CHANGES IN GENDER INEQUALITY IN CANADA IN SPORTS OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS.
Society expects males and females to fulfill specific gender roles – “attitudes and activities that society links to each sex”. Males are expected to be ambitious, strong, independent and competitive, which “encourages males to seek out positions of leadership and play team sports”. And females are expected to be deferential, emotional, attractive, quiet and obedient, “supportive helpers and quick to show their feelings” (Macionis and Gerber, 2011:300). These traditional stereotypes have been challenged and confronted by many women and feminists, and in this paper we are going to look specifically in sports and physical activities. My thesis statement will be that gender inequality has been decreasing over the last 100 years. Women were slowly starting to participate in all sports which were considered to be masculine, and were only available for men to enjoy.
One of the first factors which could be linked to the emancipation of women in sport in late 1800 – early 1900s is the safety bicycle. It not only caused a revolution in women’s fashions: women’s sportswear was finally being designed to accommodate more vigorous activity, but “was also a “vehicle” through which women broke with traditions and asserted their independence” (Hall and Richardson, 1982: 32-33). Slowly more organizations, sports clubs and tournaments were opening up for women. In the early 1900s, women started to participate in most forms of sport, but were still prohibited from activities there body contact was possible.
Period after the World War I and throughout the 1920s was really exciting for sportswomen in Canada and their fans. “This often called the “golden age” of women’s sports, it was time when popular team sports like basketball, ice hockey, and softball became sufficiently organized to hold provincial and Dominion championships; when the best athletes, especially in track in field, began to complete internationally and eventually at the Olympic Games; and when women leaders and administrators took control of women’s sports, claiming they knew what was the best for girls and women, although the advice of the man was still needed” (Hall, 2002: 42). In the 1928 Canadian women have joined Olympics in Amsterdam for the first time for the track and field competition.
In the mid 1930s “depression tightened its grip on Canada and the were signs that the Golden Age was over. Reactionary attitudes towards athletic competition for females was taking hold; commercialized professional sport for men was on the rise, meaning that men’s sports were given priority of access to public facilities. Spectators were drawn away from the women’s games to the exclusively male professional sports like ice hockey, football, baseball; it became increasingly difficult to find sponsors for women’s amateur sport” (Hall and Richardson, 1982: 36).
World War II took its toll on both men’s and women’s sports. Although many of leagues continued to exist, nobody took athletics seriously. Olympic Games did not start again till 1948. ” Post war conservatism has been described by Betty Friedan: women should desire “no great destiny than to glory in their own femininity”. Careers or commitments outside of their home were unnecessary for their personal fulfillment and undesirable for the satisfactory performance of the housewife role” (Lenskyj, 1986: 83)
For the duration of war women were occupying men’s jobs and were laid off as soon as men returned home to resume the rightful place. It was still alright for women to participate in “beauty producing” sports like figure skating, synchronized swimming, or gymnastics and as long as they looked pretty and feminine on the tennis, badminton courts, golf courses, and ski hills, they were not criticized. But women athletes which were “sweating on the basketball courts, softball pitches, ice hockey rinks, and the cinder tracks were...