Author Archives: Helen Owton

About Helen Owton

Helen joined the Sport & Fitness team in May 2015 and is developing a section on gender equality in sport on the new 3rd year module which focuses on contemporary issues in sport. She is a psychologist and completed her PhD in Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter. Helen enjoys boxing, cycling and running.

Blindside of Rugby Six Nations: Where are the women?

By Helen Owton

Women’s sport tends to receive less coverage in the media than men’s sport making female sports role models less available to young people, particularly in sports that are more traditionally male dominated such as football and rugby. During the sensational Six Nations 2016, we have seen another example of unequal exposure of sport. Whilst women’s football seems to be increasing their exposure, women’s rugby still have even further to go.

On Saturday 27 February 2016, the TV coverage and social media was trending with #EngvIre #RBS6Nations tweets about the Six Nations game; this was the men’s rugby.  Afterwards, England Rugby sent out the following tweet:

Englandrugby tweet

And requested changing the hashtag to #SendHerVictorious.

England women maintained their unbeaten record by defeating Ireland (13-9). Despite their win, the next two rounds might prove tough for England; will they have the skill, speed, strength and tactics to beat Wales on 12 March 2016 at Twickenham and then France (away) on 18 March 2016? On Sunday 28 February, Wales beat France 10-8 and Italy took their first victory by beating Scotland 22-7 [full fixture list here].

Yet all these sensational women’s Six Nations games had no TV coverage and the fans were left hunting the internet for a link on England Rugby which streamed the England match live. The audience at home were not happy; people all over the world were complaining about the lack of live TV coverage, online streaming problems and the clear disparity of the women’s exposure compared to the men’s.

RL tweet

Mozambique tweet

Whilst the Six Nations website shows the current up-to-date standings for the men’s Six Nations, there is not one for the women’s Six Nations event. The newspaper coverage before and after the Six Nations women’s rugby games was equally poor. In 2016, this disparity simply does not make sense.

Risk and rugby

When Sarah Chester suffered a fatal injury in 2015 after being tackled in a rugby game evoked arguments of whether women should even be playing rugby despite men’s fatal injuries from rugby as well. We’ve seen similar fears in women’s boxing which is a moral (women who box risk fatal injury) in the well-known film Million Dollar Baby. Some might argue that these are fear tactics aimed at putting women off traditionally male-only sports.  However, the inclusion of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 European Games at Baku has been a sign of progress.

Women’s sports media exposure

Since 2012, the talk appears to have been about what legacy was left for women’s sports but there is a very long way to go before there is gender equality in all sports. Despite the growing awareness of gender inequality in sport, it is well documented that women’s sport remains second to men’s sport in many ways (e.g. media coverage, wages, prize money, sponsorship and status), which has wider implications for equality in sport, and in society. Cooky, Messner and Hextrum (2013) reported that televised coverage of women’s sports was at its lowest yet at 1.6%. Whilst coverage increases slightly for major events (e.g. Wimbledon, Olympics), the type of coverage has been subjected to critical analysis. The reportWomen In Sport’ (2015, p. 3) produced the following figures on women’s media coverage:

  • Women’s Sport makes up 7% of all sports media coverage in the UK
  • Just over 10% of televised sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sport
  • 2% of national newspaper sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sport
  • 5% of radio sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sport
  • 4% of online sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sport

Additionally, they found that women’s sport received 0.4% of reported UK sponsorship deals in sport between 2011-2013. This sponsorship gives further greater exposure to men’s sport. Fink (2014) argues that “female athletes and women’s sport still receive starkly disparate treatment by the sport media commercial complex compared to male athletes and men’s sport” (p. 331). It’s 2016 and the way women’s rugby was reported demonstrated how rugby is still rated as second-class to the men’s. This then feeds messages that rugby (and other sports) participation is more appropriate for boys and men than for girls and women; that women are naturally inferior to men, and that women’s sport is less important than men’s sport. A lack of exposure to skilful sportswomen from a broad range of sports in the media could be a reason why the use of derogatory ‘like a girl’ comments perpetuates.

Whilst an argument could be made that there isn’t enough money generated in the women’s game to pay women higher salaries, improving the media coverage to the 9.63 million viewers who watch men’s rugby might generate the interest in women’s rugby thus improving their wages and the value of women’s sport. However, arguing for media coverage to be increased is difficult in light of the seemingly lack of value placed on women’s sport. If a report in 2015 on business leadership roles estimates that without any more efforts to promote women’s equality in management, it will take 100 to 200 years to achieve gender parity, then how long will it take to achieve gender parity in all sports? Given the statistics and the missed opportunity for the British press to report a double win in the women’s and men’s rugby Six Nations this week, the future looks long and winding.

The rugby world does seem to be making an effort to challenge stereotypes (e.g. Link to advert) and raise exposure (#SendHerVictorious) and respect to the women’s game but it’s about time the public and the media gave the women’s rugby the conversion they deserve!

  • Gender in sport is explored in our new module E314.

The IPC Athletic World Championships: World Class Athletes to watch

By Helen Owton & Karen Howells

Doha, Qatar’s largest growing city and economic centre of Qatar modern will host the IPC Athletics World Championships between 21st and 31st October. Against a backdrop of pollution and in a city that was built on the pearl trade, British athletes will compete amongst 1,300 athletes from 90 countries in a variety of track and field events across a number of different classifications. The IPC has revealed a list of 33 athletes, including a number of British athletes to look out for. Here we look at a selection of those to watch as this is the last major event before Rio Paralympics 2016.

