The Georgia Straight published an article entitled “Vancouver and BC Sports Teams Make History in 2011″. The article provided pretty solid coverage of major men’s sporting events, but left out the key achievements of Vancouver women athletes. It also failed to mention achivements at the 2011 North America Outgames, which Vancouver hosted this year, as well as the lowlights of 2011 for women in sport.
Here’s my attempt to bring a bit more balance to the discussion, starting with the 2011 highlights. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you know of any more BC women athletes’ achievements over the past year, please comment below.
- Women’s ski jumping was finally approved for the 2014 Olympics, after the hard work of Canadian women ski jumpers who had hoped to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
- The Winter X Games were good to Canadians, especially women. Whistler resident Sarah Burke took home gold in the women’s superpipe, and Kelownatonian Kelsey Serwa won gold in Women’s Skier X. Serwa also won her second consecutive World Cup ski cross gold medal just last week. Vancouver sports fans should also keep an eye out for Squamish resident and Olympic gold medallist Maelle Ricker, who’s competing in the snowboard World Cup this week.
- Vancouver hosted thousands of GLBT athletes (as well as friends and allies) for the 2011 North America Outgames this past July. In addition to sporting events – which included conventional summer events as well as some with more local flavour, such as dragon boating – OutGames also put on a human rights conference and cultural events.
- The Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off their first season as a Major League (men’s) soccer team with a sexist and objectifying ad campaign featuring a model in a body-painted Whitecaps jersey.
- The Amateur International Boxing Association announced they are considering regulation changes which would force women boxers to wear miniskirts in competition. This isn’t BC-specific but may effect women athletes from BC in the future.
- The Lingerie Football League announced they were bringing a league to Vancouver in 2012. This wouldn’t necessarily bother me except there’s no real choice for women to choose to play fully-clothed in another league and still get the same amount of attention. Then, to top it off, the league makes money off objectifying the women but doesn’t even pay them. Here’s a description from Global News:
The play is full-contact and players are outfitted in shoulder and elbow pads, knee pads, and hockey-style helmets with visors, along with skimpy panties and garters.
Players are not paid, but their travel costs are covered by the organization.
But it’s safe, right? Maybe not. After the Toronto Triumph Lingerie Football Club played its first game earlier this year, four players walked out, citing poor management, shoddy equipment, and safety concerns: “Sprained ankles, concussions and pulled hamstrings were among the injuries sustained by Triumph players in their first game against the Tampa Breeze in September, Dalla Giustina said, adding their team had no medical staff.”
And in case you think there’s a chance the LFL is interested in athletes who don’t meet beauty ideals, let LFL representative Mitchell Mortaza dispel that notion:
Mortaza, who flew in from Los Angeles to get the Toronto Triumph started, said the women are assessed on their skill as well as their appearance.
“It’s primarily athletics,” he said. “And then they have to be marketable, they have to be in shape, they have to have an element of beauty. And more important than anything they have to be confident.”
And so another year goes by and women athletes continue working hard, achieving within a society that puts tremendous pressure on them to conform to gender norms and prove their femininity by playing football in bras or posing in swimsuits. When conventional beauty and sex appeal become a pre-requisite of athletic fame, that’s a problem.
Women athletes frequently get left out of the year-end sports highlight lists like the one the Georgia Straight did or the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. Women athletes should be recognized for their wins just like men are, and so too should the issues they face be considered when evaluating how good a year it was for sport.