Women speak out about sexism in sports
LAURA HAYWARD, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicola Little said she first experienced gender-related discrimination when she was young and her father tried to sign her up for hockey.
“I remember my father constantly being redirected to the ringette and figure skating registration table,” she said.
Little’s parents eventually registered her as “Nicky” to try and avoid gender stereotyping.
“My parents chose to spell it this way deliberately when registering me, so when the coaches chose their teams, I was not going to be picked based on my gender,” she said.
While funding, representation and respect for women’s sports teams have increased, some female athletes and coaches say they still face sexism—on and off the field.
Once she made the team, the discrimination returned and eventually led to her quitting hockey when she was 14. She returned three years later, when she joined a new all-female midget team.
Now a coach, Little said she thinks gender inequality still exists in sports, but she’s optimistic that can change.
“I believe that the funding and opportunities provided to athletes and different sports should be exactly equal, regardless of gender,” she said.
Rebels women’s soccer players agree and said they’ve also seen discrimination against female athletes.
Jessica Lister, the team’s captain, said she thinks the language used to talk about male and female athletes needs to change.
“It makes me cringe when I hear someone say ‘you throw like a girl,’” she said.
A few weeks ago, about 50 people attended the Winnipeg screening of Play Fair, a documentary examining the assumption women have reached equality in sports.
Amy Michalchuk, a human rights advocate for women in sport, sat on a discussion panel after the screening. She said media could have the biggest influence on how people perceive female teams and athletes.
“I think that the media plays an enormous role in how society prioritizes issues on local, national and international levels,” she said. “I think that utilizing the media would be the most beneficial way to draw attention to the ongoing issues that women face in sport, as the media seems to have the largest impact on society.”
But Rebels soccer player Nadine Reimer has another impact idea. She said integrating girls and boys from a young age might help decrease sexism.
“More co-ed teams during youth would be a good start,” Reimer said. “I remember all my soccer camps growing up were with all girls.”