women’s World Cup: gender discrimination allegations dog promotional efforts6

legs

Kobe Bryant ✔ @kobebryant This is @DrinkBODYARMOR athlete @sydneyleroux after playing on turf! #ProtectTheAthlete #USWNT 3:24 PM – 13 Aug 2014

As you might know, Canada is set to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. However, Canada’s recent announcement that the tournament would be played on artificial turf rather than real grass has caused quite the uproar. The Men’s World Cup is played on grass because artificial turf is an inferior playing surface which leads to more physical injuries. Need proof? This picture, tweeted by Kobe Bryant, shows Sydney Leroux’s bloodied and bruised legs after playing on artificial turf. A group of elite international athletes have actually filed a lawsuit over the issue alleging gender discrimination. “They would never in a heartbeat think of putting anything less than grass for men,” said former Canadian national player Carrie Serwetnyk. “They’d protest. It would be a scandal.”

And of course we cannot forget the issue that is in headlines again and again, the one the United Nations describes as a constant area of controversy and resistance, the one I have been waiting to speak publically about: women’s uniforms. But I’ll get to that. In my next post. -Kaity

Sources:

  1. History of Canadian Women in Sport: Tabitha Marshall http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-history-of-canadian-women-in-sport/
  2. Women, Gender Equality and Sport: United Nations, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/public/Women%20and%20Sport.pdf
  3. “Grunting” Controversy Continues on Wimbledon’s Opening Day: Margaret Hartmann http://jezebel.com/5300061/grunting-controversy-continues-on-wimbledons-opening-day
  4. Wimbledon 2014: Why do women players grunt: Kathryn Dobinson http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10919656/Wimbledon-2014-Why-do-women-players-grunt.html
  5. The Outrageous Reason Why Women’s Ski Jumping Was Banned From the Olympics Until Now: Tony Manfred http://www.businessinsider.com/why-womens-ski-jumping-was-banned-2014-1
  6. FIFA Women’s World Cup: gender discrimination allegations dog promotional efforts: CBC News http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/fifa-women-s-world-cup-gender-discrimation-allegations-dog-promotional-efforts-1.2756465