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Sexism in ice hockey

I haven’t done any posts about the Olympics (nor about anything else for a while), even though they are being held in British Columbia, where I live. Basically, I was not thrilled with bidding for it and building some of the venues, as the funds could have been better spent elsewhere. Nevertheless, as we got them, we had might as well make the Olympics as successful as possible.

With that in mind, I’d like to congratulate Team Canada for beating the United States 2–0 in the final yesterday, and winning our third consecutive gold medal. I’d also like to take the liberty and complain about sexist rules or situations in women’s ice hockey:

  • The recent blowout wins by Canada and the US have resulted in accusations of “poor sportsmanship” and running up the score, and calls for a mercy rule. Similar blowouts in men’s competition didn’t get the same response (cite).
  • Full face masks are also mandatory in women’s ice hockey (cite). I have no objection to requiring both men and women to wear face masks; I object to requiring only women to wear them. There is absolutely no need for such a rule; why do we need to promote the stereotype that women are all dainty and delicate?
  • Bodychecking is not allowed in women’s hockey (cite). Supposedly, in the 1990 World Championship, bodychecking was allowed because European teams were behind Canada and the United States, and so this was though to help equalize competition. The story goes further that since North American women learnt to play against men, they were a lot bigger than Europeans, who learnt to play against other women. For that reason, bodychecking made the competition less equal, and hence bodychecking was eliminated in time for the 1992 World Championship at the behest of European national teams. I am skeptical of this story as, to me, it reads just like an urban legend. But anyway, women’s hockey is better than the men’s game precisely because the lack of bodychecking shows the beauty of passing and skating better. But why is it that we have to promote the stereotype that women cannot handle a contact sport and are so “delicate” that they need so much “protection” from themselves, whereas for men this isn’t necessary?
  • The International Ice Hockey Federation, which governs the sport and organizes championships and the Olympic tournament, does not hold a women’s championship in Olympic years, even though it is perfectly capable of holding the men’s tournament every year (cite).
  • Update: I think this picture from Brad Cran shows another double standard regarding how some of our Olympic champion women celebrated after winning gold versus how one of our champion men celebrated after winning gold (via Frank Frink commenting at the Unrepentant Old Hippie. At least there will be no IOC investigation (cite).
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Comments on: "Sexism in ice hockey" (20)

  1. Let us not also forget that the women are NOT allowed to participate in the long jump.
    Equality?
    My ass!
    Let the women step up and show ’em what they got!

  2. Women’s ski jumping (and Nordic combined, which includes ski jumping) were excluded, even though the International Ski Federation started to include women in its Nordic World Ski Championships (cite). So it’s not just in ice hockey either.

  3. They’re trying to treat women as though they were a separate species from men, and that attitude will eventually get them their heads handed to them.

    But it does seem to be a holdover from the original olympics, in which only men were allowed to compete. Or even watch. Women had their own games back then. So…why not now? Get away from the IOC completely?

  4. It’s probably mostly due to tradition and stereotypes.

    As for creating a competitor/alternative to the Olympics, it may well be a good idea but it is probably unworkable, even if the alternative is better. Simply due to entrenchment and inertia, and network effects, the Olympics are dominant.

  5. But the blowouts weren’t on a similar scale at all. Yes, the men did crush the Russians, but they hadn’t beaten the Russians in 50 years. By comparison, the women beat one team 18-0. Seriously, you can’t see why that may seem a little bit lopsided? The difference is that Men’s Hockey is not an automatic medal for Canada or the US, but the Women’s HOckey definitely is.

  6. In the most recent World Juniors, Canada blew out Latvia 16-0 (more one sided than the women’s games at the Olympics, excluding Canada-Slovakia). I don’t recall anyone asking for a mercy rule then. In the early days of the Olympics, Canada routinely blew out opponents; but no one abolished ice hockey then, even though it could reasonably have been considered an “automatic medal” for Canada back then.

    The blowouts are because most national programs don’t take the women’s game seriously. In the 1992 World Championships, the United States was obliterated 8-0 in the final. Guess what? USA Hockey took the women’s game seriously, giving them resources and infrastructure, and the Americans improved enough to win it all in Nagano. When other countries take their women’s programs as seriously as their men’s programs, parity will come soon enough.

  7. Rob F – there, of course, was very little mass media back then, so I’m not sure how you know there were not calls to abolish hockey back then.

    Actually, according to TIme magazine the cumulative score for the two North AMerican team vs. all others was 88-4. It’s not just a few games, it’s the whole tournament.

    And I’m curious about the comment about full face masks. Protecting women’s faces is somehow… bad for women? (Haven’t there been calls for full face masks in the NHL? Sure as hell seems like a good idea to me.

