Red card: Misogyny strikes again

Image by: Katharine Sung

The fight for gender equality continues on and off the field. 

Canada’s women’s soccer team became national heroes when they took gold at the Summer Olympics in 2021. Ever since, they’ve regularly made the news for their efforts to negotiate equal pay and support rather than their accomplishments.

We like to think we reward achievement in the sports world, that it’s a combination of hard work and talent that determines how much athletes earn. Unfortunately, when a women’s team that’s consistently performed better than its male equivalent isn’t recognized in the same way, misogyny is the only explanation. This isn’t about achievement. 

The misogynistic belief that female athletes just aren’t as good as their male counterparts is still largely accepted along with other sexist ideas. Canadian sports organizations—like many sports organizations worldwide—suffer from deep-set gender and racial biases. 

When Christine Sinclair brought up concerns to Soccer Canada president Nick Bontis, he dismissed her comments as “bitching” and missed an opportunity to show solidarity with female athletes and reassure the public the organization isn’t misogynistic. 

This language is gendered, and it carries weight. It’s disgusting to hear the leadership of a national organization disrespect a female athlete so blatantly.  

We should want to give our highest-achieving national team the support and recognition it deserves—financial or otherwise. Soccer Canada should be thankful its female athletes aren’t asking for more than the men earn.

With the right access and opportunities, female athletes have proven time and again they can achieve as much as men and more. When we deprive them of this access to proper funding and facilities, we put them at a disadvantage and perpetuate the stereotypes that make the sports world such a hostile space for women. 

For a lot of women athletes, international competition is the ceiling. Men can go to the Premier League, but there’s no equivalent for female soccer stars. 

Observing patterns of underfunding and lack of support for women in sports at all levels is disheartening, not to mention the sexual misconduct and misogynistic comments women face. It’s no wonder girls who grow up as athletes drop out of sport by age 14 at a rate twice as high as their male peers. 

Not only are our female athletes underpaid and underrecognized for the work they do, but they advocate for women in sports on top of their contracted responsibilities. They’re doing the work sports organizations won’t carry out, including pushing for a professional Canadian women’s soccer league. Meanwhile, Canada’s male soccer players are being paid more and aren’t doing the same advocacy because they don’t have to. 

Allocating resources to support and compensate athletes is important, but those resources matter most because they can translate to more opportunities for all women athletes in Canada. We have to hope young girls aspiring to build careers in sports aren’t discouraged when they see the way their role models are treated when they ask for what they deserve. 

This fight is about so much more than compensation for equal work. Women’s sports aren’t taken seriously, no matter the level of achievement–and even when women’s teams perform better than their male counterparts. When women in sports try to advocate for themselves, they’re being dismissed just like in the corporate world, academia, and entertainment.

We need better representation in sports spaces to see positive change, but many more women will have to brave the misogyny of the sports world before we get it. That’s a lot to ask just for less money and less support in return. 

Our women’s soccer team are world champions. They won’t be intimidated by misogynistic language. However, the way Soccer Canada is dismissing their concerns speaks volumes about how much they care about female athletes—even gold medalists. 

Women athletes shouldn’t have to fight for respect, but it’s a game they won’t lose. 

Journal Editorial Board


feminism, Olympics, pay gap, soccer, women athletes, Women's soccer

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