2015 IPC Athletics World Championships, Doha, Qatar

Aled Davies – F42 Discus and Shot Put

Like many successful athletes Aled Davies came from a sports-loving family; as a child he was a good rugby player, a strong swimmer and was selected to swim for Wales. However, at the age of 14, he was invited to try-out for athletics with a group of elite Paralympians which introduced Davies to the throwing events. Born with hemimelia of the right leg, Davies announced to his parents whilst watching the 2004 Athens Paralympic games that he wanted to win a Paralympic gold medal. In 2012, his dream became a reality when he won Gold in the F42 discus and a bronze medal in the shot put. Not only has he won Paralympic medals, but he is the current World and European Champion in the discus and the shot put and World record holder in F42 shot put. Last year, however, appeared to be a difficult year for him. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in the F42/44 discus he felt he was thwarted in the final to lose to England’s Dan Greaves and returned to Wales with a silver medal. The year also saw him make the decision to leave his coach of nine years to work with Cardiff’s Ryan Spencer-Jones. Under the guidance of his new coach, these World championships see him lighter, stronger, more technical and more motivated towards medal success; this will be the opportunity to put the disappointment of the last year behind him and to further lay the foundations for success in Rio next year.

Sophie Hahn – T38 100m and 200m

Eighteen year old Sophie Hahn is like any other fun-loving teenager from Leicestershire, she enjoys music, loves animals and enjoys watching rugby. Her friends from her last school affectionately called her Chicken; a derivative of the German meaning of her surname. Like many other girls her age she was enthused by London 2012 and was inspired to join her local Athletics club. But unlike other girls her age Sophie is a World Champion and a World Record Holder in her sport. Only a year after she started running in 2012, Hahn, who has cerebral palsy, competed as a novice at the 2013 IPC Word Championships at the age of 16. At this competition, she faced another novice to international sport in the T38 200m starting a rivalry that is likely to be continued against the backdrop of Doha. Hahn, won her qualifying heat of the 200m with a time of 27.56, a championship record, however, the accolade was short-lived as Veronica Hipolito from Brazil beat her in the final taking both the gold medal and the championship record. Two days later, Hahn turned the tables in the 100m, shattering Hipolito’s world record which had been set in the semi-finals to win gold. Even going beyond this rivalry the T38 class promises to be highly competitive with Russia’s 100m Paralympic and European champion Margarita Gonchorova and China’s 200m Paralympic gold medallist Junfei Chen both vying for medal success.

Hannah Cockcroft, MBE

As a role model to Sophie Hahn, the unbeaten four-time world champion ‘Team Hannah’ is aiming to win three world titles in 2015. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, she won 100m and 200m T34 titles and she is set on retaining her world titles at the next World Championships. Having proved her dominance in the sprint events, ‘Hurricane Hannah’ has now set herself a new goal of winning gold in the 800m which appears to be the event she is most determined to win. Last year she won gold at the IPC European Championships in T34 100m and T34 800m. Also, at the IPC Grand Prix she three gold medal; T34 100m, 200m, and 800m, beating Australian rival Rosemary Little. She hold the world record in 4 events: T34 100m (17.31), 200m (30.51), 400m (59.42), 800m (2:04.49) While she keeps a very impressive catalogue of world records and medals, Cockcroft appears to be sufficiently motivated to balance her training with her academic studies by completing a Journalism and Media degree at Coventry University. As she says, “You have to keep working to keep winning”.

Stef ‘the blade stunner’ Reid

Stef Reid is also from Leicestershire; she started competing for Great Britain in 2010. In 2011, she won bronze medals in the 200m and long jump at the IPC Athletics World Championships. In the last Paralympics in London 2012, she won Silver in the T42-44 long jump. In 2013, she had a difficult year, but in 2014 she was back to her best (if not better) by setting a new long jump T44 world record in Glasgow. Also, she appears to be stretching the boundaries for disabled people. She is not only a Paralympian (2014 T44 European long jump Champion; London 2012 T42-44 long jump silver), but also a role model who became the first Paralympian amputee to be part of London Fashion week as a catwalk model which also helps raise the profile of women, Paralympians and disability. The forthcoming the IPC Athletics World Championships will be an opportunity to show off her form in preparation for her aims of winning gold in the Rio Paralympic Games next year.

Stef Reid: A life-changing ambition to win Gold

There are too many world class GB athletes to single out in this article, but we also recommend watching out for Richard Whitehead (T44 200m gold medallist in 2012), Jonnie Peacock (T44 100m gold medallist in 2012), David Weir (800m, 1500m, 5,000m and marathon gold medallist in 2012), Paul Blake (silver in T36 400m and bronze in T36 800m in 2012), the SportAid one to watch – Hollie Arnold (ranked No 1 in the world), and newcomer Sophie Kamlish (T44 100m and 200m). David Weir argues that the momentum has been lost since 2012 and 2013 but this is an exciting event not to be missed as this is probably the last big event before the Rio Paralympic Games 2016.

