Volume 93, Issue 2
Friday, May 21, 1999
Profiling the image of women in sports
THE PROFILE OF WOMEN SPORTS IS A CHANGIN'. Women have begun to gain a higher profile in the world of sport and Western's track team leads the way.
By Chad Thompson
Sport has become an important part of society throughout the years. Much like society, sport has historically changed and evolved with the discovery of new ways of looking at the world.
The Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union is focused on having an equal share of sports between women and men. The union has also taken steps to ensure the profile of women's sports will increase at the university level.
"The CIAU has added three new sports for women," said Kerry Moyniham, Chief Executive Officer of the CIAU. "We have added ice hockey, rugby and wrestling and are doing a study to ensure that we have a 50-50 split in sports between gender."
With such action from the CIAU, the question arises of how to increase the profile of women's university athletics. Moyniham said the CIAU is looking into getting a television deal with either TSN or CBC Sportsnet.
"Football traditionally is placed on television," he said. "But we are making an effort to get women's sports on television. We made great strides by having the women's hockey championship broadcast on TSN. We hope next year to get women's soccer or rugby onto either of the sports networks."
Moyniham said he sees television as not only a way to increase the profile of women's athletics but also to aid with generating money for women's sports. "If we get the sports on television, then we can attract more corporate sponsorship and increase funds," he said.
Moyniham added he is aware the CIAU has a long way to go in order to establish equality among gender in sport but stated the CIAU is making strides.
Angela Schneider, ethics and equity assistant dean at Western's faculty of health sciences, said one of the most difficult things which faces women's sports is the stereotypes following female athletes. She cited the 1998 Olympics as an example.
"The media focused upon the sexuality of the women's hockey team rather than the game," she said. "They never questioned the sexuality of the men's hockey team. People in general still get caught up on the homosexual discussion when it comes to women's sports but the stereotype is slowly disappearing as society becomes more educated."
Schneider pointed out at a university level, women's athletics may have made progress in equality, but the funding is still missing.
"The funding of sport is still at a 70-30 ratio toward male sport," she said. "But people are beginning to focus upon women's sports and that is aiding the profile."
However, Schneider said she recognized the possibility of gender equality in sports as a distant scenario.
"Some sports at the Olympics used to be gender equal," she said. "The rifle shoot, for example. But a few years ago a 14 year-old Chinese girl won the gold and the next year they split it up because the men were embarrassed about losing to a female. Some sports have a gender difference but sports that do not, like rifle shooting, should be co-ed."
When asked about corporate views towards the female market, Schneider stated companies have realized women have great buying power and they have begun to focus on that market. She added even health clubs have made an attempt to attract the female market.
"Now in many gyms they have a female area that allow for older females not to feel on display," she said. "But comfort should not require separation women need to be encouraged to join in sport."
Western track and field and cross country coach, Bob Vigars, said the media is an important part of improving the profile of women's sports.
"The news media has always been behind," he said. "They focus on what gets the largest audience and do not look to smaller sports. The better the coverage, the better the profile of the sport. The news media follows the story they never try and find the story."
In track and field and cross country, Vigars said he noticed a change a long time ago.
"When you run a co-ed sport the athletes get a better appreciation of one another because they see the work that they put into practicing."
Vigars also said improved communication among men's and women's teams could aid in the development of respect for what they are doing. He added the bottom line is the profile of all sports in Canada has to increase and such an event would benefit everyone in the end.
Schneider stated the most important thing is to change how the public views gender differences and to enjoy sport for sport, not for gender.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999