Athletics is still a man’s world

Despite equal entertainment value, women’s sports fall by the wayside

Robin says we should equal support for female athletes.  
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Internationally, female athletes can accomplish amazing feats—but they often fail to receive the same recognition as their male counterparts.  
 
This inequality stems from a lack of media representation, advertising and equal pay. It’s set a similar standard for the treatment of female athletes here at Queen’s.
 
In the WNBA, female players’ salaries start at just $35,190, while in the NBA, players earn a minimum salary of $582,180. In hockey, the wage gap is even larger—women in the NWHL earn a minimum of $5,000 per year and a maximum of just $7,000, while men in the NHL are earning a minimum of $650,000 per year and a maximum of $15.9 million per year.
 
With stats like these, women in sports are consistently discouraged from reaching the same levels of success as men.
 
Even the media aspect of sports—from coverage to reporting—lacks female presence. Only four per cent of sports TV coverage and 5.3 per cent of its print coverage contains content regarding women’s sports.  
 
This narrative continues in magazines or sports blogs, where articles are more likely to be written by—and about—male athletes. Without proper female representation on these platforms, future female athletes have nobody to identify with when pursuing their goals in competing or commentating.  
 
The most troubling part of these disparities is the extent to which they go unrecognized because they’re normalized in athletics. 
 
This unspoken issue persists here at Queen’s.
 
Despite Queen’s teams such as women’s rugby, hockey, and soccer consistently qualifying for national championships, students don’t seem focused on changing the dialogue around female athletes.
 
When the men’s hockey team hosted the OUA championship last month, the game was completely sold out, with a record 2,800 people in attendance. But when the women’s hockey team hosted the OUA championships exactly one year prior, the Kingston Memorial Centre was far from full.
 
The men’s OUA game encompassed what university sport is all about: student athletes facing a challenge and succeeding—with their community rallying behind them.
 
However, the same support wasn’t present for their female hockey counterparts, which brings to light Queen’s students’ shortcomings in support for their female athletes.
 
Some might say watching women’s sports simply isn’t as popular as watching men’s sports.  A quick Google search about why women’s sports aren’t as popular will relay a common trope: “If the games were better, fans would come watch,” or, “Women’s games are not as exciting to watch.”
 
As a female hockey player for Queen’s myself, I’m the first to admit that a men’s hockey game is more fast-paced, aggressive, and possibly even more exciting to watch—but these differences have a purpose.
 
Male and female sports are separated on the basis that their different rules accommodate different physiological makeups. This creates a different kind of game to watch: one that is generally more technical, less physical but equally as entertaining. 
 
If men’s and women’s sports were promoted as equally different but equally respectable—instead of comparing female athletes to their male counterparts—the dialogue might change people’s decisions to watch and, in turn, rally more support.
 
When women’s sporting events have access to promotion, marketing and media platforms the same way males, more people would tune in. And the argument that women’s sports aren’t entertaining would be falsified.  
 
The 2018 Olympic women’s gold medal hockey game was heavily promoted by news networks, and was dubbed the “most watched midnight-hour program in NBC Sports Network’s history”.
 
But events like that are an exception to the norm.
 
If the richest individual NHL team spent just 10 per cent of its operating yearly income on promoting the entire NWHL, the league would have more financial resources for marketing and operations than it’s had since its inauguration.
 
Support like this would bring in more public awareness, hopefully influencing the content people choose to consume.
 
Change also begins when individuals make the conscious effort to support and rally behind female athletes. By choosing to attend a women’s game here at Queen’s, individual students can at least change the way we perceive women athletics on campus.
 
Robin Ketcheson is a  third-year Commerce student. 

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