1 Year To Go until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games

Gender and Inequalities in Sport Conference

diverse-hands-painting

*UPDATE: THE DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS HAS NOW PASSED. PLEASE SEE HERE FOR AN UPDATED POST

This event focuses on the theme of equality in sport which seeks to engage debates about gender, sexuality, race, disability and multiple forms of representing this sort of research. In light of the move towards being able to communicate our research to the wider community, new forms of representations can be beneficial, purposeful and intentionally effective when aiming to communicate sensory, emotional, collective memories, intergenerational, and personal stories. Therefore, there will also be a focus on alternative and innovative forms of research.

Date:                           Thurs 17 March 2016

Location:                   Mercure Parkside, Milton Keynes

Event:                         10-5pm, 7pm evening conference dinner

Cost:                           £55 (includes lunch & conference dinner)

Various presenters will be discussing their own specialized research on these topics that include:

  • Prof Kath Woodward – gender and sport, Emeritus Professor at The Open University, UK
  • Prof Vikki Krane – social justice in sport, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA
  • Dr Jayne Caudwell – LGBT and sport, Associate Professor, Bournemouth University, UK
  • Dr Kitrina Douglas, Leeds Beckett University, UK

CALL FOR PAPERS!

Also, we have a call for papers for delegates (e.g. PhD students to researchers with expertise in their field) to present their research (poster or oral presentation).

Abstract word limit: 300 words

Themes to evolve around gender, sexuality, race, disability, feminist methodology, reflective accounts, and multiple forms of representing these topics.

Deadline: Mon 30 November 2015

          Please send your abstracts to Hannah Leicester.

There will be 2 prizes (Amazon vouchers) that will be awarded for the following:

  • POSTER PRIZE
  • PRESENTATION PRIZE

To register please contact Hannah Leicester to book a place and to make payment.  Payment options are cheque or card payment over the telephone.

sport-silhouettes

 

 

What learning style are you?

All students vary in their style of learning and whilst some are quite critical of ‘learning styles’ perhaps they might be a helpful concept in which to guide you towards learning experiences that suit your style. Learning styles may be described as characteristic preferences for alternative ways of absorbing and processing information (Litzinger, Wise, & Felder, 2007). This concept was originally proposed by Kolb (1984) who devised a learning cycle, which incorporates four main approaches to learning:

  1. Concrete Experience                             (Feeling)
  2. Reflective Observation                         (Watching)
  3. Abstract Conceptualisation                 (Thinking)
  4. Active Experimentation                       (Doing)

Whilst, to some extent, every student should respond to each of the learning styles, everyone will inevitably have a preferred learning style and respond to this more and it appears that the majority of sport science students tend to lean more towards being ‘active learners’.

Felder and Solomon (2007) have found that a ‘guided discovery’ form of teaching helpful in the long term. Furthermore this style of teaching can promote more mastery and less performance-focused teaching behaviours andmore adaptive cognitive and affective responses than the command/practice style (Morgan, Kingston, & Sproule, 2005). That’s why the activities that we include can be beneficial for promoting more task orientated learning.

A more detailed model has been adapted and developed and these combined styles may help you understand your learning styles even further.

Accommodating           –          Feeling and doing

Diverging                     –            Feeling and watching

Converging                   –           Thinking and doing

Assimilating                 –           Thinking and watching

Kolb's LS

As you can see from the model, Felder and Soloman (2007) further extend previous ideas of learning types. Not only are there ‘active’ and ‘reflective’ learners, there are also ‘sensing’ and ‘intuitive’ learners; ‘visual’ and ‘verbal’ learners; ‘sequential’ and ‘global’ learners; understanding which learning style you might be beneficial for you.

If you need a bit of assistance, then take an ‘informal test’ to see what learning style might suit you best (remember to take these results with a ‘pinch of salt’).

Allow 10-15 minutes

http://www.clinteach.com.au/assets/LEARNING-STYLES-Kolb-QUESTIONNAIRE.pdf

Guinness and Gareth Thomas rugby tackle homophobia

By Helen Owton

With the Men’s Rugby World Cup about to start, the sport of rugby appears to be making strides to tackle homophobia in sport. The most recent TV advert from Guinness stars Gareth Thomas telling his story about coming out in rugby.

The Out on the Field (2015) survey found that 60% of gay men and 50% of lesbians have been subjected to homophobia in sport which means that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people in sport must regulate conversations, behaviour and identities on a daily basis because of the implications of ‘coming out’. The assumption in rugby that as well as being aggressive and competitive, all ‘real men’ must be heterosexual means that ‘gay’ becomes a derogatory identity label and an abnormal lifestyle. The Guinness advert challenges this stance and perhaps shows that attitudes are starting to shift.

Researchers who have studied issues of gays in sports largely agree that organised sports are highly homophobic (Anderson, 2002) although there is some more recent debate about whether men’s heterosexual ‘gay’ behaviours (e.g. kissing each other on the mouth) indicates more openness and acceptance (Anderson, 2005). This TV advert is a step towards even more openness and acceptance.

