Women stuck off ice

In an article published Nov. 8, the Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno criticized the recent induction of female hockey players Angela James and Cammi Granato into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

DiManno concludes that the addition of the two female hockey players is simply “a socially engineered exercise in smashing gender barriers,” pointing to the fact that the two players are being honoured as trailblazers, not on the basis of technical skill. DiManno suggests that because women’s hockey lacks the competitive ferocity that makes men’s hockey so popular, male sports will always have a greater public draw.

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging a “pioneering spirit,” but DiManno insists that this has to do with cultural standards, not athletics. She concludes that the best area for women to compete with men is in the role of franchise owner, executive or maybe one day as coach.

Comparing the skill levels of two different hockey players is never an entirely objective process, and it’s usually a source of controversy.

By repeatedly stressing the differences between men’s and women’s hockey, DiManno simply weakens her own argument. If the two types of competition are wholly different, why can’t the players of each side be acknowledged as sharing a common game? The venue in question is the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the Men’s Hockey Hall of Fame—male and female players deserve equal acknowledgement.

Women’s hockey is relatively new on the international stage. DiManno overlooks the struggle that women have faced as athletes playing what she calls a “man’s game, feminized.” These challenges are intrinsic to the struggle to legitimize a less popular sport.

Insisting that women can only be inducted as pioneers of a less popular and less visible sport than their male counterparts is demeaning. Furthermore, it implies that the only reason women play hockey is to accomplish exactly that kind of gender barrier smashing that DiManno is so quick to condemn. Having role models in the Hall of Fame to look up to is a vital part of athletic competition.

It may be true that women’s hockey draws a relatively small audience compared to the male equivalent. But that’s no reason to be equally small-minded.

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