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Women in sports: Stereoptypes and gender expectations target female athletes

Standing in the hallway, peering in through a dirty window, there are a couple of women in the Concordia weight room among a sea of men. Those brave souls.

According to Concordia students, the weight room is arguably sacred territory, only to be occupied by the athletes—more importantly the male athletes.

“Being physically fit and lifting weights, and not just for weight loss or toning, is viewed as a very masculine thing for women to do,” Rachel Bergeson, senior women’s sports administrator, said.

Junior softball player, Ashley Tibbetts, understands these stereotypes, too.

“People say girls in sports like softball and hockey look more athletic, whereas volleyball players are expected to be pretty and thin,” Tibbetts said.

Bergeson said in her occupation she encounters women with body image issues that result from the expectations of appearance in accordance with each sport.

“Sports like cross-country and volleyball, where more of the athletes bodies are exposed, (women) think, ‘Do I fit the mold I’m supposed to be in?” Bergeson said.

Concordia athletic director Rich Glas believes certain stereotypes flourish because of the arena in which a sport takes place.

“Everyone sees who you are when you’re not covered up,” Glas said. “Gymnasium sports put the athletes literally at the same viewing level as spectators.”

On the other hand, female hockey players don’t feel the need to put on make-up or make sure their legs are shaved before a big game, not because they don’t care about their appearances, but because they’re covered from head to toe in equipment in front of their fans.

Volleyball and basketball players, on the other hand, are but a few feet away from theirs.

Glas also says part of the stereotypes are dependent on how much an individual chooses to play into them.

“There are all types of women on a basketball court,” he said. “Some don’t care what they look like; some do.”

In his opinion, what really matters is how they play the game they love.

“Athletics is like living a mini-life,” he said. “You learn to overcome defeat and humbly embrace the joys; (athletics) can really help you handle life better.”

Both Glas and Bergeson feel female athletics have come a long way in a short amount of time, but there is still plenty of adversity to face.

Bergeson said from her perspective as an authority figure in the athletic world, sexuality is a dominant stereotype.

“Not only do these stereotypes affect the female athletes, but the female coaches in the athletic sphere are judged too,” Bergeson said.

She notices that a lot of female coaches will dress ultra-feminine in hopes of ensuring spectators that they’re straight.

“It’s too bad women have to dress in such a way or look a certain way to help confirm their sexuality (in coaching occupations),” Bergeson said.

Females involved in athletics need to proudly promote who they are in order to take a step towards the abolishment of such stereotypes, Bergeson said.

“(Women) shouldn’t worry about fitting a certain mold,” Bergeson said. “If a woman plays hockey, but likes to shop, then do both.”

Bergeson said female athletes shouldn’t mask themselves as the players they are, but embrace their personality and spirit instead.

“It doesn’t matter if you like to shop or put on make-up,” she said. “You can still make just as many baskets.”

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