Gareth talks about how he hid his sexual identity and his feelings, however when an individual feels unaccepted and alienated from society problems can occur. Whilst in this advert he refers to his sexuality as being ‘so minor’, in his autobiography, Gareth discloses how he felt during an all-time low:

“The more I thought, the more self-loathing I generated, the more attractive suicide seemed […] The sea was grey and merged with the horizon. Standing there, on the edge of the cliff, it all seemed so easy. A single step and I’d walk off, into the sky. No more pain. No more loneliness. No more lies. No more causing chaos for people that I loved” (Thomas, 2014, p.155-156)

Evidently, it’s not easy for sportspeople to ‘come out’ because of the homophobia they feel they might experience from fans and from their team mates that they share changing rooms with. Homophobia is deeply embedded in the hidden codes of narrow forms of heterosexual masculinity which rests on the belief that to be a ‘real man’ you’re not gay.

Like Gareth Thomas, gay men come out because many report feelings of ‘living a lie’ and feel isolated and alienated from society when they are hiding a part of themselves. He was fortunate enough to receive a positive and assuring response from his friends, family, rugby coaches and teammates which will hopefully mean that more sportspeople will feel more comfortable about coming out to their teammates.

For Gareth Thomas to ‘come out’ not only challenges heteronormative assumptions about sexuality in sport and promotes diverse sexualities, it enables athletes to feel open and proud of themselves for who they are. It helped to affirm his sense of self that his sexuality was respected and accepted by others as well.

However, you don’t have to be gay to challenge these assumptions; James Haskell and Ben Foden have both posed for Attitude (gay magazine) and Ben Cohen works to eliminate homophobia through his StandUp Foundation.

The sub culture of rugby seems to be raising awareness of gay issues and seems to be making a big effort to challenge homophobia which also could enable a much less narrow definition of masculinity to be accepted in rugby. Furthermore, Guinness appear to be using their brand to tell stories of adversity and ‘double lives’ in rugby, for example, Ashwin Willemse’s story of becoming a Springbok:

This topic will be covered in a new OU Sport and Fitness module coming soon.

‘The Silent Voice’ in dance and ballet

By Helen Owton & Helen Clegg

Dance is generally considered to be more accepting of gay men and research (e.g. Risner, 2009) shows that gay and bisexual men comprise 50% of the male population who dance in the US compared to 4-10% in the general population. However, whilst the dance world may acknowledge the presence of a larger proportion of gay men there remains an implicit homophobia in terms of a demand for heternormative performance (Risner, 2007). Ever mindful of the audience male dancers are expected to conform to a narrow concept of the masculine ideal that perpetuates the heterosexual “norm”. For example, in Risner’s (2009) study one participant, when being encouraged to dance with more strength, was told not to dance “like a fag” by his dance teacher.

As Strictly Come Dancing start their rehearsals, we consider ‘the silent voice’ in dance and ballet. Whilst dance is considered more accepting of homosexuality, the majority of this association is regarded towards the acceptance of gay men in dance, not women. Even discussions about inclusions of a same-sex couple in Strictly Come Dancing only involve gay men. Whilst homophobia in dance exists in different ways in dance (compared to sport) with masculinist comparisons and heterosexist approaches means that there seems to be a kind of quiet internal “acceptance” that obscures larger social issues that makes encounter. However, what strikes us is the lack of visible lesbians in professional dance.

Whilst the sexualising of dance and lesbianism for the purpose of the ‘male gaze’ exists in a pornographic sense, there seems to be a silent voice in professional dance about lesbians. Black Swan received the most complaints about the lesbianism portrayed in the film being pornographic and distasteful; an “overtly sexualised ‘hot-but-non-threatening’ feminine lesbian.” (Dixon, 2015, p.45) In Black Swan, a heterosexual woman was represented as experimenting with other women and seemingly “functioned instead as a kind of ‘sexy’ addendum to female heterosexuality.” (Dixon, 2015, p.45) However, when feminine lesbians are portrayed in this way, “Girl-on-girl action is presented as exciting, fun, but, crucially, as entirely unthreatening to heterosexuality.” (Gill, 2009, p.153)

“It may well be tempting to think that lesbians have equality, recognition achieved, on the basis of the supposed tolerance of the kinds of images made visible and perpetuated through the medium and marketing of films like Black Swan, which are then replicated to convey a similar sentiment in the promotion of places like Sitges as ‘cosmopolitan’. What I am arguing, however, is that whenever and wherever this does occur, we have to be completely and utterly certain that inequalities are not simply being reiterated at the exact moment the opposite is being said to have been achieved; to be certain that is, that in perpetuating and celebrating such representations we are not all simply hiding behind the faces of white masks.” (Dixon, 2015, p. 52)

Lesbians have been more connected to sports (Griffin, 1998) and there is a long standing connection between homophobia/heterosexism and women’s participation in sport (Iannotta & Kane, 2002). Women’s team sports are sometimes seen as an environment that promotes the expression of homosexuality. Does being a female dancer/ballerina render sexuality inauthentic because they are more feminine?

Boulila (2011) describes her experience at an LGB salsa class where one of the women believed that the very fact that she was a lesbian meant that she embodied the very “antithesis of elegance in dance”. This may be linked to the intertwining of the stereotype of “butch lesbians” which has been associated with sports and the idea that female dancers are there to embody heterosexual fantasies of the audience. Such binary categorisations of heterosexual and homosexual women in dance, particularly in ballet, encourages the belief that lesbians just don’t dance. Indeed, when asked to estimate the number of lesbians in their dance company across 36 companies only 1 dancer (a participant of the study) was identified as gay (Oberschneider & Bailey, 1997). Whilst this paper is nearly 20 years old more recent work (see Boulila, 2011) and blogs suggest that the idea of lesbian dancers continues to be believed to be a misnomer. We argue that lesbians do dance they just aren’t “coming out”.