  8. And again, the ugliness of the violence in the pro men’s game might be seen as a sign that maybe banning bodychecking isn’t such a bad thing.

  9. You misunderstood my comment. I said that no one abolished ice hockey, not that no one called for ice hockey to be abolished.

    As for face masks, I objected to making them mandatory for women, and optional for men. Facial anatomy is the same in men and women; why do we need to require women to do so but not men? If one argues that men on average shoot the puck at a higher velocity than women (and if we handwave over this and accept it for the sake of argument), well, since the puck is the same in both men’s and women’s hockey, and force=mass*acceleration, the force experienced when hit by a puck shot by man would on average be higher than the force experienced when hit by a puck shot by a woman. From this perspective, it actually makes more sense to require face masks in men’s hockey than in women’s hockey!

    However, the current rules promote stereotypes about women as outlined in my post.

    There have been calls for hockey visors to be made mandatory in the NHL, but AFAIK, no one has called for full face masks to be mandatory.

    And yes, I think the men’s game would be much better without bodychecking (and fighting, etc).

  10. No, I didn’t misunderstand your comment. You didn’t get my point, which is you have no true notion of who people reacted at the time.

    I stand corrected about hockey visors vs. facemasks, but I still have to say: why is that a bad thing that women’s faces are protected?

    And like I said before, the blowouts have made people not take the sport seriously.

  11. The problem is not that women’s faces are protected, but rather that they are forced to wear facemasks, whereas men are not. It promotes the stereotype that women are “weaker” or more “delicate” than men.

  12. So, if a few women lose some teeth or get concussions, it’s actually good for women in general because it counters a stereotype? I guess I understand that, but really, I think it’s kind of looking for sexism.

  13. I guess it just gives people things to talk about. Ridiculous, though.

    And if the men want to be idiots and have their faces smashed up, let them. I blae them, not the regulators.

  14. I pretty much agree with westwood; why is it somehow good for men to get hit in the face with a puck?

  15. Have you ever noticed how some sports immediately make some people think of a certain gender? You never see men’s synchronized swimming or women’s wrestling…well at least I haven’t. Let’s take hockey for an example, how come you never see women’s hockey on television, there’s the NHL, but that’s only men. Some people think that girl’s hockey is easy and sissy. You may not think that there isn’t any contact, but there is, girls hockey can get aggressive…just saying.
    According to IOC president Jacques Rogge, who took to his soapbox Thursday, just hours before the Canadian and U.S. women’s hockey teams hit the ice to battle for gold, just before Canada won its third straight Olympic gold, to tell the world that if women’s hockey doesn’t get better — you know, like the highly funded, highly supported, highly macho professional men’s hockey at the Winter Games — then he’ll just deep-six the girls and their girlie play. I think we should just put Jacques Rogge on the ice with Hayley Wickenheiser and see who wins!

  16. Yes, indeed, I’ve seen women’s hockey, and there is bodychecking and contact in it. Of course, the fact that there is less contact in it is why it is better than men’s hockey.

    Here in Canada, the Women’s World Championships and 4 Nations Cup are televised (at least Team Canada’s games). Not sure about elsewhere, but there’s definitely less coverage than men’s hockey.

    Hayley would easily win!

    And lastly, Jillian, good luck on your hockey career.

  17. I completely agree with your article. Women’s hockey is treated very differently than men’s. I am a hockey player myself and have experienced the sexism that comes with playing female hockey. There was an incident when I was playing for a junior women’s team in a tournament that also had junior men’s teams competing. I stepped onto the ice with a visor on and before warm-up even ended, was told to put a full cage on. The fact that I was legally an adult,yet still wasn’t able to wear a visor even though the men could, was very sexist. How can a woman playing with men who are wearing visors, not be able to wear one? There need to be some major changes made to Women’s Hockey.

  18. I agree. Changes need to made to women’s ice hockey.

  19. […] Since there will be one–sided games, please be aware that such also happened at a higher–profile also taking place now (This is a poor scheduling decision by the IIHF). Unless you took the same view of blowouts in the higher–profile tournament, please don’t call for mercy rules or laying back here. Don’t engage in sexist double standards. […]

  20. Men’s hockey is run by different people than women’s hockey. They have different objectives.
    Women’s hockey is trying to promote women to play, but to get women to play, they use more safety. Parents don’t want to see their daughters play hockey, then get injured in the future because they were body checked or puck to the face, etc.
    In men’s hockey, it is much more reserved. The NHL is the dream for many professional players, however, they must limit it to a certain amount on teams. They allow fighting and all that, also because it’s televised.
    I am a girl, and I didn’t think this was fair, but then again, if women had the choice, they’d probably wear face masks anyways. I would, because it would suck to have an injury because of something you could’ve prevented.

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