Sports have always been a big part of my life. You can see my love of sports in the things I often wear, the conversations I often have, how I often choose to spend my free time, and admittedly the people I often become close friends with. Ever since my dad and uncle took my twin brother and I to our first Kitchener Rangers junior hockey game way back when I was five years old, I’ve been obsessed with both watching and playing sports.
There are just so many things about sports that keeps me hooked as a fan. The continuity of sports. The chance every year that this might be the year, the chance every game that something might happen that’s never happened before. The universality of sports as almost anywhere you go in the world you can find some sort of sports league, team or stadium that people are going to for entertainment. The feeling of being part of a fan base, the feeling of being part of an event that thousands or millions of other people are watching. Following all the different narratives that play out within each game and within each season, learning about each player’s unique story. Being a dedicated fan and feeling like you’re going through the same pains and struggles as the players as well as the goose bump-inducing joys and celebrations when your team is victorious. These are all reasons why watching sports is so exciting, exhilarating, and addicting to me.
Of course as much as I love watching sports, it’s not quite the same as playing them yourself. Playing competitive sports has helped teach me the importance of always putting full effort into everything I do and that hard work pays off. It has also taught me the importance of setting goals, and how good it feels to when you achieve them. Not to mention the health benefits and pure fun from playing them. It feels so satisfying to to work my body to its full extent, sacrificing it when I need to, to try to score a goal, help my team, or beat a personal best.
Why I Care
You may be wondering why some sports-crazed guy is posting on a blog called She Scores. What does he know about women’s sports? Well to be honest, I really haven’t paid much attention to women’s sports until recently. But after reading some of Jessa’s posts and reflecting a bit, I realized that if I had happened to be born female instead of male (which just came down to random chance), I may not have been able to have the same opportunities with sports and I may not have viewed sports in the same way. It started to make me feel sad thinking about the fact that women’s sports are often seen as inferior to men’s sports and the effect this has on girls’ and women’s view of sports especially since my habits and way of thinking were contributing to this.
Although in the end I can only blame myself and my own attitude for ignoring women’s sports leagues and seeing men’s sports as superior, the media and the society we live in definitely had an influence on me as well. Using the points Jessa made in one of her earlier blog posts Why People Don’t Watch Women’s Sports, I wasn’t conditioned to watch women’s sports because growing up it was never convenient to watch them and they were rarely covered by the media: being a fan of a junior men’s hockey team was a whole lot easier than being a fan of a junior women’s hockey team or even a professional women’s hockey team (and still is today). For example, as a kid I could look in the sports section of the newspaper to see when my beloved Kitchener Rangers were playing and how they were doing, I could watch their games on TV or listen to their broadcast on the radio, and it was a lot of fun whenever I got the chance to go watch their games live and be part of a crowd of over 6000 people cheering them on. The K-W Rangers on the other hand, are a team in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League that play at the same arena as the Kitchener Rangers and are of the same age group, but get virtually no coverage in the media and have an average attendance of 76 people. Even the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, one of the two top professional leagues in women’s hockey (the other being the National Women’s Hockey League) average only 300 fans a game and receive limited recognition in newspapers and on sports networks.
To be fair, another reason I only cared about watching men’s sports may have been that it was easy for me to imagine myself being out there on the rink or field, and if I would’ve been a lot better than I currently am at any of these sports, it could’ve been me out there. Since women’s sports aren’t as accessible and as celebrated as men’s sports, a lot of girls may just see sports as something mainly men do, not something for them, which doesn’t allow them to have the same kind of dreams I had, and understandably makes them less interested in playing sports.
Ideas That Need Change
I think the main reason these women’s teams aren’t covered as much as their equivalent men’s teams is that it’s become so ingrained into our mindsets in this world that women aren’t as physically capable of playing sports at the same level as men and playing sports doesn’t fit into their feminine “role”. As was illustrated in the article a couple weeks ago on this site, Stopping Sexist Statements, many people will try to end the discussion this way (often in an aggressive fashion). You can’t argue with the fact that different genetics and hormones in males and females allow us to generally have different strengths athletically (but obviously this varies from person to person). I don’t have too much knowledge in physiology and evolution, but it does make logical sense to me that males and females were created to have different body types in terms of muscular strength and athleticism because back when we were in a less developed hunter-gatherer society, it was necessary for there to be different roles and different body types for males and females because of the logistics of childbirth (although this shouldn’t have meant that women had any less rights than men which unfortunately was probably the case in most of these societies). Although we now live in a more advanced time where these gender roles are hardly necessary anymore in most parts of the world (ex. Prime Minister of New Zealand), the differences between our bodies haven’t changed at all and most of us still think that we’re all supposed to conform to these roles.
Some of you may still be asking, “So what? Our bodies are different but men’s bodies are generally bigger and stronger so why would I want to watch women’s sports?” Again, if you’ve read through this blog, Jessa’s answered this multiple times but I’ll try to answer it too. Firstly, if you watch professional sports for the purpose of witnessing the most highly skilled people in the world perform in their area of expertise, by limiting yourself to watching men’s sports, you’re missing out on a whole sector of world-class competition. If you keep in mind the fact that women have different body types than men and with that, different skills, it basically makes what’s being played in women’s leagues entirely different games that are just as worthy of watching. An edgy article I read called Why Women Will Never Beat Men in “Sports” argued that the concept of “sport” was designed with the male skill-set in mind so really women are inherently disadvantaged in sports to begin with, suggesting that maybe it would be beneficial to bring more attention to sports designed more specifically for women such as ringette, gymnastics, and softball. In the end though, professional women athletes are the top athletes in the world at their sports in just the same way professional men athletes are the top athletes in the world at theirs.
Change Starts With Me
So my main point in writing this blog post is not to blame society, the media, or people in history for creating the gender inequality that exists in sports and for allowing it continue, but to convince myself that there are things I’m doing that are contributing to this inequality and that if I want to see change, I have to change something about myself. My goal now is to try to make it a regular habit to check the scores and standings of professional and local women’s sports league that interest me, just as I do with all the men’s leagues I’m currently interested in. I also hope to attend some women’s sports events in the area I live in the near future to allow myself to become a bigger fan of some of these teams. With the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics starting up, I’ve told myself I will try to wake myself up in the middle of the night as many times as I do to watch women’s events as I do for men’s events.
My hope is that if other people start changing their viewing habits and ways of thinking when it comes to women in sport as well, this will lead to more gender equality not only in sports but in all areas of society. So if you’re a sports fan like me I challenge you to try to make some changes. How can you possibly go wrong watching more sports?
– Jonathan Klassen