So where does this leave us moving forward for women and lesbians in dance? Whilst it is not their sole responsibility to ‘come out’ it does question why there is such a silent voice of lesbians in dance and also an association between femininity, lesbianism and authenticity. Ballet and other forms of disciplined dance appear to be a closet for lesbians which is why it is so important to have ‘queer’ spaces in dance (e.g. Matthew Bourne) that disrupt gender binary frameworks; Firebird (by Katy Pyle), Ineffable (by Lohse) and the Queer Tango Dance Festival 8-12 July 2015 held in (anti-gay) Russia continue to challenge binary frameworks (e.g. male-female, feminine-masculine) for gay women as well.

References

Boulila, S. C. (2011). You Don’t Move Like a ‘Lesbian’: Negotiating Salsa and Dance Narratives. In 18th Lesbian Lives Conference, University of Leeds.

Dixon, L.J. (2015). Black swans, white masks: Contesting cosmopolitan and double misrecognition in a gay tourist town. Sexualities, 18(1/2), 37-56. Available: http://sex.sagepub.com/content/18/1-2/37.full.pdf+html

Gill, R. (2009). Beyond the ‘sexualization of culture’ thesis: An intersectional analysis of ‘sixpacks’,‘midriffs’ and ‘hot lesbians’ in advertising. Sexualities, 12(2), 137–160

Oberschneider, M. & Bailey, J.M. (1997). Sexual orientation and professional dance. Archives of Sexual behavior, 26(4), 433-444.

Risner, D. (2007) Rehearsing masculinity: challenging the ‘boy code’ in dance education, Research in Dance Education, 8(2), 139-153

Risner, D. (2009) Stigma and Perseverance in the Lives of Boys who Dance. Lampeter, TheEdwin Mellen Press.

The young dancer of the year misses the pointe about gender

By Helen Owton & Helen Clegg

“BBC Young Dancer 2015 is a brand new award for young people that showcases the very best of young British dance talent. Young dancers enter in one of four categories of dance: ballet, contemporary, hip hop and South Asian dance. BBC Young Dancer 2015 culminates in a grand final at Sadler’s Wells, when the best dancers in each category will dance against each other for the title.” (BBC website)

BBC Young Dancer of the Year 2015 was a wonderful showcase of the young talent currently within the dance world. In light of the lack of male representation in dance, The BBC Young Dancer of the Year award seems to have provided boys and men with a platform in which to be valued and recognised. However it also highlighted the gender inequalities in the dance world and suggested that these are reflective of a more pervasive gender imbalance within the workplace. It seems that the BBC have avoided much public scrutiny over the gender imbalance that existed on the programme. Some comments on social media were not happy with this:

“Guess what BBC – we don’t care. First a gender imbalance for the individual finals… Then the judges were mostly male as well, but that’s as per usual. And finally – the only female grand finalist came from an all-female category?! Hate to be a gender-ist, but the female and male bodies as well as personalities make for a different quality in dancing and I would be bored stiff watching an all-male dance performance at any point (this followed by an all-female), a mix is best.”

Whilst there was scrutiny over why particular dance styles were selected over others, and why and how dance styles could be compared to each other, there does not seem to be a discussion about why there was such a lack of female representation on the show. During this discussion we don’t want to take credit away from the boys who made it through to the final, but point out the inequalities that existed from the way the program was set up.

The Judges

Firstly, let’s take a look at the female-male distribution of judges. Only 33% of the judges were female on the shows. Just 30% of leading dance experts was female who selected the grand finalists. For the final, just one female was placed on the judging panel.

Dance is considered a female activity (Risner, 2009) so where are all these women at the top? For example, Arlene Phillips is a world-renowned director and choreographer, who is missing from these panels of experts. The BBC was accused of sexism and ageism when Arlene was taken off the Strictly Come Dancing panel. Indeed, figures show that older women are less likely to appear on TV.

Additionally, why wasn’t Darcey Bussell on one of the judging panels; particularly in the ballet finalist? For Ballet these were the leading panel of experts: Dominic Antonucci, Ballet Master of Birmingham Royal Ballet and Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet with Kenneth Tharp, chief executive of The Place, who judged across all categories.

According to McPherson (2005), “men dominate executive, administrative, and artistic positions of nearly every ballet company in the United States” and women report feeling excluded from informal leadership and decision making networks ringing very true in the world of ballet. Instead of being held up as one of the leading experts in ballet, Darcey Barcell, CBE, former principle dancer of the Royal Ballet at 20years old and widely acclaimed as one of the best British Ballerinas was reduced to being the presenter of the show. Indeed, Williams (1992) argues that subtle forms of workplace discrimination push women out of male dominated occupations that involves decision-making.

With such a high percentage of judges being male, it’s no wonder that just one of the dancers in the final was female out of 6. Not only this, but in each category, there was always a lower percentage of females apart from one category which was all-female:

  • Ballet: 40% female
  • Contemporary: 40% female
  • Hip hop: 40% female
  • South Asian: 100% female

However, this is not just a problem with the BBC Young Dancer competition. In 2014, The Young British Dancer awards saw an all-male line up for the six available awards as well.

