Gender equality in sports has always been a controversial topic. Even the founder of the modern day Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in 1896 said, “No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.”
In America 40% of sports people are women but only 8% of sports media coverage is dedicated to them. In the 4 major US newspapers only 3.5% of sports stories are women-only. Male athletes receive $179 million more in athletic scholarships each year than females do. Colleges only spend 24% of their athletic operating budgets, 16% of recruiting budgets and 33% of scholarship budgets on female athletes and sports.
A common argument behind this is that womens sports are just not “interesting enough”. And although the popularity of women’s sports has continued to grow and expand over the years, the medias coverage and sports funding haven’t followed through and gender equality continues to be an issue.
I’ve always been an active kid. Before I began snowboarding I was a horserider, a gymnast and a swimmer and was always trying new sports at school. When you are younger through it’s considerd normal, everyone did a variety of sports. I could do whatever I wanted and I could play games with everyone and noone would think twice.
But when I got into snowboarding things were different. Snowboarding is and always has been a male dominant sport. As the years have gone on all of the girls I learned to ride with when I was 11, 12, 13 don’t do it anymore, they all moved onto different things in life. This is totally fine and it’s your life do whatever you want, but sometimes it feels like its just me, the men and a bunch of kids. I do love riding with the kids they can be such an inspiration and seeing the stoke on their face when they land a trick they have been learning for the fist time, or when they win their first medal or prize at a contest it brings back so many memories of when i was learning and i love to think i can be a part of their journey of learning something new. I am always helping them to improve and hopefully helping to inspire them to keep pushing and working hard to get to the goals they want to. I want them all to have fun but there is definitely a divide between the genders.
In my experience there has always been 2 groups. It’s the boys and then the girls and I often hated riding with the guys when i was away on training camps when I was younger because they didn’t like that. They got frustrated becasue they ‘HAD’ to ride with a girl and they ‘HAD’ to hang out with me. But its just how It was, once the rest of the girls stopped coming, I was the only girl riding at my level and for a lot of my competitive career which meant I had to spend a lot of time on my own. I was always travelling alone, I was always the only girl and not only that I was the only English girl a lot of the time. I couldn’t ride with the guys because usually just took the piss and a lot of the girls either weren’t at the same level as me or i didnt get on with so it held me back a lot.
During smaller competitions in the UK I often entered the mens contests as the feild was always a lot bigger and the standard of riding was more difficult. It has always pushed me to ride amongst the other guys who would let me because they were often better than me. Being able to keep up with them always shocked them because “she’s a girl” and I always loved proving people wrong.
I think the reason why I love teaching now so much is because I can help people feel less like i did, alone, afraid, like they are being constantly judged and help then to just enjoy their time spent on snow. They never have to worry about being the best like i did they always just come along looking to enjoy themselves and improve their own riding where there is no pressure. I want to create environments during my lessons where people can learn at their own pace and dont feel as if they are holding everyone else in the lesson back or that they are not good enough to be in that lesson. I often have women who show up to a lesson and are apologetic that they wont pick it up as fast as the men which is almost always not the case! What tends to happen is the men throw themselves into it too fast and end up crashing all ove the place or if they do get it its was the worst posture imaginable meaning they will be on the learner hill for a while, the women on the other hand listen more closely and begin more cautiously but once htey get the feel for it they pick it up fast!
Coming away from snowboarding i’m a “gym bunny” I love the feeling of making progress on my body and I spend a lot of time in the weight sections of the gym rather than on the cardio equpiment where people often expect women to be. I often get a LOT of funny looks from men but I don’t usually care or notice as i have my headphones in and i’m way too in the zone.
Whilst dating i’ve had a lot of comments from men saying that “it’s really cool that a girl could be into that kind of thing”. I’ve had a lot of negative comments also however saying that “women shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights because its not “lady like” and I will get too bulky and muscly!” That annoys me. If I want to be massive get a 12 pack and be bigger than half the guys int he gym I will! It should be none of your concern what i want to do with my body and my inner strength (it’s safe to say that that conversation didn’t last very long). I have also been chatted up countless times by males at the gym, or by men that see i go to the gym on social media and they try to turn what i am aiming to do into something else. I go to the gym because i consider it to be an inspiring space, I am improving myself on the outside to help fall in love with how i am on the inside. They change that into that i am ‘begging’ for attention and only doing it to improve my ass so im better in bed for male pleasure. Which is far from the case and it makes me physically sick that people can think that.
I like to think that peoples comments don’t get into my head but they often do.
It is having the ability to block out these comments being thrown at you are realising that as long as what you are doing is something that you genuinely enjoy and love. It is noone elses issue it doesn’t really matter what anyone else says or thinks.
I am happy and enjoying myself and i will continue to inspire other women to persue their passions in whatever feild they aspire to be a part of because they deserve to feel valued and feel like they are making a difference in the world. You as a woman are more than amazing and capable enough to do what you want and once you set your mind to something you must keep powering forward and reminding yourself of why you do this.
If I ever was to have a daughter I would encourage her to try out a wide variety of sports as a kid and if she every decided she wanted to get serious about one of them that she would have the exact same opportunities as her male counterparts. I hope that eventually there will be no gender gap in terms of funding, and opportunities and that women will stop being sexualised for doing something they love.
I know this is a long read but I hope that it brings some more light to the situation.
you are special, you are capable and you are worthy of so much more.