In the past, the participation of Canadian women in sports and leisure activities was limited and restricted to pursuits that were considered to be genteel and soft. This situation changed gradually beginning with the participation of women in the Olympics and culminating in the participation of women in practically all sports and leisure activities.
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This paper seeks to conclusively establish the changing concept of womanhood and its effect on women experience and participation in sports and leisure activities in Canada early years that were marked by repressive attitudes towards women which resulted less participation of women in sports. Conversely, the later years that were marked by progressive attitudes towards women are associated with greater participation of women in sports and leisure activities today.
The changing concept of womanhood and its effect on the experience of sports and leisure for Canadian women.
The changing concept of womanhood has had a significant effect on the experience of sports and leisure for Canadian women. In the past, participation in sports, and especially team sports by Canadian women was virtually unheard of. Canada still maintained the Victorian ideology of a woman as a creature of delicacy. The pursuit o sports and leisure activities was limited by this ideology (Burt, 1995).
This viewpoint changed gradually over the years to 1928 and history was made when the Olympic Games allowed women to compete for the first time since the inception of the games. Despite controversy surrounding the decision, Canada fielded a strong team of female athletes; one notable member of the team was Ethel Cartherwood, an Ontario born high-jumper who won the gold medal in the event.
Another notable Canadian sportswoman who participated in this inaugural Olympics for female athletes was Fanny Rosenfeld, who won both the silver and gold medal for the country and was declared the country’s female athlete of the half century. Ethel Cartherwood and Fanny Rosenfeld were both inducted into the sport’s hall of fame. (Prentice, 1996) The participation of Canadian women in the Olympics was an expression of the shifting perception of women not only in sports but in the society as a whole.
In the ensuing years, there were a number of changes that affected women in relation to sports and leisure in Canada. Advancements in the empowerment of women translated into women venturing into sports and leisure activities that were hitherto considered the preserve of men.
Canadian women embraced leisure activities such as hiking, rowing, kayaking, mountain climbing, white water rafting and swimming. The women pursued these activities with skill that equaled or sometimes even surpassed that of their male counterparts, for instance, in 1954, Marilyn Bell became the first person, male or female, to swim across Lake Ontario (Prentice, 1996).
The 1960s witnessed the birth of feminism. This ideology objected to the veneration of masculinity that was a hallmark of sports and leisure activities in Canada at the time. There was growing awareness by women that they could compete in sports just as well as men could.
This realization witnessed more and more women joining competitive sports such as baseball, ice hockey and basket ball. (Prentice, 1996) Golf, traditionally considered a male pursuit was also widely adopted by Canadian women and in 1968, Sandra Post, a professional golf player became the first woman to win a tournament in America. (Hall, 2002)
The decades that followed were marked by official government recognition of women in sports. In 1980, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) was founded. (Tomlinson, 1997)
This organization has done a lot for the advancement of women in sports. In the same year, Abby Hoffman was elected to the Canadian Olympic Association executive and thereafter became the director of Canada’s governing sports body (Kidd, 1994).
In Canada, in the years that followed the 1980s were marked by radically different attitudes towards women. The feminist movement had, to some extent, achieved its aim of ensuring gender equality. This implied that Canadian women now participated in all sports and leisure activities, for instance, professional ice hockey, boxing, and martial arts and so on.
In summation, the experience of sports and leisure for women in Canada has been directly affected by the changing concept of womanhood.
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Burt, S. D. & Code, L. (1995). changing methods; feminists transforming practice. Ontario. Broadview Publications
Hall, M. A. (2002). The girl and the game: a history of women’s sport in Canada Toronto: Broadview Press
Kidd, B. (1994). Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and
Physical Activity (CAAWS): Women in sports. Retrieved from https://www.caaws.ca/
Prentice, A. L. (1996). Canadian women: a history. Canada; Harcourt Brace Publishing
Tomlinson, A. (1997). Gender, sport and leisure; continuities and challenges. USA: Meyer & Meyer Verlag.