Possible Explanations

It is well documented that males are the minority in dance education environments (Risner, 2007). Dance in the Western World is generally considered a female activity and so those boys who dance are considered effeminate and often assumed to be homosexual (Polasek & Roper, 2011, Risner, 2014). Risner (2014) has documented widespread verbal, emotional and physical bullying of young male dancers due to these constructions. Thus it is possible that boys who decide to attend dance classes, despite such bullying, are those who are skilled at dance and so the variance in dance ability and passion for dance may have much greater variance for girls than boys with boys being at the top range of the distribution.

Furthermore, within the dance studio environment boys are nurtured and often receive preferential treatment compared to the girls and this may be in part to prevent boys from disengaging (Polasek & Roper, 2011, Risner, 2014). Stinson (2005) talks about how such privilege within, not just the studio, but also the dance world is accepted by both men and women and as such often goes unchallenged. Whilst female dancers are often encouraged to remain passive within the dance class and simply respond to commands, male dancers are often encouraged to participate more fully and challenge the passive position of student dancer as this enables them to reclaim their masculinity (Risner, 2007, Stinson, 2005).

The combination of highly dedicated and skilled males who hold an elite position within the dance class and are encouraged to put themselves forward and challenge the status quo may explain the gender inequality in both the BBC Young Dancer finalists and judges. It is possible that young male dancers were more encouraged by their dance teachers to audition for the competition and were more confident in their abilities to take on such a challenge. This could explain the number of male dancers in the semi-finals since this is a higher proportion of male dancers than female dancers given that male dancers are a minority in the dance world.

The valuing of male dancers, at the cost to female dancers, may also explain the gender inequality in the final contestants. This is not to say that the male dancers did not deserve to be in the semi-finals or finals; far from it. What we want is equally confident and privileged female dancers and a challenge to the inherent gender divisions within dance. Boys also need to know that they are achieving in dance because of their talent and not their gender. Boys need to come to dance unafraid of being bullied and without the fear of having their masculinity and sexuality under scrutiny; Russian boys and men don’t seem to experience this sort of discrimination. Girls need to come to dance knowing they will be as equally valued as boys and have permission to move from passive student to empowered dancer.

Where do we go from here?

Whilst it was a pleasure to watch all the finalists dance, we would like the gender imbalances in dance, for both males and females, to progress in a way that both male and female dancers feel valued for their abilities and skills. So then we are no longer distracted from such talent by the stark gender inequalities presented to us in such programmes as BBC Young Dancer of the Year.

References

Polasek, K.M. & Roper, E.A. (2011). Negotiating the gay malestereotype in ballet and modern dance. Research in Dance Education, 12(2), 173-193

Risner, D. (2007) Rehearsing masculinity: challenging the ‘boy code’ in dance education, Research in Dance Education, 8(2), 139-153

Risner, D. (2014). Bullying victimisation and social support of adolescent male dance students: an analysis of findings. Research in Dance Education, 15(2), 179-201.

Stinson, S.W. (2005). The Hidden Curriculum of Gender in Dance Education. Journal of Dance Education, 5(2), 51-57.

This article was originally published on The Psychology of Women’s Section Blog.

Read the original article here

Shaking up gender relations in sport

By Helen Owton

Despite, England’s devastating loss against Japan (and I haven’t quite recovered from their cruel defeat), the nation’s eyes and attention now fall on the people who were partly responsible for the England’s Women’s Football Team success and impelled them into the semi-finals.

In the lead up to the Women’s FIFA World Cup, Mark Sampson was subjected to criticism (e.g. playing too defensively, selecting the right team) and he has had to prove himself during these few weeks. Not only does he have to prove his coaching, but he has had to be careful not to take all the credit for the women’s success. This isn’t just about football. Indeed Owen Jones argues that “men must embrace feminism, but not steal it” and Mark has given a lot of credit to the ‘England Heroes’ and his right hand person and England Assistant Coach, Marianne Spacey; it’s good to see women and men working dynamically and collaborating in their coaching roles behind the scenes to enable this success. Nonetheless, none of this changes the fact that there are so few women coaches, managers and officials in football, not only in the men’s game, but in the women’s game as well with just a global percentage of 7% of women coaching in football. Additionally, men hold 97% of European coaching licences and only 65 women hold a UEFA Pro Licence compared to 9,387 men.

Whilst more men are helping to progress the growth of the women’s football game and the viewing figures stormed to a peak audience of 2.4 million in the U.K. during the semi-final game between Japan and England, let’s not forget that the liberation of women is down to women and this is the same in football. The strides behind the scenes have been down to the struggle and sacrifice of women in football.

Helena Costa was the first female to coach a professional men’s football team, Clermont Foot but she resigned on the first day of her job. We don’t know the reason why she resigned but there has been some speculation and it might well involve a gendered argument particularly given the undercurrent of sexism that troubles football.

Women coaching men

In fact, there appears to be very few high profile examples of women coaching men in the whole of sport in the U.K.; Amelie Mauresmo coaching Andy Murray in tennis; Giselle Mather (Britain’s most prominent female full-time professional rugby coach at London Irish);Margot Wells coached husband, Allan Wells and is now an elite sprint and fitness coach working with members of the England Rugby Team; Mel Marshall was named Swimming Coaches Association Coach of the year in 2014 after Adam Peaty’s success – seven Commonwealth and European medals and two world records. They all seem to prove their critics wrong.

