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Overcoming Female Stereotypes in Sports – sweat

Varsity

Overcoming Female Stereotypes in Sports

on

By Farah Khan

It’s become second nature for many—to put the emphasis on the word “women” before any sport. It’s not a “women’s” sport, it’s just a group of women playing that sport. Striving for gender equality has brought about a fierce debate since athletics have traditionally been linked to masculinity. Women weren’t even allowed to play sports before. OCAA athletes however are embracing the label of the female athlete and choosing how it defines them.

laying sports and being an athlete is how Rita Sibo has always identified herself and it’s an important part of who she is today. Photo by Farah Khan.

It’s more than just playing a sport, it’s about perseverance, breaking barriers, a sense of self, and a sisterhood. Sports don’t only teach you physical literacy, they teach you life skills. sweat spoke to OCAA athletes who play for the women’s varsity teams at Algonquin College about what it’s like being a female athlete and their experiences throughout the years.

Although women have come along way in sports, the stereotypes still exist and it’s the stereotypes that often stop people from continuing.

“A stereotype is that girls aren’t supposed to be aggressive, competitive, or strong which is completely incorrect,” said Leah Pedis, centre on Thunder’s rugby team. “I love being strong. I think it’s very cool, it’s very cool enpowering. Muscle is freaking sexy.”

“It’s another feeling to be good at a sport, but loving what you do. Like if I could do this everyday I would. I used to sleep with my rugby ball in my room. I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t play sports like I do.”

Even kids know the differences when it came to boys versus girls in sports.

“I remember being in elementary school and all the guys would play soccer at recess and I was the only girl that would play,” said Melissa Scissons, striker for the Thunder’s soccer team. “I was always hustling.”

A study on children’s perception of sports from Clemson University and Pennsylvania State University found that children as young as eight are conscious of and affected by gender stereotypes in sports. Due to the stereotypes, we find more and more young girls stop playing sports at an early age.

Not only are we aware of the stereotypes from a young age, we often find people using a females inferiority as an insult.

“One thing that’s always annoyed me, even as a little girl growing up, the saying you throw like a girl,” said Michaela Branker, point guard on Thunder’s basketball team. “That’s been something that has frustrated me for so long, especially because I know there’s lots of guys out there that I know if I were to play them, I could beat them without a doubt.”

Breaking barriers and persevering to get where you want to be is an on-going struggle for athletes, especially if you are a female. But the motivation to keep going is prevalent.

“Being a female and also being a part of the visible minority group, you kind of have to push yourself harder to get to where, let’s say a white man might be,” said Rita Sibo, point guard on the basketball team.”You kind of have to work twice as hard.”

“I would tell people that I would want to be a player on the national team, or I wanted to play professionally,” said Mariah Harper, goalie on Thunder’s soccer team. “I was always told, ‘oh, well you can’t make that a career’. For me, it [being a female athlete] means being a type A person—just in the idea of being goal driven.”

Turns out women too can enjoy the camaraderie and they share a sisterhood.

“Growing up, I’ve been able to give back a lot to the community and be able to have relationships with younger female athletes. I think it’s much needed especially for younger generations,” said Branker.

Being an athlete has created Leah Pedis’s determination in school and in life. Photo by Farah Khan.

“I like having a team. I like having some people that depend on me but also people that I can turn to whenever I’m going through a rough patch,” said Marie-Chantal Ozorak left side hitter on Thunder’s vollyeball team. “Regardless, they’ll be there.”

What being an athlete means to you is unique and it means something different to each woman. For some, it’s how they define themselves and they couldn’t imagine who they would be today if they weren’t athletes. It’s developed their character and personality. After overcoming the stereotypes and barriers, the OCAA athletes have found a place and they continue to pave a way for themselves in their sport. If being a girl and playing a sport doesn’t make you an athlete, rather a female athlete- challenge accepted.


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