Recently, Murray has been angered by comments about his female coach but if he wins Wimbledon even more strides will be made for female coaches. Murray says that working with a female coach has meant that he’s been able to talk more openly and he argues in an article for L’equipe that ‘It’s a crying shame there aren’t more female coaches’. Tennis appears to be one of the more progressive sports for women with equal pay and mixed doubles, but prevailing gender norms are still reinforced. Once again, these progressions have been down to the struggle and sacrifice of women, particularly one woman in: Billie Jean King who has relentlessly fought for equality in professional tennis. These few examples of successful women coaches show that although they are in the minority, when they do get the chance they make a big impact.

It is evident that women are powerful influencers both as individuals, coaches, collaborators and enforcers of change in the world of sport. Sport is unquestionably missing out on something dynamic and influential if they do not have women involved and they have obviously started to realise this. Whilst initiatives are being created to include more women in coaching, women also need to be situated in more powerful positions (e.g. Executive committees) to challenge cultural attitudes that still need to change so that both women and men do not have to put up with sexism from the public, from organisations and sexist coverage that puts women off working in particular sporting fields and makes their job harder. The criticism women referees have received at this FIFA World Cup means that these initiatives would also improve the standard of refereeing at future International football tournaments as well, but we must remember that women are frequently subjected to harsh criticism when working in male-dominated roles.

We are taking the right steps forward to challenge this undercurrent flow of sexism but we still have a long way to go before women coach men in premiership leagues. We may be lost for words after England’s defeat in the semi-finals against Japan, but let’s keep the dialogue going about women’s position in football so that the next Women’s World Cup is not played on artificial turf.

The Dark Side of Sport: child sexual abuse

* The following blog includes material of a sensitive nature and may not be suitable for all readers

By Helen Owton & Lisa Lazard

2012 was a real breakthrough for victims who experienced child sexual abuse. Since the Jimmy Scandal in 2012, there has been a 71% increase in the number of reports of child sexual abuse. Nonetheless, it is disturbing to recognise the scale of the VIP sexual abuse inquiry which has highlighted a huge number of well-known, powerful people under investigation that includes 76 politicians, 135 TV film or radio figures, 43 from the music industry and 7 sports stars (and 9 sports venues). Whilst it seems shocking that many seemed to have been abused in settings where these vulnerable people should have been safe (e.g. schools, sports, religious institutions) perhaps it’s worth considering how these environments (e.g. sport) are conducive to such forms of abuse and exploitation as well.

The World of Sport

We only have to go as far as the recent FIFA arrests to recognise that sport is not the clean, fair, functional, happy, hyped up field it presents itself as so it’s becoming increasingly important to place these institutional structures under scrutiny. Indeed, a large body of research1-5 suggests that competitive sporting environments provide a unique socio-cultural context that offers possibilities for sexual abuse and exploitation to take place. In sport, the specific danger is the amount of power invested in the coach. Coaches (as perpetrators) can impose their version of reality on athletes (as victims) and isolate them from potential sources of support within that reality by controlling the psychological environment through direct emotional manipulation, psychological abuse, and the creation of a highly volatile, psychologically abusive training environment.6,7 Indeed, Brackenridge and Fasting (2005)8 comment on previous studies on what’s known as the ‘grooming process’ in sport:

The previous studies suggest that, for the abuser, grooming is a conscious strategy. The athlete, on the other hand, is usually an unwitting party to the gradual erosion of the interpersonal boundary between her and the coach. The power afforded to the coach in his position of authority offers an effective alibi or camouflage for grooming and abuse. Incremental shifts in the boundary between coach and athlete go unnoticed, unrecognized or unreported by the athlete until the point where she has become completely entrapped and is unable to resist his advances. (p. 37)

A recent paper9 presents a story about “Bella” and the dynamic relationships between three main types of coaches.4 These types were:

  1. The Flirting-Charming Coach characterised by always flirting, joking, trying to touch and so on
  2. The Seductive Coach went further and was characterised by trying to ‘hit on everyone’
  3. The Authoritarian Coach who was also powerful and used his power as well as being characterised as having psychological/psychic problems and often had a degrading and negative view of women in general.

Sometimes, stories in the news offer us some comfort that perpetrators of child sex abuse are ‘abnormal’ – ‘mad’, ‘bad’ and even monsters. However, this makes them harder to identify. This doesn’t sit very comfortably with the large scale pattern of child abuse. Whilst the moral panics sell newspapers, it does point to some difficulties of how we can make sense of child abuse. How can abuse be so widespread if perpetrated by an ‘abnormal’ minority? The idea of a cover up of widespread abuse by public figures and people we trust is certainly insidious but it is all too easy to talk of these events as committed by people who are ‘deviant’. The panic and fear this creates often results in a restriction of where young people can go and what they can do, particularly for girls and women.

To make sense of child abuse, perhaps we need to think through what allows young people to be treated as ‘vulnerable’. The answer is undoubtedly complicated but the unequal position they find themselves in relation to all adults is something that deserves some focus.10,11 This existing power between victim and perpetrator (e.g. athlete and coach) occurs in the context of structural power relations within institutions (e.g. sport) which often operates using top down hierarchical forms of authority. In this sense, children are subjected to overlapping forms of power that makes them vulnerable.

Britain has turned a blind eye to child sexual abuse for too long in previous years but so have structures that serve to protect institutions; these structures, rules, procedures and norms of violence towards women within institutions (e.g. sport) need to be subjected to scrutiny as well for things to really change.12

Video: Sexual abuse in sport pic

References

  1. Brackenridge C. (2001). Spoilsports: Understanding and Preventing Sexual Exploitation in Sport. Routledge: London.
  2. Bringer, J., Brackenridge, C. H., & Johnston, L. H. (2002). Defining appropriateness in coach-athlete sexual relationships: The voice of coaches. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 8, 83-98. DOI:10.1080/13552600208413341
  3. Burke, M. (2001). Obeying until it hurts: Coach-athlete relationships. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, XXVIII, 227-240. DOI:10.1080/00948705.2001.9714616
  4. Fasting, K., & Brackenridge, C. (2009). Coaches, sexual harassment and education. Sport, Education and Society, 14, 21-35. DOI:10.1080/13573320802614950
  5. Parent, S. (2011). Disclosure of sexual abuse in sport organizations: A case study. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 20, 322-337. DOI:10.1080/10538712.2011.573459
  6. Leahy, T. (2010). Working with adult athlete survivors of sexual abuse. In S. Hanrahan and M. Andersen [Eds.]. Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology: A comprehensive guide for students and practitioners. London: Routledge, pp.303-312.
  7. Leahy, T. (2011). Safeguarding child athletes from abuse in elite sport systems: The role of the sport psychologist. In D. Gilbourne and M. Andersen [Eds.], Critical essays in applied sport psychology (pp.251–266). Champaign. IL: Human Kinetics.
  8. Brackenridge, C., & Fasting, K. (2005) The grooming process in sport. Auto/Biography: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, 13, 33-52. DOI: 10.1191/0967550705ab016oa
  9. Owton, H. & Sparkes, A. Sexual Abuse and the Grooming Process in Sport: Learning from Bella’s Story. Society, Education & Sport (in press).
  10. Gavey, N. (2005). Just sex? The cultural scaffolding of rape. London: Routledge.
  11. Warner, S. (2005). Understanding the effects of child sex abuse. London: Routledge.
  12. McCray, K. (2014). Intercollegiate Athletes and Sexual Violence: A Review of literature and recommendations for future study. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 1-6.

England women’s football to make memories at FIFA15

More controversy surrounding FIFA include the responses about women being featured in the next EA Sports video game FIFA16. Whilst this is great news for women’s football, it’s amazing that this is another ‘first time’ event for women and it’s not as progressive as everyone might think. The EA Sports game was first released in 1993 and it is only now, over 20years later that women are going to be featured in the next edition. It’s about time women were included with 4.1 million women playing within organised structures worldwide.

A Sexist Backlash

However, there has been a huge sexist backlash towards this inclusion of the 12 new teams which is evident on twitter. Many of the sexist remarks were defended by them being ‘just jokes’ but that is not acceptable. There are fine lines between ‘banter’, bullying, harassment and abuse and in light of the history and the ongoing oppression that some women continue to experience all over the world – it’s not funny! These are yet more ways to trivialise the seriousness of derogatory jokes towards women and to trivialise women’s football. Amelia Butterly argued that not only are these remarks unfunny, they are inaccurate and addressed these comments. The twitter feeds included comments about female players having a bad game ‘because she’s on her period’, being unable to play for 9 months ‘because she’s pregnant’, blaming feminism for ‘ruining everything’ and one man asked ‘Why would you want to include them unless they’re going to exchange shirts on the pitch!’

It is good news that these ‘jokes’ are finally being reprimanded because these negative, sexualising, derogatory and out of date comments get splashed over twitter whenever women’s football is on TV and attitudes need to change. Evidently, whilst the inclusion of women in EA Sports is a positive move forward for women’s football, it is not enough to just include women in a new console game; attitudes need to be changed so that women are respected and valued not only in sport but in society. These attitudes are unlikely to just be evident in football; they are likely to leak into public working life which is why it is so important not to let these disrespectful comments pass without reprimand.

It is difficult to see how things will change as long as sexist reputations remain in football and whilst FIFA is under investigation for corruption whilst simultaneously withholding funds from investing in the women’s game. Whilst Heather Rabbatts’ resignation is the latest attempt to try and bring reform to Fifa, let’s also use this opportunity to put sexism alongside other priorities (e.g. kicking out racism, homophobia, and corruption) in football.

Whilst all this is going on though, the England Women’s Team don’t seem to have let these news stories affect their focus. After their 10-day training camp at St George’s Park, assistant coach, Marieanne Spacey, urged her team to ‘make some memories’. They’ve certainly made a start on that; they have had a warm-up game against Canada which gave them the opportunity to practice on the artificial turf. Despite England conceding one goal, Karen Bardsley had her work cut out and denied quite a few goals and Fara Williams with a phenomenal long shot which unfortunately hit the bar; an exciting game with great coverage. With England qualifying for the 2015 Women’s World Cup with 100% record that is worth supporting!